"He could be the next Robert Lewandowski, but why not even bigger?" Picked out as a UEFA.com wonderkid back in April, Poland's David Kownacki was the hosts' U21 EURO saviour on Monday.
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Compared by some to fellow Lech Poznań prodigy Robert Lewandowski, Dawid Kownacki enhanced his reputation even further on Monday. With Poland trailing Sweden 2-1 and heading out of the U21 EURO, the striker kept his cool to convert a 91st-minute penalty and maintain the hosts' hopes of reaching the last four.
Name: Dawid Kownacki
Club: Lech Poznań
Debut: 6 December 2013 v Wisła Kraków (Ekstraklasa)
Date of birth: 14 March 1997
Preferred foot: right
The following is an updated version of a UEFA.com weekly wonderkid piece on Kownacki which was first published in April.
They say ...
"I have seen lots of talented players in Lech's academy and can say in all honesty that Kownacki is a one-off. There is a new Robert Lewandowski developing here. An absolutely fantastic kid."
Piotr Reiss, former Lech Poznań forward
"He could be the next Robert Lewandowski, but why not even bigger than 'Lewy'? I like his style."
Mirosław Okoński, former Lech Poznań midfielder
"[After he scored five goals in two Under-15 friendlies in Germany], his family were inundated with calls from German and English clubs who wanted to take Kownacki away, but they said 'no' and he stayed at Lech. It was a great decision as he has had wonderful conditions to develop there."
Mirosław Dawidowski, former Poland U15 coach
Having started out at local side Stilon Gorzów Wielkopolski, Kownacki joined Lech in 2005, coming through the youth ranks and making it to the first team in December 2013. He scored his first Ekstraklasa goal in February 2014 (in a 5-1 loss at Pogoń Szczecin), becoming one of only five players aged under 17 to have registered in Poland's top flight. He won his first league title the following season.
Playing style ...
Lech old boy Mirosław Okoński said of Kownacki: "He is not selfish; he looks to deliver the pass when sees another player in a better position. He has huge potential." A busy forward who does not wait for things to happen, the 20-year-old can also play on the wings and takes a mean penalty [we promise this final point was in the original article!].
Shades of ...
Lewandowski's shadow hangs over Kownacki, not least because the Bayern striker also won a championship with Lech – and finished as Ekstraklasa top scorer – before heading abroad to Borussia Dortmund. Many see Kownacki following a similar path.
Eureka moment ...
In 2011, Kownacki caused a stir when he hit a hat-trick in Poland U15s' 5-3 friendly win against Germany, and then struck twice more in a 2-2 draw with the same opponents. In November 2016, he was again on target against Germany – in a 1-0 friendly success in Tychy, one of this summer's U21 finals venues.
But where does Monday night's penalty rank in the front man's fledgling career? With his country's tournament hopes hanging by a thread, it certainly took some nerve to find the net. "That penalty – because of the circumstances and because of the Sweden fans trying to put me off – was certainly the hardest of my career," he told UEFA.com after the game.
Best-case scenario ...
With one title in the bag, Kownacki is running out of things to win in Poland. He has landed two domestic Super Cups as well as appearing in the 2016/17 Polish Cup final. The hosts still have a hard job getting out of U21 EURO Group A, but with Kownacki to call upon there is a chance. After the summer, if he carries on like this, there will surely be suitors from abroad.
He says ...
"At 16, people were calling me 'the new Lewandowski', and that was tough to handle, but I changed my attitude, grew up and am now much better at not taking to heart what people say. Of course, I still have big dreams. We can win the Polish Cup and the title this year, and I want to play for Poland at the U21 finals. Plenty of goals to aim for there."