If Krzysztof Piątek’s story was pitched to Hollywood executives, they would turn their noses up at this notion and fling the script onto the pile of monotonous ideas for sports films at their disposal. However, the Pole’s blockbuster start to life at Genoa is anything but predictable. From plying his trade for 10th placed-Cracovia in the Polish Championship to conquering Europe’s goalscoring charts with 13 goals in all competitions, Piątek’s acquisition could be attributed to either scouting at its very peak, a moment of indescribable fortune for Genoa or both.
To give further context, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Sergio Aguero have not been on the scoresheet as many times as the 23-year old. So, the question that demands answers is whether Krzysztof Piątek’s hot streak in front of goal an indication of a top-tier striker in the flesh or a mere flash in the pan?
While his CV does not exactly paint a clear picture as a solitary 21-goal campaign for Cracovia is not an indicator of a thoroughbred goalscorer from the outset. All of the current evidence suggests Piątek was an unearthed gem and has finally found his true calling at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. The Polish U-20 international’s capture was met with initial scepticism by the Genoanos for two reasons. Firstly, they were in dire need of a quality forward as Gianluca Lapadula had ended as their top goalscorer in the 2017-18 season with a lowly 6 goals and secondly, a price tag of 4 million euros for an unheard prospect was considered a bizarre foray into the transfer market from the fans.
Piątek, however, paid no mind to these apprehensions as he netted just 70 seconds into his debut against Lecce in the Copa Italia and kickstarted his Italian voyage with a 4-goal display. In a space of 90 minutes, he had turned sceptics into supporters. On his Serie A debut against Empoli, the Pole wasted no time in setting the contest alight with a nifty close-range finish in the 6th minute. The former Zaglebie Lubin forward was a menace throughout the encounter, ghosting past defenders to find free spaces to exploit, dropping deep to win headers and testing the goalkeeper on several occasions.
The 23-year old showcased that he revels during testing times as he followed up his bright debut with a brilliant brace against Sassuolo in a 5-3 loss and a consolation goal against Lazio as Genoa suffered a 4-1 defeat, sandwiched in between his winner against Bologna. With 5 goals in his first 4 Serie A appearances, Piątek became the first player to equal Andriy Shevchenko’s blistering start for Milan in 1999. Despite Genoa’s wobbly run of results, the Pole emerged as the spark among the ashes.
Genoanos were over the moon, not only because Piątek was tearing defences to shreds, but moreover because his rise to prominence was not on the cards for fans that regarded his addition as one that would reap the benefits in the future. Cracovia manager Michal Probierz had worked with the ferocious forward in close quarters and his immense goalscoring run is of no surprise to the veteran.
“I’m not surprised, Krzysztof is a top striker. I’m certain that if he keeps being professional and avoids injuries, he’ll become one of the best strikers in Europe.”
The 46-year old coach echoed a unanimous concern among I Rossoblu (The Red and Blues) supporters of their talismanic frontman leaving for a European giant, sooner rather than later.
“I’m surprised that the big clubs, with all the scouting they do, missed such a big talent in Poland. With all due respect to Genoa, the football elite must regret not having taken a shot at Piątek.”
Piątek’s boisterous form has enticed a host of clubs around Europe to make a move, with Chelsea and Barcelona reported to be leading the race to sign the ferocious forward in the summer. Alvaro Morata’s move to the five-time Premier League champions has been nothing short of a disaster. While Chelsea have exhibited signs of a title challenge, a striker of Piatek’s minerals is crucial to complete Maurizio Sarri’s jigsaw puzzle.
The Blaugrana are witnessing a certain Luis Suarez on the wane. While the Uruguayan is still a class act, he is on the wrong side of 30 and the Barcelona board have been put on red alert to target replacements that will shoulder the goalscoring burden. Someone who could lead the line for the Catalans for years to come. Ergo, Genoa’s newest prodigal son is on top of their wish list.
Unsurprisingly, Piątek has drawn comparisons to Robert Lewandowski and much like the free-scoring Bayern Munich man, he is also one of the few strikers that could potentially slot in with ease into any team’s system or league in the world. Such malleability can be attributed to his supreme tactical awareness and how well-rounded he is in his position.
Piątek embodies Andrea Pirlo’s philosophy of how “football is played with your head” as his game is centred around his incredible positional sense. The young striker has the tendency to drop into midfield to act as an effective passing option, creating space for his teammates to exploit and linking play excellently. In addition, the Pole is vital in challenging for the second balls as he wins a staggering 2.8 aerial duels per match, ensuring his side transition from midfield to attack effortlessly. Despite not possessing the most imposing of physiques, Piątek utilizes his 6’0 frame to the hilt.
Inside the box, this masterful spatial awareness has been key to a plethora of his goals this season. A fine example of this is Piątek’s second strike against Sassuolo in which he is seen in the middle of two defenders, positioned perfectly to convert the incoming cross from the left flank. However, as the wideman takes an extra touch, Piątek takes one step back, controls the pass and rifles it in.
The former Cracovia striker’s efficiency is highlighted by the fact that he has not taken more than 3 touches in scoring any of his goals this campaign.
The completeness in Piątek’s abilities is why he started and scored an expert header in Poland’s 2-1 loss against Portugal in the UEFA Nations League and is earmarked to fire his nation to glory. While it is still early days for the lethal forward, the Polish international is breaking records, left, right and centre.
Piątek matched Karl Aage Hansen’s 60-year old feat of enjoying the best start to a season by a debutant in his 6th appearance for Genoa with 8 goals and further broke barriers in the next encounter against Parma. By scoring a goal in 7 successive matches, he became the first player since Argentine icon, Gabriel Batistuta first achieved this during the 1994-95 season.
While it would be premature to be convinced that Piątek is destined for greatness, all of the current evidence points towards this very hypothesis. Only time will tell whether Krzysztof Piątek lives up to not only the hype but also to his virtuosic performances.
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