Meet Europe's highest-scoring defender this season who could be England-bound
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: February 3, 1988
- Place of birth: Jastrzębie Zdrój, Poland
- Height: 6ft 3in
- Position: Centre-back
- Former clubs: Silesia Lubomia (loan), Horadada, Real Madrid C, Piast Gliwice, Palermo, Bari (loan)
- Club: Torino (129 apps, 13 goals)
- International: Poland (30 caps, 3 goals)
Before the beginning of this season, you'd have been forgiven for handing Torino a slim chance of repeating 2013/14's seventh-placed Serie A finish. The summer saw their attack pilfered by some of Europe’s best as Ciro Immobile joined German giants Borussia Dortmund, and Alessio Cerci departed for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid. Respectively, the pair had been Serie A’s top scorer and creator last season.
Without their star attacking duet, the Granata were rendered virtually toothless. Fortunately, however, they managed to keep hold of their defensive colossus and club captain Kamil Glik. The Polish centre-back is the central figure of their five-man backline, itself the foundation upon which Torino’s positive form has been built.
With nine clean sheets in the league, Torino’s defence is one of the best in Italy, and Glik has been at the heart of their success. The Poland international has even stepped up in an attacking sense to help fill the void left by the sales of Immobile and Cerci, scoring eight times; a tally earning him the status of Europe’s highest-scoring defender.
In addition to his club performances, Glik has helped Poland to a magnificent start in their Euro 2016 qualification campaign. Faced with a tough group, they defeated world champions Germany 2-0 in Warsaw last October on their way to topping Group D (also featuring Scotland and the Republic of Ireland) at the halfway stage.
Why you need to know him
As a result of his form for both club and country, wistful glances have been directed Glik’s way as talk of a move to the Premier League continues. Tottenham have been consistently linked, while Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle and West Ham are also said to have shown an interest. It’s been a steady rise to prominence for Glik, who not so long ago was unwanted by Palermo.
Glik spent one year with Real Madrid’s C team earlier in his career before moving back to Poland, where he established himself in the Ekstraklasa with Piast Gliwice. His form there led to an international call-up, but he was unable to prevent relegation in 2010 as the club finished bottom of the league. It was then that a move to Italy presented itself, with Palermo swooping to save Glik from the potential ignominy of playing in Poland's second tier.
However, having failed to make an impact in Palermo’s starting line-up, the stopper was whisked out on loan to Bari just six months later. There he impressed then-coach Giampiero Ventura so much that the veteran manager took Glik with him to Torino as soon as he could, signing him outright for around £2 million. Eventually, Ventura appointed Glik as his captain – the first foreigner in Torino’s history to don the armband.
The trio of Ventura, Glik and Torino has worked effectively, with the club achieving promotion from Serie B before establishing themselves in the top half of Serie A last year. This led them into the Europa League this season, and the club’s first European campaign in 12 years. They didn’t let themselves down either, going out in the last 16 to Zenit after an exhilarating 5-4 aggregate win over Athletic Bilbao in the round of 32.
Glik scored in the second leg against Zenit, but it wasn't enough to turn around a 2-0 defeat in Russia. Nonetheless, Torino’s European adventure gave him experience of rubbing shoulders with strikers from the continent, something he may well have to get used to if those transfer rumours are to be believed.
Such speculation has been unwelcome to Torino fans, who started up a Twitter campaign titled #GlikNonSiTocca (translating as ‘Glik is untouchable’) to discourage prospective suitors. Their campaign may be unnecessary, with early indications suggesting that their hero could stay. “I recently told the sports director (Gianluca Petrachi) that I’m not going anywhere,” he affirmed. “I have a contract with Torino for two more seasons. In the summer we’ll think of what to do next.”
Glik’s sturdy frame makes him a physically intimidating prospect for opposition forwards. At 6ft 3in he uses his height to his advantage, and his anticipation and willingness to put his head where it hurts makes him a strong aerial presence.
He enjoys a good man-to-man battle and combines his strength and awareness with decent mobility. Furthermore, Glik’s versatility is impressive; he has played comfortably as part of Torino’s back five in a 5-3-2 but has also adjusted to Poland’s four-man rearguard with ease.
Clearly on the evidence of this season, Glik also offers an offensive threat, particularly from set-pieces. His goals this season have seen him overtake Zbigniew Boniek as the highest-scoring Pole in a Serie A season. He isn't far from breaking another record either: Marco Materazzi’s 12-goal haul for Perugia in 2000/01 which made him the highest-scoring defender in a single Serie A campaign.
I have a contract with Torino for two more seasons. In the summer we’ll think of what to do next
While he relishes his defensive duties, Glik can sometimes appear awkward bringing the ball out from the back. His pass success rate is excellent (90.7%), but he prefers to keep things simple.
The 27-year-old is also prone to rash challenges, something which would need to be addressed were he to step up to the Premier League.
Boss Ventura has been keen to emphasise Glik’s work-rate and mentality, saying: “Each workout is a means to improve. We can try to work with a player and help him grow, but on the other hand there must be a willingness and availability in wanting to grow. (Glik) has this. It’s obvious that he is improving, because we are talking about someone who has become a completely different player over the last three years.”
Torino president Urbano Cairo faces pressure not to sell his club’s finest assets for the second consecutive season. Along with Glik, wing-back Matteo Darmian has been linked with a move away. Cairo has refuted reports that they will be sold, however, saying: “They are not for sale. They’ve been with us for four years now and are more than happy. They'll stay here, if this is what they want. We'll only sell them if they ask us to let them go. Only then will we seek out alternatives."
Did you know?
Turin-based rapper Willie Peyote loves Glik so much that he wrote a song in his honour, simplistically called 'Glik'. In the song, Peyote raps of “chronicles of war” and “Armageddon”, perhaps in an attempt to convey the essence of Glik’s feisty approach. He also calls strikers Alessandro Matri and Marco Borriello “overpaid jocks” while suggesting that he (or they, or all of us for that matter) should remain as “hardcore as Glik”. It’s surprisingly catchy.
What happens next?
Last summer, Glik signed a contract extension to keep him with Torino until 2017 and, despite interest from many English teams, club president Cairo is purportedly unwilling to sell his defensive leader for anything les than €15 million (roughly £10 million).
While the Pole has professed his desire to stay in Turin and see out the remainder of his contract, Glik also coyly batted his eyelashes in a westerly direction. “The Premier League would suit me; I have the physique for it,” he admitted. Perhaps Torino fans should brace themselves for another summer of sales.