If there was something that hit Lech Poznan much harder than three first-half goals at home against their arch-rival Legia Warsaw, then it is definitely how Ekstraklasa leaders are now capturing their best talents. Bartosz Bereszyński, young talent with one league goal to his name in thirteen appearances so far, stunned Lech’s boss Mariusz Rumak announcing his decision not to sign proposed three-year deal in Poznan. Instead, he went for Legia, the most hated club in the Greater Poland.
Bereszyński’s decision was not the easy one. Given that he still has six months of his deal at Poznan to go, he was instantly dropped to the youth team with claims of complete lack of loyalty shown to the club that invested so much money in him. The other thing, of course, is the rivalry and the effect may be even less entertaining for 20-year-old striker than fifteen games in Młoda Ekstraklasa, as fans have already shared his phone number and Poznan address to wider audience, while he was already named “Judas”.
Such hostile reception was to be expected and it is something that Bereszyński hopes will end soon, with Legia reaching agreement with Lech over his transfer much earlier than in the summer. But it was enough to scare the other huge prospect from Rumak’s squad, Karol Linetty, who also was offered a deal by Legia – however, despite leaders offering more than Lech, young midfielder decided not to put his family in any kind of negative situation in Poznan.
But, believe it or not, there is much more. As Warsaw-based journalist of Przegląd Sportowy, Adam Dawidziuk tweeted, another one who is ready to leave Poznan behind and join Legia is 18-year-old goalkeeper, Aleksander Wandzel, who would be second goalkeeper that Urban would have from Poland’s U18 team.
Such incomparable situation was probably the reason Mariusz Rumak grew impatient over numerous questions regarding Linetty’s future. Not only Legia, but also Anderlecht and Borussia Dortmund are following his development very closely, with deals possibly landing on the table, if not for the statement of the midfielder that he is not prepared to move yet.
Lech’s losses are only one part of the story, and arguably the more interesting perspective is the one of Legia. Since the beginning of the academy project almost ten years ago, league leaders are finally seeing their advantage over rest of the table not only in how many teenagers they have in their squad (ten players born in the nineties so far, number that can only get higher with Michał Żewłakow and Danijel Ljuboja possibly ending their careers in June) but how many they can attract from the other parts of Poland. Bereszyński is one of first names on the Poland U20 team sheet, while Wandzel plays for U18 national team – seeing the willingness of Jan Urban to give numerous chances to teenagers at top club with top facilities and top wages was much more important argument for their move than the following three are together.
Whereas when Legia struggled for the title in recent years, numerous opinions appeared that their youth policy is not paying off – Ariel Borysiuk was one of the most criticized player for his performances in the middle of the pitch, while Michał Żyro currently has more adversaries than he ever had before – there is even a Twitter parody account that follows every news in hope that someone takes him out of Legia.
For Legia, current popularity is nothing new – they were attracting top talents before, but only through their army guardianship and the movement was largely forced. One of such stories is of Mirosław Okoński who, after scoring 16 in 68 games at Lech and amusing the league with his skills, was lured by Legia where he was “sent” for military service between 1980 and 1982. Two Polish Cups he achieved, but never felt as well as he did at Lech and came back to Poznan soon after – not judged by “Kolejorz” support of his career in the capital of Poland. When Bereszyński or Wandzel decide to track back after failure at Legia, they surely can’t count on such warm reception as Okoński was given at his first game back for Lech. If anything, it will be much, much different – the rivalry is even growing, as is Legia’s reputation of a club that gives not only a better start to young talents, but also a bigger chance to move abroad.