Jakub Wawrzyniak was "shocked" by the level of interest in football in Greece after joining Panathinaikos FC from Legia Warszawa in January, but is eager to emulate compatriot Krzysztof Warzycha's success in Athens.
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Jakub Wawrzyniak was "shocked" by the level of interest in football in Greece after joining Panathinaikos FC from Legia Warszawa in January, but is now eager to emulate compatriot Krzysztof Warzycha's success in Athens.
The 25-year-old central defender signed for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round contenders in a €1.5m deal, but nothing could prepare him for the ferment that greeted him when he arrived in the Greek capital. "It is amazing," he told uefa.com. "It is nothing like Poland. There are about ten football newspapers, some of them just about Panathinaikos. In Poland, there is only one big sports daily, so you can see the difference."
The 15-cap international had never played outside the Ekstraklasa until this winter but took little persuading to move to Panathinaikos. "It was a big opportunity for me so I did not hesitate," he said. "It took half an hour to make up my mind. I was happy at Legia but everybody knows Panathinaikos are a much bigger and more famous club."
Wawrzyniak's capture stirred up memories of Warzycha, who scored 273 goals for the Greens after his transfer from Ruch Chorzów in 1990, and the two Poles spoke before the younger man confirmed his own switch to Greece. "I don't want to go into details but I spoke to Warzycha about Panathinaikos," said Wawrzyniak. "He helped me at the beginning as he has lived here many years and everybody knows him."
Katowice-born Warzycha won five Greek titles and five Greek Cups with Panathinaikos, a record Wawrzyniak can only dream of emulating. "I am really keen to achieve success in Athens," he said. "Of course, it might not be possible to be as successful as Krzysztof Warzycha. He is a legend at Panathinaikos, but I would like to leave good impression at least."
In landing at Panathinaikos, Wawrzyniak squares up to international team-mate Michał Żewłakow, a star man for Olympiacos CFP who lead Pana by 14 points at the top of the Super League. "We live close to one other so get to chat a bit," said Wawrzyniak. "Michał told me he would like to celebrate winning the title after our game with Olympiacos in two weeks' time [1 March]. Of course, I am going to ruin his plans."