5 things you should know about Manchester United, Tottenham and Barcelona target Krzysztof Piatek
Krzysztof Piatek only signed for struggling AC Milan in January last year, but his goals have led him to be trailed by a number of clubs, reportedly including (deep breath) Manchester United, Tottenham, Barcelona, Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle.
So just who is the 24-year-old Polish striker, and why is he so sought after? Here's five things to know.
Zlatan’s arrival spelled the end
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return was met with excitement by fans and players alike in Milan. Coach Stefano Pioli even described the charismatic Swede’s arrival as a “godsend”.
But the 38-year-old’s comeback was bad news for Piatek.
Ibra settled quickly, scoring on his first start, and while Pioli’s flirtation with a 4-4-2 formation initially looked like good news for the Pole, it’s now become clear Piatek has fallen behind Zlatan and Rafael Leao in the pecking order.
Piatek scored when he started in a 3-0 Coppa Italia victory over SPAL last week, but he’s been an unused substitute in Milan’s last two Serie A games.
The return of Zlatan has sparked an upturn in form, with Milan winning three on the trot, but Piatek has fallen by the wayside as a result.
A lot has changed in a year
Rarely has such an unknown player made as much of an impact as Piatek did in his first season in Italy.
His arrival at Genoa from Cracovia in the summer of 2018 went largely unnoticed, but soon everybody was paying attention as the striker smashed in four goals on his debut against Lecce before adding another 15 before the turn of the year.
It’s worth pointing out that this was for a poor Genoa side that only avoided relegation thanks to their head-to-head record against Empoli.
Piatek didn’t slow down much when he arrived in Milan, scoring another 11 goals before the end of the season, but 2019/20 has been a disaster.
Gennaro Gattuso’s departure as manager hit the striker hard – he struggled under Marco Giampaolo before the coach’s sacking and hasn’t fared much better with Pioli.
The goals have dried up, with the 24-year-old supplying just four in 18 Serie A appearances this term, and that tally is more generous than it might have been - three were penalties.
He’s a penalty box predator
Piatek is the archetypal poacher, a striker who lives on the offside line and looks for any opportunity to get himself into the box.
Of the 19 goals he scored for Genoa, only one came from outside the area. For Milan, all 16 strikes have been scored inside the box.
Piatek is an opportunist, a player who can find space in crowded areas. He has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, pouncing on deflections, parries and rebounds, but he’s also strong in the air and a reliable penalty taker.
However, he doesn’t contribute much beyond that. The Pole gets on the end of chances, but rarely sets them up; over the last season-and-a-half in Serie A, he’s provided just one assist.
He won’t drop deep to orchestrate and build attacks, and as a result he can cut an isolated figure when his team is up against it.
But when it comes to instinctive finishing, there have been few better than Piatek in Serie A over the last 18 months – just take a look at his deft over-the-shoulder volley for Milan against Atalanta.
He needs creative players around him
To flourish, Piatek needs creators around him. Milan have sorely lacked any creative spark this season, scoring just 21 goals in 20 games. Their top scorer is a left-back, Theo Hernandez.
Piatek has suffered from the poor form of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu, while the inventive but inconsistent Lucas Paqueta has fallen out of favour under Pioli, leaving the Rossoneri with a stale attack.
Piatek’s goal against SPAL showed what he thrives on, as he latched onto a well-weighted Ismael Bennacer through ball to finish.
That supply is what he needs to perform, as he isn’t a striker who makes something out of nothing and carries a team on his own.
Milan want their money back
Reports in Italy are quite clear about what it will take to sign Piatek this month. The price is €30m (around £25.5m); no ifs, no buts.
That is €5m less than the fee Milan spent on him one year ago, and they are determined to recoup as much of that money as possible.
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