Nearly six months removed from plying his trade in Poland with first division Ekstraklasa outfit Cracovia, Krzysztof Piątek has taken to Italian soil and calcio like a duck to water by virtue of an all-out goalscoring outburst with Genoa.
An absolute bargain at €4m with 13 Serie A goals (19 goals bagged in 21 total appearances for the Rossoblu since his under-the-radar transfer to the Marassi), Piątek trails only extraterrestrial superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo for the capocannoniere.
From Kraków to Genoa, in a matter of months, all eyes have become fixated on what the 23-year old is accomplishing on a weekly basis in Italy’s top flight, thus causing quite the stir amongst European powers in search of his striking talents; Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan are among the many suitors to have been linked with the Pole as early as October.
Last summer, Argentina star Gonzalo Higuain was sacrificed by the Bianconeri to make room for Ronaldo, paving the way for the ex-Napoli bomber to the San Siro as Milan’s solution to their crisis up front. But, in a matter of weeks, with the visibly disgruntled number nine’s status turned sour, the Juventus loanee appears closer to Chelsea with one foot out the door towards a reunion tour with Maurizio Sarri. As a result, the Rossoneri braintrust have turned to familiar business partner, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi, for Higuain’s replacement in the white-hot Piątek.
Make no mistakes about it, Piątek‘s first six months couldn’t have gone smoother as the trending attacker sits in Pole position of the UCL hopefuls mercato plans. But, the questions on everyone‘s mind as his move begins to materialize are: is Milan jumping the gun on the pistol-shooting forward, and is he ready for the famous red and black shirt?
By the looks of the rumor mill, Preziosi has slapped an approximate price tag of €40-45m on his Polish asset. Considering the slim market for strikers, this is hardly a surprising request when accounting for Piątek’s current value, remarkable goal output, the domestic suitor’s need and age.
Emphasizing more on age, it is worth mentioning that Piątek seems to fall in line with Milan’s adopted strategy under new CEO Ivan Gazidis of bringing in younger talent with future market upside. And if you want to go the hypothetical route here, Milan hold an option to purchase Higuain this summer for around €36m, which they’d obviously bypass if he joins Chelsea. In addition to this, Sevilla have an option of their own to buy André Silva for €39m as confirmed by the Spanish club last month. Under the assumption Higuain departs, and Silva’s agent Jorge Mendes irons out a deal to keep his client in Seville past this campaign, by my estimation, Milan make out well on the financial side of a potential Piątek deal. Additionally, the idea exists of Milan acquiring Piątek on the basis of paying his fee over multiple installments, which in itself benefits the books.
Genoa hold leverage here against Milan as they know Higuain seeks refuge in England and Gennaro Gattuso needs to fill the void instantly by having just one striker in Cutrone at his disposal. Unfortunately for Milan, and many others around Europe facing the same problem up front, it’s a matter of supply and demand – and demand is limited. Then again, the details of a potential transaction are by no means established, so it is speculation at this point of the negotiations.
Shifting towards the subject player, because opinions on him certainly vary and there is a ton to unpack, Piątek’s profile is that of a pure striker.
Evident with his exploits in Liguria, the coveted attacker provides a clinical finishing touch within distance of goal, and against popular belief, is more well-rounded than people may give him credit for.
Piątek isn’t of the burner mould. Instead, a forward who perhaps plays larger than his 1,83 m frame with a reliance on movement, proper positioning, asserting himself, and engaging in, encounters with defenders to see enough of the ball in the final third to bury his chances.
Aerially, Piątek is a threat with his physicality and ability to get on the end of balls played in from the flanks and on set pieces. To call him an opportunist would almost mean that he is a poacher, but that is not the case. Rather, he is a striker who demands the ball and strives to makes the most of his goal sense and understanding of the penalty area, while also demonstrating the desire to aid in the transition from the defending to attacking phase.
Similarly to Dawid Kownacki, Piątek was prematurely dubbed by some as ‘the new Robert Lewandowski’; a low-hanging, convenient nickname for reasons centered around position and country of origin. Bestowing such expectations on him can be dangerous, but seeing as he moved on the cheap, the pressure to meet that unrealistic standard was a non-factor. However, transferring to Milan as a talent now thrusted into the limelight as an expensive replacement for Higuain comes with heaps of responsbility and expectations. There is a standard to meet, and a very high one at that, when wearing the famous red and black as a striker for Milan.
Undoubtedly, the Rossoneri shirt is a heavy one, with a prestigious crest and long line of legends to toss it on their shoulders. And to most, six months of top-flight success does not warrant a large fee, nor a Milan shirt in such a pivotal period for the club seeking a return to European football’s main stage.
There are many loyal Milanisti who prefer to christen ‘predestinato’ Cutrone as the main man over splashing on Piątek, and instead, allocate those funds towards a dynamic winger capable of supporting the 21-year old with gamechanging ability. Doubts wlll continue to be raised about whether Cutrone and Piatek are compatible for a side that often deals with dry spells of service to the forwards who have dependence on it. Then again, how many can effectively fend for themselves? But while the jury is still out on Piątek and his qualifications to help ignite the attack, it would be remiss to doubt sporting director Leonardo and Paolo Maldini in selecting Higuain’s replacement.
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