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It’s Piątek, we’re in love

A look at the career of Fiorentina’s new Polish striker

Poland v Hungary - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Photo by PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

After arriving in Florence Thursday afternoon for a medical, Krzysztof Piątek’s loan move from Hertha Berlin has now been confirmed. With his price tag fixed at 15 million euro, Fiorentina have the option to buy at the end of this season, but no obligation. All in all, a good deal for us, we’ve got ourselves a player who can be seriously considered as a reserve striker, which was badly needed. Vlahović can’t be expected to play 90 minutes of every game, and won’t always be on form, so to have an option on the bench is a big improvement and finally gives Vincenzo Italiano options up front.

In case anyone is wondering about the title, Piątek in the Polish language means Friday. As for the pronunciation, we’ve all probably heard his name enough times by now, but it’s similar to Drągowski, that ‘ą’ making a nasal kind of ‘on’ sound. As for the first name, well maybe Kris will be easier, but this may be of some help:

We all know the short story, he arrived in Italy at Genoa where he got off to a blistering start. This attracted the attention of Milan, and he moved there in January, still managed to score quite a few goals. The next season didn’t go so well, and by January he was on the move again, to Hertha Berlin. Didn’t do too badly in that first half season, an average campaign last season, but has found it difficult to get into the starting eleven this season, starting just four of the 17 league games so far. But I prefer to see the real story, not the highlights.

Born in Dzierżoniów, in the Lower Silesia region of Poland, in July 1995. Dzierżoniów, once under the control of Germany, returned to Poland after the Second World War. Piątek would later explain how his father was his first coach, how he learned to play football on the streets, and that there wasn’t much else to do in Dzierżoniów. He joined the local club UKS Lechia Dzierżoniów at aged 11. Their trainer, Andrzej Bolisęga, had spotted him playing for an opposition team, Niemczanka Niemcza. Bolisęga would later speak of Piątek as not exactly being one of the calmest boys that he coached, he didn’t listen to the trainers, didn’t follow the rules, but when he went on the pitch, he scored goals so there wasn’t much he could complain about. He progressed to the youth team of Lechia Dzierżoniów, and in 2012 made his senior debut for the club in the fourth tier of the Polish league.

That debut came on September 22nd, the ninth game of the season. Lechia were away to Bielawianka Bielawa, and Piątek came on as a sub for the last 13 minutes of a scoreless draw, in a game which also saw three red cards. There were about 200 people in the ground that day to witness his first game as a senior player. Despite just making two starts that season, and not getting on the scoresheet, he was signed up by Ekstraklasa (Polish top division) side, Zagłębie Lubin, in 2013. In May 2014 he made his debut in the top flight, coming on as a sub in a 2-1 home loss to Cracovia, who would be his next club. Piątek only made four appearances towards the end of a poor season for Lubin, who finished bottom of the table and were relegated.

It was in the 2014/15 season that Piątek came of age, playing in 30 games in the second tier, and scoring eight goals. His first goal for the club came on September 12th, when he scored the only goal in a home win over Chrobry Głogów. Lubin topped the league and were promoted back to the Ekstraklasa. On August 14th, 2015, he scored his first goal in the top division, coming on as a sub in the first half, ten minutes later he put Lubin 2-0 up against Lech Poznań, in a game that ended in a 2-1 home win.

Lubin had a great season, finishing third and qualifying for Europe, although Piątek scored just six goals in his 33 league appearances. The 2016/17 started well for the striker, scoring the final goal in a 4-0 win on the opening day of the season. After that though, he failed to start any of the next five league games. Lubin also had six games in the Europa League at this stage, Piątek appearing in all six and starting four, but failed to find the net.

When Cracovia offered half a million euro for the player in September, there weren’t too many at the club disappointed to see him leave. At the start of October, he scored his first goals for the club, netting twice in a 6-0 win over Korona Kielce. He scored the equaliser in the Kraków derby, away to Wisła in December, which certainly will have helped get the fans on his side. Just a couple of minutes before his goal, he had clashed with an opponent in the penalty box which heightened the tension even more with both sets of players getting involved, and Piątek going down rather dramatically after a push from a Wisła player. Shortly afterwards, a poor attempt at a clearance fell to the striker in the area, and after controlling the ball with his right foot, he drove it home with his left.

At the end of April, he came up against his former club, Lubin. He silenced the home fans when he scored before half time to give Cracovia a 2-0 lead, but Lubin scored two late goals to spoil his return. He ended that first season with Cracovia with 11 goals in his 27 games, as they narrowly avoided relegation. In the 2017/18 season, Piątek again scored in the derby match. Away to Wisła, his own fans were banned from attending, but he silenced the home crowd after 25 minutes when he put Cracovia in front. They held the lead until ten minutes from time, at that stage they were down to ten men, and went on to lose 2-1.

He scored two penalties in the last five minutes in the next game, to rescue a 3-3 draw against Górnik Zabrze. In another 2-2 draw with his old club Lubin, Piątek scored both Cracovia’s goals. He ended that season with 21 goals, the third highest goal scorer in that league campaign, enough to earn him a move to Serie A side Genoa, with a 4-million-euro price tag.

On August 11th, 2018, Genoa started their season with a Coppa Italia third round game against Lecce. On his debut game in Italy, within the opening twenty minutes Piątek already had a hat-trick. He added a fourth before the interval, Genoa winning 4-0, as Piątek was taken off in the second half.

Genoa were due to kick off their league campaign a week later at Milan, but after the tragedy of the bridge collapse in the city, which killed 43 people, both that game and Sampdoria’s match with Fiorentina were postponed. On August 26th they had their first league game, and Piątek scored after 6 minutes on his Serie A debut. This helped Genoa to a 2-1 win over Empoli, with Christian Kouame scoring their second. These two would go on to form an impressive partnership over the next few months.

Piątek had no problem settling into Italian football and scored in each of Genoa’s first seven league games, with nine goals in total. That seventh game saw him open the scoring against Parma, but Genoa ended up losing 3-1. They had made a decent start to the season, with four wins from seven games, they sat in mid table, level on points with Milan, and seven points clear of the relegation zone. Still, Enrico Preziosi decided to give Davide Ballardini the boot, and brought back Ivan Jurić, still under contract at the club having been replaced by Ballardini during the previous season. Just typical Preziosi then.

Jurić also lasted seven league games, but he didn’t manage to win even one of those. In those seven games, Piątek only managed to score once, that single goal coming from the penalty spot. It did give Genoa a share of the spoils in the derby game, his spot-kick levelling Fabio Quagliarella’s goal for Sampdoria. Jurić’s last game in charge came in the Coppa Italia, against Serie C side, Virtus Entella, a club from Genova dreaming of knocking out one of their more famous neighbours. Genoa had home advantage, and the game attracted a very small crowd. Piatek twice levelled the game, and twice from the penalty spot, to force the game into extra-time. Genoa were then awarded a third penalty, which Gianluca Lapadula put away, but in added time at the end of extra-time, Virtus made it 3-3. It then went to a penalty shoot-out, it was 4-4 after the first five penalties, with Piątek putting away the last one for Genoa, but Lapadula failed to convert the eight penalty and Genoa were out of the cup.

Preziosi decided enough was enough, and for the second season in a row, Jurić was shown the door and Cesare Prandelli came in. Since his arrival at the club, this was already the third manager that Piątek would play under. Prandelli’s first game in charge was a 1-1 draw at home with Spal, where Piątek levelled the game from the penalty spot. The Polish striker scored in all Prandelli’s first three games. He gave Genoa the lead away to Roma, but they went on to lose 3-2 after leading twice. Just before Christmas, Atalanta were the visitors to the Luigi Ferraris, and Genoa were without a win in their previous nine league games.

In injury time at the end of the first half, a Piątek header from a corner kick was tipped over by Etrit Berisha. From the resulting corner he again got a header on target and it was deflected for an own goal by Rafael Tolói. Late in the game, with Genoa 2-1 up, Piątek made sure of all three points striking a great goal from just inside the area. José Luis Palomino had been given a torrid evening by the striker and was sent-off for a second yellow after a foul on Piątek.

After the game, Prandelli had kind words to say about his Polish forward, describing him as a serious guy who trains hard and wants to score goals, and can help the club get out of the delicate situation they were in. He also spoke of how he was a modern striker, he’s not an attacker who only acts as a target, but in the penalty area he has an eye for goals, and a coolness, and also has a great strike. That goal was his 13th of the league campaign, making him top scorer ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Quagliarella and Ciro Immobile. Unfortunately for Prandelli, Piątek’s time at Genoa was already coming to an end, and that would be his final goal for the club.

Genoa had two games straight after Christmas, a 1-0 defeat at Cagliari before hosting Fiorentina on December 29th. Prandelli admitted after the scoreless draw with his old club that Fiorentina probably deserved the win, but in injury time Piątek did have a shot from distance which was deflected and hit the post. This was his last act as a Genoa player. In early January, with Serie A not returning until the 20th, the transfer rumours started, with Juventus, Milan and Roma all said to be interested in the striker. Later there was talk of an offer from West Ham in England, but by then Milan had become the favourites, if they could match Preziosi’s asking price.

At the halfway point in the season, Milan were in fifth place, well out of the Scudetto race and battling for Champions League qualification. Genoa were in 14th, with a seven-point cushion over the relegation zone. Fiorentina, meanwhile, were in 10th place, six points ahead of Prandelli and Piątek. On January 21st, Genoa hosted Milan, but Piątek’s yellow card against Fiorentina meant he was suspended for the game with the club who were now all set to buy him. Rino Gattuso’s side came away with a 2-0 win, and Prandelli could already see how difficult life would be without his top scorer. The next day Piątek was on his way to Milan for the medical and contract signing, after the clubs agreed on a fee of 35 million euro. With Genoa he had scored a total of 19 goals between league and Coppa Italia in 21 games.

After his arrival at Milan, Gattuso described him as a boy of few words, he seems like Robocop. The following Saturday night, Milan hosted Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli, and in a scoreless draw, Piątek made his debut when replacing Patrick Cutrone with less than twenty minutes left in the game. Just three days later and the two sides met again at the San Siro, in the Coppa Italia, and on his first start for the club Piątek scored both goals in a 2-0 win.

A week later, on a Sunday night at the Stadio Olimpico, the striker made his first league start against Roma. After 25 minutes he got ahead of Federico Fazio to meet a cross from Lucas Paqueta’ and had his first goal for Milan. They drew that game 1-1 but won the next three, with Piątek scoring in each one, giving him five goals in his first four league starts for the club, seven in five if you count the cup game.

He then went on to score the winner at Chievo, a goal in a draw with Udinese, and opened the scoring away to Juventus, where Milan lost 2-1. Then came a dry spell, five games without a goal, the last of those a 1-0 win away to Fiorentina. On the penultimate day of the season, he opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over Frosinone, giving him a total of 11 goals in 21 games. Despite only playing half a season with both clubs, he ended up as top scorer for both Genoa and Milan. He scored 30 goals between league and cup in that first season in Italy, and with 22 in Serie A he was the third highest scorer.

The 2019/20 season began with Marco Giampaolo now in charge of Milan, but his reign lasted just seven games. In those seven matches Piątek only managed two goals and both of those came from the penalty spot. Giampaolo did manage to win his final game in charge, away to Piątek’s former club Genoa. The Polish striker was taken off at half-time, with newspaper reports describing him as a ghost in those 45 minutes. Stefano Pioli was the man chosen to turn things around. In Pioli’s first game as manager, Piątek did put Milan 2-1 up against Lecce, but they only drew that one. He would score just one more league goal, which came in December, again a penalty kick.

Piątek did score one more goal, in a Coppa Italia win over Spal in January, but the writing was on the wall, with the club having already brought in Zlatan Ibrahimović. His last game for Milan came in another cup game at the San Siro, and it was with his head bowed and the jeers of the home crowd in his ears that he left the pitch in the second half against Torino. Ibrahimović was the man to replace him, with cheers from the fans at his entrance. Just four goals in 18 league games wasn’t enough to keep his place at Milan, who were only too happy to accept the offer from Hertha Berlin.

Almost two years later, and Piątek has made his return to Italy, where he will wear the same number 19 shirt that he wore at Milan. In Germany, that first half season saw him score four goals in his fifteen league games, nine of those in the starting eleven, along with one goal in his one cup game. 2020/21 was his only full season at the club, scoring seven goals in 32 games, 18 games in the starting line-up. He missed the Euros last summer through injury and has scored nine goals in his 21 games with the national side.

The striker has only made four starts this season and five sub appearances, scoring just once, and found himself out of favour at the club, behind the likes of Marco Richter and Stevan Jovetić.

The chance of a return to Italy and a fresh start was too good an opportunity to turn down. It looked likely that he would make a comeback at Genoa, but instead has been convinced by Fiorentina’s project. He’s a player who seemed to have lost his way after that first spectacular season in Italy which took everyone by surprise. A natural born striker doesn’t forget how to score, and if anyone can bring out the best in Piątek surely that’s Vincenzo Italiano.

Here’s our new Polish signing talking in the Viola room: https://www.acffiorentina.com/it/news/videos/prima-squadra-maschile/2022-01-08/viola-room-krzysztof-piatek

This is a chance to watch his official presentation and first press conference: https://www.acffiorentina.com/it/news/tutte/prima-squadra-maschile/2022-01-08/piatek-qui-per-segnare-e-restare-a-lungo