The sports daily Przegląd Sportowy calls it “the worst result in Polish history”, referring to Legia’s unbelievably bad performances in the Europa League. With five defeats in five games and not managing to score one goal, the Polish champions and cup holders have the worst record in Europe’s minor club competition. But even worse than that, Przegląd states that no Polish club has ever performed this badly in the European group stages.
Even the now defunct Amica Wronki, the club generally regarded as the weakest to have participated in Europe, in 2004, managed to score three goals in their four defeats. Though they did concede 16, which is eight more than Legia so far, despite having played a game less.
How quickly times change at the Łazienkowska – unfortunately for the worse. In their previous Europa League appearance at this stage just two seasons ago, Legia finished second to PSV Eindhoven and qualified for the knock-out stage, where they certainly did not disgrace themselves by going out to Sporting Lisbon 2-3 on aggregate. The Portuguese club then reached the semi-finals where they narrowly lost to Athletic Bilbao.
But there is a big difference between that fine side and today’s shadows, as no fewer than seven key players, well over half the team, have left – not to mention the coach. First, midway though what was promising to be a good season Maciej Rybus, Ariel Borysiuk and Marcin Komorowski fled to the greener pastures of Russia and Germany. Those losses must have played some part in Legia managing to finish that season only third, three points behind Sląsk Wrocław, but it was enough to get trainer Maciej Skorża the sack.
When trying to re-build a broken team it’s probably not a bad idea to start by at least holding onto what you’ve got, but not at ul. Łazienkowska. The aforementioned quartet were soon followed on the road out of Warsaw by the highly talented 21 year-old midfielder Rafał Wolski, who turned down Borussia Dortmund for Fiorentina. Unquestionably Legia’s best defender Artur Jędrzejczyk headed out east to Krasnodar and he was soon joined in Russia by midfielder Janusz Gol who chose Amkar Perm as his destination. Then finally, the club’s President Bogusław Leśnodorski decided to add to the self-destruction by getting rid of top scorer Danijel Ljuboja, for over-celebrating the team’s Polish cup victory. None of those players have been replaced, particularly the duo from the team’s already most vulnerable positions, defence and attack, Jędrzejczyk and Ljuboja.
Coach Jan Urban hasn’t been helped by injuries either, especially to half his already depleted strike-force, Marek Saganowski. Legia are left with one fit experienced striker Vladimir Dvalishvili, and if something were to happen to him, the task of scoring goals would fall on a pair who are barely out of their teens, Michał Efir and Patryk Mikita.
Under those circumstances it is perhaps not surprising that Legia are finding it tough going in the incredibly competitive world of European football where quality and experience are absolutely vital in order to do well.