Piotr Zieliński was strongly linked with a move to Merseyside last summer but Udinese turned down Liverpool’s £12million bid for the attacking midfielder and he eventually opted to join Napoli.
Jürgen Klopp still wanted a creative midfielder to add to the Reds’ roster and set out to prise Gini Wijnaldum from newly-relegated Newcastle but, according to Corriere dello Sport, Liverpool are set to rival Chelsea and Real Madrid for Zieliński this summer.
Liverpool haven’t lacked creativity this season but have failed to score in some peripheral games – such as away at Hull and home against Saints – and Klopp adding Zieliński to his ranks might be a wise decision.
So far, the Poland international has scored one more goal for Napoli this season than Wijnaldum has for the Reds in all competitions and, should Liverpool succeed in bringing in the young talent, they’d be bringing in one of the most exciting European talents.
Name: Piotr Zieliński
Current Club: Napoli
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Height: 5ft 11”
At the age of 14, Zieliński was already wanted by Bayer Leverkusen, Liverpool, Feyenoord and Hereenveen but opted to sign for Zagłębie Lubin after playing under his dad at his local club in Śląskie, Poland.
After a successful spell at the Polish club, Zieliński moved to Italy and signed for Udinese after the club had scouted him during a youth international tournament.
He made his debut for Zebrette in 2012, coming on to replace Antonio Di Natale in injury time against Cagliari. Two years later he moved to Empoli on loan and his career began to blossom, also making his international debut for Poland in June 2013 in a friendly against Liechtenstein.
After a successful loan spell, Zieliński secured a move to Italian giants Napoli in the summer of 2016.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Zieliński is quite similar to Phil Coutinho in how he approaches the game and, similarly to the Brazilian, he is capable of playing on either wing and as a central support to the strikers but is more comfortable playing in a role similar to that of Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.
The midfielder is famous in Serie A for his rapid play-style and quick distribution but he is also comfortable in possession and capable of holding up the ball.
Also noted for his aggressive pressing, the Poland international is able to dictate play with an impressive understanding with his teammates – not dissimilar from Coutinho and his almost-telepathic understanding with Bobby Firmino.
When I think about Danny Ings, I think about a player who, in the 90th minute, will be rushing to get the ball to take a throw-in in his own half and that’s the same kind of player Zieliński is. He has an engine and will run and run… and run until his tank explodes.
However, the midfielder does have his draw backs; he’s useless in a 50/50. Serie A isn’t the most physical league but Zieliński struggles if he isn’t able to glide though the opposition, his lack of strength being the problem.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to stick a foot in though and he is improving his defensive game; in his last season with Udinese, Zieliński won only 27% of his duels and this season – with Napoli – he wins half of them on average.
Where would he fit in?
Zieliński would likely be considered as a player to use in rotation with Coutinho, Wijnaldum, Lallana and Emre Can when the situation would call for a more quick-footed and technically-skilled presence in midfield.
This could be a useful asset for Liverpool to have for next season as we will, hopefully, have two lengthy domestic cup runs, a decent Premier League campaign and a pop at one of the European competitions.
To sum it up, 22-year-old Zieliński isn’t the player who is going to win you the game when you need a late goal against Burnley but, if the rest of the team is playing well, the attacking midfielder can complement any club.
Zieliński is a player who will put opponents under pressure and may well force errors by rushing the opposition’s back line and, with his intelligent and concise playing style; he is more than capable of setting up the player who scores that late goal against Burnley.
Whether Liverpool will actually sign him is another thing – Klopp did bring in Wijnaldum and he’s playing some great football of late, meaning the position that Zieliński plays in is unlikely to be a priority this summer and with the reported interest of Chelsea and Real Madrid, I think Jürgen would find it difficult to turn his head again.