Robert Lewandowski is the unquestioned star of the Polish national team with incredible track record and goal tally this season, and as a result heavy expectations have been placed on Poland. And while Lewa deservedly gets all of the plaudits, he hasn’t been the only shining star for Poland in the EUROs and the qualifying.
Besides big names like Lukasz Piszczek, Kuba Blaszkowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak, another star has risen to the challenge for Poland: Arkadiusz Milik, who some Bundesliga fans might know about due to his brief time with Leverkusen. But now that he’s shining for his country, as well as his new club Ajax, people are beginning to wonder why Bayer let go of him so quickly with his form. And with that form of his, he’s showing Bayer that they should regret casting him off.
Age and Instant Impact
The striker position is one that is a premium in the world game, with top strikers being very hard to come by. Bayer Leverkusen appear to have one in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, but productive young strikers are even harder to find then the top class ones. And since this is the case, the fact that Milik has been in great form right after leaving Bayer must really sting.
Ever since going to Dutch side Ajax, he’s been one of the best strikers in the Eredivisie even though opponents often sit deep against Ajax. He scored 21 goals in 34 games for the Dutch side this season, and last season (on loan) he scored 11 goals in 21 games. Combine that with 7 and 4 assists respectively and you have yourself a pretty good striker. He’s also put together match ratings of 7.30 and 7.14 in his time with Ajax, which show that he’s truly been one of their stars.
And while this is taking place in the Eredivisie, which is meager compared to the Bundesliga, not many young forwards are doing what Milik has done. Combine that with almost a dozen goals for Poland since he left Bayer on loan, he’s beginning to make a name for himself. 7 goals in qualifying and the only goal in the 1-0 win vs Northern Ireland and an assist against Ukraine show that Milik can get it done against the best. And as long as he keeps on performing for Poland, Bayer 04 will continue to rue the mistake they appear to have made.
Even though he’s been around for quite a bit, Milik is only 22, making him a very young striker. And when you look at the young forwards that big clubs are looking at like Breel Embolo of Switzerland and Gabriel Barbosa of Brazil who play outside of the top 5 leagues, Milik has done better then all of them. Even though Embolo is younger than Milik, he only scored 10 goals in the Swiss super league, which is seen as worse than the Eredivisie. That is 11 less than Milik who has also done it for the national team. And Gabriel in the 2015 Brasileirao season only had 10 goals as well, which gives them less goals than Milik combined.
When Chicharito leaves Leverkusen, they will need a striker to replace him with Stefan Kiessling’s declining ability. And Milik could’ve been that man for Leverkusen with a bit more patience. Combine all of this with the minescule fee of 2.8 million euros, which is about ten times less than what Embolo is going for, and Bayer will really be kicking themselves. If they had given Milik a chance to play, they would’ve certainly not bought Hernandez, and they could’ve made a lot of money as well.
The Other Story
While Milik has been in great form for his club and country since leaving Leverkusen, there are reasons why he was cast off. One of them being that Bayer Leverkusen are a club that expects to be in the Champions League and compete domestically.
Since this is the case, they can’t give struggling young players a chance in the first team. Young stars Julian Brandt and Jon Tah were put into the first team in large part because of injuries, but then they both performed and kept their places. And for Milik, an opportunity like the ones that Brandt and Tah had never really arose due to Stefan Kiessling being the main striker.
When Milik didn’t get a chance in the first team, he was loaned out to Augsburg to try and prove himself in the Bundesliga. And chances came with Augsburg, but he ended up with only 2 goals in 18 appearances for them. Since he wasn’t convincing in his loan spell there, he was loaned to Ajax to try and show what he could do. And as mentioned earlier he was terrific for them, and then Ajax bought him for a fee that was agreed to before the loan.
Because Milik wasn’t effective during his Bundesliga career with both Bayer and Augsburg due to the minimal chances he got, there was some rationale for selling him at the time.
Also Leverkusen as a club haven’t missed him one bit. With a 3rd place finish this past season earning them Champions League football again, the club doesn’t need Milik at all. Chicharito has been everything that Leverkusen could’ve hoped, and with all of the success he had who knows if Milik would’ve gotten a chance at Bayer Leverkusen.
Besides Hernandez, Leverkusen have other and more proven options like Mehmedi, Kiessling, Calhanoglu and new signing Kevin Volland in the attack. With all of their attackers combined with the very good two seasons they’ve had since Milik left the club, i’m sure Rudi Voller and the hierarchy at Leverkusen won’t be too upset with letting Milik leave.
Until Milik goes to a bigger league and club and shows the form that he had over the last few seasons, Leverkusen’s decision to let him go won’t be very painful. With all of their attacking options and the success of the football club, Milik’s departure hasn’t quite been as painful as Lukaku from Chelsea has for instance.
Despite the fact that Bayer have no reason to regret losing him, they should still be kicking themselves for doing so. Not many 22 year old strikers have done what he’s been doing for Ajax. Combine that with his form getting better and better for the Polish national team, and the very small fee that Bayer got in return there is some reason to be upset about losing him. But in this case, only time will tell with all that lies ahead for Milik. If he becomes a star in a top 5 league like the Premier League, then Bayer will really begin to feel the pain from losing him.
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