Rapidly growing in the football world as a well-rounded midfielder, Polish dynamo Karol Linetty’s exploits in Italy with Sampdoria have Europe on high alert.
Major tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships act as a main stage, providing many the platform to strut their stuff for all the world to see. Take Croatian’s Marko Pjaca and Marko Rog. The former Dinamo Zagreb duo dazzled at last summer’s Euro in France, eventually earning lucrative transfers to Juventus and Napoli. Croatia, a hotbed for talent, kept all of Europe on high alert, yet much of the same can be said about Poland who’ve groomed quite the crop of their own.
Skippered by Adam Nawałka, the Biało-Czerwoni fought tooth and nail with champions Portugal in the quarter-finals, ultimately falling short in penalties. All was not lost however as several young stars emerged as building blocks for the future, one of which is current Sampdoria hot shot, Karol Linetty. Allow me to introduce him.
Meet Karol Linetty
Date of birth: 2 February 1995 (22 years old)
Position: Central Midfield
Height: 1,76 metres
International caps: U-15 (4 app), U-16 (1 app), U-17 (12 app, 1 goal), U-19 (6 app, 1 goal), U-21 (5 app), Senior (14 app, goal)
A product of the Lech Poznań system, Linetty made his senior debut for the club on 3 October 2012 during a friendly with HSV. Over the course of his time with Lech, Linetty established himself as a mainstay, producing 11 goals and 15 assists over 112 appearances. Impressed with his performances at the club level, Nawałka granted him his debut in a friendly v Norway on 18 January 2014 where he scored his first goal for the senior side.
Alarmed by his output for the Polish outfit, Club Brugge tried to accelerate a deal to bring him over to Belgium in the summer of 2015. Despite being an attendee for the club’s Champions League home tie with Manchester United, Brugge failed to strike a deal. Tottenham and Manchester City also showed severe interest in the youngster, but Linetty remained with his boyhood club for an additional year where he shined over 41 total appearances across all competitions, tallying five goals and nine assists. Despite not seeing the pitch in France, Sampdoria grew fond of Linetty’s abilities and snapped him up from Tottenham and Manchester City for a meager 3.2 million euro.
Strengths and weaknesses
Karol Linetty is increasingly mentioned – in the context of the national team – with current Paris Saint-Germain star Grzegorz Krychowiak. As the anchor of the Polish midfield, Krychowiak is handed more defensive duties by Nawałka, while Linetty undertakes the more offensive missions. Under Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo and his 4312 however, Linetty is deployed predominately in a mezzala role, providing him the utmost freedom to move into advanced positions. Because of this freedom, the 22-year old shows his greatest qualities, which come mostly in the attacking phase. Pressing forward, Linetty likes to attack the ball carrier and win possession near the final third. Defensively, Linetty’s strength as a disruptor is supported by his 3 tackles won per 90 metric (Squawka). The eccentric Pole can be compared partially to Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic, as they share stark similarities in stature, tenacity and an unrelenting work rate.
Passivity and a lack of courage in designing attacks, two of the more common complaints of any Polish footballer. Only slightly can Linetty be profiled with this stereotype. At times, he struggles to take risks in the midfield. Snap, but smart, decisions must be made from the diminutive Pole immediately – both in possession and out of it. By being more brave, his tactical understanding will only improve in the long run. That being said, a debutant like Linetty in a tactically-demanding league like Serie A, should be lauded for his growth.
Linetty’s debut season in Italy can be best described as a learning curve. Giampaolo has not shied away from thrusting him into the starting XI and letting him be an expressive footballer. Gradually, we are beginning to see him blossom into a very solid midfielder – but there is no doubting his room for growth.
The reality is this: Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski is in pole position for the Polish National Team, making Linetty an alternative at this stage of his career. Bravery is vital for his future, especially at the international level – take last September’s World Cup qualifier versus Kazakhtan as evidence of his unpreparedness to overcome pressure. At Sampdoria, he will have plenty of chances to gain experience, and demonstrate his worth. The 2018 World Cup in Russia is coming quite fast, and with Poland currently heading their group, Nawałka has begun identifying his most trusted men. Poland, for years, have thirsted for a high-class playmaker. In Russia next summer, we should see a much more offensive strategy administered by the Poles. All eyes are on Linetty to fill it.
Everton and Tottenham maintain heavy interest, but with a strong showing in Russia next year, Linetty could be on the fast-track towards a major move in his career.
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