With Legia Warszawa’s virtual early exit from the Europa League, Polish football finds itself in an all too familiar situation. With over half the season still remaining football fans have nothing to look forward to but the domestic game.
If anyone is still not convinced that lack of finances is the main reason behind Polish clubs’ poor performances in Europe, they only need to look at Legia’s conquerors’ line-up. Trabzonspor included Poland international Adrian Mierzejewski in midfield, one of countless talented Poles who choose to play in almost any European league other than the Ekstraklasa. Some of the country’s best players are all scattered around Europe plying their trade in Germany including the Bundesliga’s second-tier, England (likewise the Championship), Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, Norway and there are even two Polish internationals playing in Romania. It would be possible to create four or five good teams out of what is arguably the cream of Polish football and who have chosen to play abroad for just one reason and one reason only – money.
Of course it would have taken a colossal amount of wonga, the like of which Polish clubs can only dream about, to hang onto the likes of Lewandowski and Błaszczykowski. But when highly-talented footballers such as Maciej Rybus, Marcin Komorowski and Artur Jędrzejczyk prefer to play for Russian mid-table Terek Grozny or Krasnodar and Ariel Borysiuk likewise prefers Bundesliga 2 outfit Kaiserslautern to Poland’s biggest and richest club Legia Warszawa, then players earnings has to be looked at.
And, they are not the only ones who have recently fled the champions of Poland for second-rate clubs abroad. Soon after winning the Ekstraklasa in 2012 Sląsk Wrocław also found some of their best squad members deserting them for clubs which hardly rate on the European glamour or money scale. Polish international Piotr Celeban joined Romanians Vaslui, while Jarosław Fojut headed north to the Arctic Circle where Norwegian outfit Tromso obviously reward him much more than Sląsk could. Midfield winger Piotr Cwielong preferred the obscure Ruhr side Bochum, currently lying third from bottom in Bundesliga League 2. So it was only a matter of time before Sląsk lost Waldemar Sobota and ironically he went to one of the few European clubs that Sląsk had managed to get the better of since winning the Ekstraklasa, Bruges in Belgium.
Like all Polish clubs Legia try and fill the gap left by home-raised players with foreigners, but once again the money-factor limits them to the quality they can buy. This was evident in Turkey where the international experience gained by the Łazienkowska side’s Dossa Junior and Helio Pinto in the Cypriot league, hardly matched that of Trabzonspor’s ex-Chelsea pair Jose Bosingwa and Florent Malouda.
There is an old saying in football which has been repeated in various versions regularly since the legendary Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman once said “good footballers make good football teams”. But there is one problem with that – good footballers also cost a lot of money, something which Polish football just hasn’t got, and at this moment in time doesn’t look like getting.