Dubbed the ‘new Robert Lewandowski’ by various sectors of the media, Dawid Kownacki is an obvious talent and one the nation of Poland holds in high regard. Yet, the current Sampdoria striker undoubtedly had his work cut out for him to deliver on this hype, and perhaps even exceed the high expectations bestowed upon him at a young age.
Kownacki began his footballing journey at his hometown club Gorzów Wielkopolski before joining the Lech Poznańsystem in 2005 where he was groomed and moulded into the player we see today.
Initially, the Lewandowski comparisons as a 16-year old effected the Pole so much that the pressure to follow in his idol’s footsteps became difficult to handle, but with an attitude adjustment and maturation, Kownacki began playing freely and without restraint.
The 21-year played a central role in Poznań’s 2016-17 Ekstraklasa campaign, hitting home nine goals and supplying three assists in north of 1,000 minutes. Despite Poland crashing out as host nation in the Group Stage of the U-21 UEFA European Championship, the baby-faced striker’s flashes prompted several clubs on the continent to inquire about his services. Eventually, it was Sampdoriawho tabled a winning €3,5 million bid to lure him to Liguria where the Polish contingent of Poznań graduates was formed with Karol Linetty and Bartosz Bereszyński.
Although his first season on the Italian peninsula served as more of an on-boarding phase by virtue of limited action as Marco Giampaolo’s third choice striker behind Fabio Quagliarella and Duvan Zapata, Kownacki made the most of his 921 minutes across all competitions, tallying an impressive eight goals and three assists. These splashes of quality in a rather small sample size were enough for Poland manager Adam Nawałka to grant him his senior debut on March 23rd, with the dream of a spot on the plane to Russia with the first team.
Since Lewandowski’s backup Arkadiusz Milik was still working his way back to full fitness with Napoli after his second major leg injury, Nawałka needed to get a readingon where Kownacki was at in his development – and whether he’d be ready to make the final cut headed to the World Cup. Sure enough, and with much delight, Kownackiwas one of four forwards to make the 23-man squad, bringing a bit of a different profile up front than the likes of Lewandowski, Milik and Łukasz Teodorczyk.
Kownacki’s ability to expand his play beyond the penalty area should make him an underrated asset for Nawałka in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, in that the additional elements to his repertoire over the years has seen him drift out wide and become more of a creative attacker as opposed to a traditional nine confined to the box.
Proof is in his performances for Sampdoria this past season: Kownacki can play with the ball at his feet – either from a central position or on the wing – and do a bit more than just roam the box in search of goals. His controlled movements in the final third and improved work-rate since arriving in Italy enables him to maintain a press and win the ball back in the opposing half. While it’s quite clear Nawałka has his preferred options in the attack, it wouldn’t surprise many to see Kownacki’s positional versatility come into play later on in matches if Poland are chasing desired results. Regardless, the World Cup is the biggest stage a footballer can take on, and under the mentorship of captain Lewandowski and a relatively experienced supporting cast, Kownacki should benefit from this appearance in Russia – even if he is sparingly utilized.
Writer: Matthew Santangelo/@Matt_Santangelo