Arkadiusz Milik, top scorer in 2013−15 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying, has told UEFA.com that his decision to join AFC Ajax on loan from Bayer 04 Leverkusen was the "easiest" of his career, citing their history of working with young players as being of special appeal.
The 20-year-old is one of the most exciting talents in Polish football. As well as nine goals for the U21s in the current qualifying campaign – a haul that includes hat-tricks against Malta (5-1) and Greece (3-1) in the space of four days last November – Milik opened his account for the seniors in a 2-1 friendly victory against Lithuania on 6 June.
His strike against the Baltic nation was his first since penning a 12-month loan deal with Dutch champions Ajax, having spent last term turning out for FC Augsburg after a frustrating second half of the 2012/13 season at Leverkusen.
"I've made three big moves in my career to date − from Górnik Zabrze to Bayer Leverkusen [in December 2013], a loan to Augsburg and now Ajax," he said. "The third one was the easiest, the easiest decision to take. Ajax have a great reputation for their work with young players and I would like to take advantage of it."
Of equal attraction to Milik is the chance to learn from the "legendary" Ajax players now working at the club, namely coach Frank de Boer and sporting director Marc Overmars – who helped the Amsterdam side win the UEFA Champions League in 1995 – and strikers' coach Dennis Bergkamp.
"It is really impressive," he added. "They all had great careers and I have confidence I will be in very good hands. Although I don't remember all of Bergkamp's goals, there is no doubt he was a great player and I could learn a lot from him. Of course, 99% of it depends on me. I am really excited to work with such legendary players."
Moving to Amsterdam will not be a trip into the unknown for Milik, having visited the city several times before. "I was here for the first time as a junior player for my first team, Rozwój Katowice, when I was ten. We played a tournament in the Netherlands and went to an Ajax game. It was a special match, Rafael van der Vaart's last for the club, and then I went to do sightseeing and some shopping, so maybe this place was destiny for me."
He will hope for more first-team exposure after making only six substitute outings in the league for Leverkusen, with whom he has a five-and-a-half-year contract, due partly to the form of Germany forward Stefan Kiessling. "Of course, Stefan was better than me, but I thought that maybe they would give me a chance to play from the off at least once if they rested him. Unfortunately, it did not happen, but I still learned a lot at the club."
Milik, who scored twice in 18 top-flight appearances for Augsburg, is now focusing on Ajax and the chance to play in Europe's top club competition. "Some might say that the Bundesliga is stronger than the Dutch league, but that does not matter to me," he said. "Ajax are a Champions League club and I am sure it is the ideal place for me."
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