Tuesday 26 February 2019, 08:53

The rise and rise of Robocop Piatek

  • Krzysztof Piatek continues to average a goal-a-game in Italian football

  • The Pole has been breaking records for Genoa and AC Milan

  • We look at the stats behind his rise and hear from those who know him best

When Krzysztof Piatek speaks about his formative years in the little Polish town of Dzierzoniow, he remembers goals. Lots of them. Those goals, he says, helped him to “escape” the life of drugs that befell several school friends. And he recalls that many of his boyhood strikes were scored sporting a Manchester United shirt with Cristiano Ronaldo’s name and number on the back.

Fast forward a decade or so, and the 23-year-old is to be found locked in a thrilling Capocannoniere race with his former idol. Piatek’s prolific form, first for Genoa and more recently for AC Milan, has rocketed him to prominence and established the Pole, almost overnight, among the continent’s foremost marksmen.

Krzysztof v Cristiano: 2018/19

Serie A goals1819
Goals in all competitions2621
Goals per game0.960.62

If you weren’t aware of Piatek’s talent at this time last year, fear not. Very few were. At that stage, he was still playing for Polish side Cracovia and on his way to finishing third-top scorer in the country’s top tier.

Though impressive enough to convince Genoa to part with €4 million, such feats hardly suggested a global sensation-in-the-making. Nor were they enough to convince Poland coach Adam Nawalka to include the striker in his 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.

But seven goals in Piatek's first three outings for Genoa, the first of which came just 70 seconds into his debut, made everyone – including Europe’s top clubs – sit up and take notice.

In January, and with those remarkable scoring exploits having been maintained, Piatek made his second move in just a few short months. His change in status in the intervening period was reflected by the difference in transfer fee, with Genoa selling him for €31 million more than they had paid.

But while he didn’t come cheap, Piatek is already proving himself to be worth every penny. Seven goals in his first six appearances tell its own story, as does the impact those goals have had on a Milan side - unbeaten since his arrival - which had won just three of their previous nine matches. Should Piatek score in tonight’s Coppa Italia tie against Lazio, he will have equalled in seven appearances the tally it took Gonzalo Higuain, his high-profile predecessor, six months to reach.

Team-mate Tiemoue Bakayoko, on loan from Chelsea, was recently asked what he made of the striker everyone is talking about. "Piatek?” he responded. “I'm completely in love with him!”

Right now, every Rossonero is similarly infatuated.

Piatek’s firsts

  • First AC Milan player since Oliver Bierhoff to score in his first four Serie A starts for the club

  • First player since Andriy Shevchenko in 1999 to score in his first five Serie A appearances

  • First player to score eight goals in his first six Serie A games since Karl Aage Hansen in 1949

  • First player since Christian Vieri in 2002 to score in each of the first seven rounds of a Serie A season

Piatek in words

“He’s the most complete striker I’ve ever worked with.” Cesare Prandelli, Genoa coach

“He really seems to be the complete package. I am struck above all by his generosity towards his team-mates. He holds the ball up, he looks for the pass in behind, he runs, he battles and he’s the first to track back.” Davide Ballardini, former Genoa coach

"Piatek comes across like Robocop. He only says four words. He doesn’t get lost in chatter... He is a player who lives to score goals.” Gennaro Gattuso, AC Milan manager

“Gattuso has rightly compared him to Robocop in that he is a bit robotic: he doesn’t feel tension or anxiety. He’s a finisher but also good technically.” Giorgio Perinetti, Genoa sporting director

"He's smart, extraordinary. He has so much quality, technique, tactical intelligence. He is good with the head and feet, he plays well in the penalty area but still has a lot to improve... He has acquired what is most important for a striker - that is, the speed of execution. He instantly reloads the pistol and pulls the trigger.” Zibi Boniek, Poland legend & Polish Football Association president