The Polish national team has traditionally been very dependent on its league, the Ekstraklasa. However, that is a trend that is gradually shrinking: in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, just four and three players from the league made the final roster, respectively. In each of their prior two appearances at the tournament (2002 and 2006), they brought eight Ekstraklasa players.
A big reason for this is that the Ekstraklasa has changed its focus as a league: instead of keeping the best Polish players until their prime, they sell them at young ages. Player sales are key sources of income in the financially poor league. As a result, the league has put more of an emphasis on talent development, and the majority of teams tend to give players chances early in their careers.
Midway through the season, some talented prospects are showing off their skills in Poland. But who are some ones to look out for?
Cracovia: Attacking midfielder Michał Rakoczy has been one of this season’s revelations, bagging six goals and one assist as of writing. The 20-year-old has more than doubled his goal contributions last season (3 goals, 0 assists) and is a part of the u21 Poland team.
Górnik Zabrze: The obvious choice is Szymon Włodarczyk, who is one of the league’s top scorers and a player I have written about in depth. However, there’s another big prospect on the team: 16-year-old winger Krzysztof Kolanko, who has already made four Ekstraklasa appearances this season and is the captain of the u17 Poland team.
Jagiellonia Bialystok: Left-back Jakub Lewicki is enjoying a fine debut season, making 15 appearances at the age of 17. He’s been a big part of Jagiellonia’s side, with the club winning just two of the ten games he’s missed this season. When he’s played, they’ve lost just four times.
Korona Kielce: Midfielder Marcin Szpakowski, 21, played a big role in Korona winning promotion last season, appearing in 31 matches and starting 27 of them. His minutes have diminished this season but he’s still shown potential.
Lech Poznan: Attacking midfielder Filip Marchwiński, 21, has been viewed as a talented prospect for years now, debuting for giants Lech Poznan at the age of 16. After several decent seasons, he’s having a breakout year with two goals and two assists in the Ekstraklasa and a further two strikes in the Conference League, where his side has reached the Quarter-Finals.
Lechia Gdansk: Midfielder Jakub Kałuziński, 20, is on his way out of Gdansk, with his contract expiring in the summer. However, it’s been a productive stay for the academy graduate, who has made 60 appearances for the first team. The u21 Poland international will have a host of clubs interested.
Legia Warszawa: Legia has a host of exciting prospects but Igor Strzałek, who turned 19 in January, has shown the most promise this season. The midfielder has appeared in five Ekstraklasa games this season, registering his first assist with the club. He has recently become a part of the u19 Poland squad.
Miedz Legnica: It’s been a poor season for Legnica, who are firmly rooted to the bottom of the Ekstraklasa. A rare highlight this year has been 19-year-old wing-back Michał Kostka, who arrived at the club from German club RB Leipzig’s academy. He’s made 20 appearances this season, and the club has just one win in five games when he hasn’t played.
Piast Gliwice: Center-back Ariel Mosór, 20, has enjoyed a good season, starting and playing all minutes of 20 matches. He’s missed just five games (which Gliwice have won none of) and has helped the club keep five clean sheets. Mosór is being heavily linked with some top clubs right now, including many Serie A sides.
Pogon Szczecin: Pogon made headlines when they sold Kacper Kozłowski to Premier League side Brighton last year. Kozłowski is the youngest debutant in the club’s history at the age of 15, but just behind him is Adrian Przyborek, a 16-year-old winger who debuted in February. He’s made three appearances in the league and looks to finish the season on a real high.
Radomiak Radom: Goalkeeper Gabriel Kobylak is enjoying a strong season for Radomiak, with six clean sheets this season. The 21-year-old is on loan from Legia, but he will battle with Kacper Tobiasz for the starting spot when he returns to the club.
Rakow Czestochowa: Goalkeeper Kacper Trelowski is Częstochowa through and through, having been born in the city and spending his entire youth career with various clubs in the city, joining Rakow in 2014. At 19, he’s already made 22 first-team appearances, including three in the Ekstraklasa this season.
Slask Wroclaw: It’s been a rough season for Slask, who is currently battling relegation, but there’s been some good news this season: mainly Karol Borys, a 16-year-old midfielder who went on trial with Manchester United in 2022. He’s made six Ekstraklasa appearances this season.
Stal Mielec: Stal Mielec has the second-oldest average team age in the Ekstraklasa behind Lechia Gdansk, but unlike Gdansk, most of their young players are loaned in from other clubs. That is true of Fryderyk Gerbowski, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder on loan from Wisla Plock. He’s made 19 league appearances with one goal this season.
Warta Poznan: Warta’s 16-year-old midfielder Jakub Paszkowski became the club’s youngest debutant in February, coming off the bench in a 5-1 win over Korona Kielce. This is his first year with the club, having been signed from Wigry Suwalki, but he’s already making a big impression.
Widzew Lodz: Attacking midfielder Jakub Sypek has found it tough to break into the Lodz starting eleven, making just one start. However, the 21-year-old has made regular appearances off the bench, scoring once and assisting another goal. He was one of Zaglebie Lubin’s top players on the reserves before leaving this season.
Wisla Plock: Forward Tomasz Walczak looked set for a larger role this season, having made six Ekstraklasa appearances last season. However, the 17-year-old has made just one more appearance this season, and a loan move could be on the cards for the talented teenager.
Zaglebie Lubin: Attacking midfielder Tomasz Pieńko is enjoying a breakout season with Lubin, continuing from where he left off last season. He’s made a total of 35 Ekstraklasa appearances by the age of 19 and has scored twice, including this beauty:
Image Courtesy of Werner100359, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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