by Tom Lees - 2nd March 2016
As we edge closer to the 2016 European Championship finals, there is a young Polish forward who has been rediscovering his finest form and could be about to take the tournament by storm. After a slow start to 2016, Arkadiusz (or Arek) Milik is now back in the Ajax Amsterdam first team, is brimming with confidence and has scored some great goals. As Poland head into the tournament all eyes will be on the hugely impressive Robert Lewandowski, but alongside him in attack Arek Milik has already shown he has big goals and performances in him at the highest level. As a striking partnership, Milik and Lewandowski will strike fear into opposition defences, and they have the potential to fire Poland into the latter stages of the tournament.
Arek Milik began his career in the youth setup of Rozwój Katowice, and made his debut for the club in the fourth tier of Polish football as a 16-year-old in 2010, scoring two goals in his first appearance. He was soon afforded the chance to take a trial at Górnik Zabrze, where he played a couple of games for the youth side, and marked his trial with a goal. Further trials with Tottenham Hotspur, Reading and Legia Warszawa followed before Milik saw out the remainder of the season with Katowice. In the summer of 2011 the forward would weigh up his options and decide to remain in Poland to concentrate on his development. Following up on his trial period, Milik signed a permanent contract with Górnik Zabrze and would make his Ekstraklasa debut soon after. The youngster became a regular in the clubs starting line-up, and spent 18 months gaining valuable experience before attracting the attention of German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. Milik moved to Germany at the end of 2012 for a reported fee of €2.6 million, and made a handful of substitute appearances for Leverkusen before the end of the season.
Already a full Polish international at this time, the expectations for Arek Milik were high with his arrival in the Bundesliga. First team opportunities at Leverkusen were going to be hard to come by, so the forward was sent out on loan to fellow German side FC Augsburg for the 2012/13 campaign. It was ultimately a disappointing period for the young Pole however, with game time limited to mainly substitute appearances. Upon his return to Leverkusen at the end of the season his game had not improved as had hoped and thus he was allowed to leave on loan again for another season, this time at Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam. The move to the Eredivisie proved to be highly successful for the youngster as he forced his way into the main striking position. His goal scoring form was good and this transferred to his international career with some stand out displays. At the end of a good campaign, Ajax reached terms with Bayer Leverkusen for his permanent signature and Milik became an official Ajax player in the summer of 2015, taking the number 9 jersey vacated by Kolbeinn Sigþórsson.
Continuing where he left off the previous season, Milik has continued to lead the line well for Ajax in the 2015/16 thus far. Although he does occasionally fall victim to a loss of form that can see him disappear from games at times, but when his confidence is high Milik shows a lethal edge that can measure up to any other striker in Europe at times. He is a confidence player, a little like Romelu Lukaku in that regard, on his day he is very special but on an off day can look decidedly average. The difference between good and great comes down to the ability to lose those off days and this is an area that Milik needs to work on if he is to become all he can be. He has still performed well though, only recently turned 22 years of age the Pole is averaging a goal every other game for Ajax which is a great return for any goal scorer. His senior international goal scoring ratio is also around that mark, which is outstanding and he’ll be a huge part of Poland’s footballing future. Before becoming a full Polish international Milik represented his country at every age range, scoring goals at each level, including a phenomenal record for the Under 21’s.
A tall, charismatic frontman, who is able to play out wide as well as centrally, Milik is a natural finisher. He’s able to hold up play and link with others, or operate as a fox in the box sniffing out chances. Deceptively quick over the ground he is capable of running at defences and shooting hard from distance, but specialises in the area, finding space to utilise his lethal left footed finishes. Sometimes decision making could be better, which is a skill learned through experience, and he could make more use of his natural strength at times particularly in the air. However, he is improving each month and if he can add consistency to his game, Milik could go on to play at the very highest level of the game. He has a finishers instinct that cannot be taught, and a desire to keep scoring and improve his game so as to score even more.
With the European Championships a few months away and Milik scoring well for Ajax, the tournament could be his chance to become a household name. His time at Ajax has been hugely beneficial to his career development, but he’ll be looking to go even further in the game than the Eredivisie is able to offer. He still has a lot to learn and improve, but Arek Milik has everything it takes to be a top striker in the World of football, he’s on the verge of becoming a big star, the next step though is often the hardest.