In recent years, Brighton & Hove Albion FC have become one of the best-run clubs in England and Europe. The Seagulls, who spent years floundering in England’s lower tiers, are now in Europa League, while they have become incredibly successful despite constant poaching from rival clubs. The reason is very — Brighton signs players from leagues that most English teams would consider below them.
There is an abundance of examples. Moisés Caicedo, signed from Independiente del Valle in Ecuador, is now the most expensive player in Premier League history with Chelsea. Teenage sensation Evan Ferguson was signed from Irish side Bohemians. Kaoru Mitoma, one of the best wingers in the Premier League, was playing for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan when Brighton came calling.
One of the leagues that Brighton has shopped from frequently is the Ekstraklasa, the Polish top flight. In October 2020, the club snapped up Legia Warszawa’s 19-year-old defender Michał Karbownik and Lech Poznan’s 21-year-old midfielder Jakub Moder for a combined fee of around €14 million. Less than two years later, the Seagulls returned for 18-year-old Pogon Szczecin sensation Kacper Kozłowski, this time paying a rumored €11 million.
The three signings have played a combined 47 matches since arriving, while other new signings have thrived and immediately established themselves in the first team. So what has happened with the three Polish Seagulls?
Jakub Moder, 24, Brighton
The only one of the trio at the club right now, Moder has shown plenty of potential since arriving in England.
After signing with the club, Moder was immediately sent back on loan to Lech Poznan, spending the first half of the year with the Polish giants. After the club was quickly eliminated from Europe (a theme for Polish clubs), he returned to England in January. With Brighton battling relegation, Moder wasn’t expected to earn many minutes. However, by the end of the season, he was a regular, even playing all 90 minutes in the club’s final three matches.
Moder was on track to make great strides in his second season, starting 19 of the club’s first 30 Premier League matches. The midfielder was gaining praise for his impressive performances, and, with the World Cup just around the corner, it looked like he would be a crucial part of the Polish national team in Qatar. Then, on April 2nd, 2022, in a match against Norwich, Moder tore his ACL.
Unfortunately, that was the last professional match Moder has played as of writing. He missed the World Cup — where Poland clearly missed his presence — and the entirety of the 2022/23 season, when Brighton finished in a club-record sixth place.
The good news: Moder has returned from his injury, is training fully, and appeared for Brighton’s u21s against Arsenal. The bad news: with the time he’s been absent and the severity of the injury, it might be hard for him to return to the first team.
Michał Karbownik, 22, Hertha Berlin
Brighton had high hopes for Karbownik when he arrived. A versatile, energetic, full-back, Karbownik could also play in midfield and was already a Polish international.
Karbownik was loaned back to Legia, but, after a slow start to the season, he was recalled in January. Manager Graham Potter had high praise, stating “[Karbownik] has a lot of adaptability; he can play either side of the defence, as well as in midfield. He’s an exciting young player who we are looking forward to having in the group.” However, Karbownik made just two appearances the rest of the year and was loaned out the following season, this time to Greek side Olympiacos.
His stay in Greece was highly forgettable, with Karbownik spending more time on the reserves than he did in the first team. Things continued to get worse as Karbownik expressed his interest in playing midfield, rather than full-back — Potter didn’t seem to like him in midfield — and briefly flirted with a move back to Poland.
Instead, he joined 2. Bundesliga side Fortuna Düsseldorf on loan, putting in some strong performances as the club finished just outside of a promotion spot. Unsurprisingly, there was no room for him at Brighton, so this summer he finally made a permanent exit, joining recently relegated side Hertha Berlin.
Kacper Kozłowski, 20, Vitesse
Kozłowski was perhaps the most exciting of the three stars. He had become the youngest player in European Championship history just a few months earlier after coming on as a substitute against Spain and was being (loosely) linked with top clubs around Europe.
Brighton convinced the teenage star to come to England in January 2022, though, making him the most expensive player in Ekstraklasa history. He was then immediately loaned out to sister club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, who play in the Belgian Pro League and have developed several players for Brighton’s first team. Unfortunately, Kozłowski found minutes hard to come by in Belgium, making just nine appearances for the club.
The next season, he was again sent on loan, this time to the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem. While he wasn’t bad at all — finishing the season with two goals and five assists — it wasn’t enough to earn a spot in the Brighton squad. Ultimately he was sent back on loan to Vitesse, where he has two assists in ten games so far.
Kozłowski is technically still a Brighton player, but, given that he has yet to play a match with the club and is on his third loan spell, it will take a big year for him to earn a spot in the first team. Brighton’s depth doesn’t help his odds, either.
Read about the future Ekstraklasa stars here!
Image Courtesy of brightonandhovealbion.com.