Can Bayer Leverkusen's Arkadiusz Milik Reach Robert Lewandowski's Level?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentOctober 13, 2014

Poland's Arkadiusz Milik, center, scores the opening goal past Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, left, and Jerome Boateng during a Euro 2016 group D qualifying soccer match between Poland and Germany in Warsaw, Poland,Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press

Despite scoring a goal in Poland's 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifier win over Germany, it is up in the air if Bayer Leverkusen are willing to give Arkadiusz Milik another chance. 

Loaned out to Ajax, could he end up developing into Leverkusen's answer to Robert Lewandowski next season? 

As Polish right-back Lukasz Piszczek scanned the field for Lewandowski, Milik made a stealthy run in behind the ball-watching, oblivious and unaware German centre-back Mats Hummels.

The cross lacked the trajectory to reach Lewandowski, but Milik was in the perfect position to nod the ball past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. 

Underachievers Poland holding on to a win over FIFA World Cup champions Germany was described as "a miracle, something that shouldn't happen according to nature, physics and Murphy's law," per Michal Pol at Przeglad Sportowy (h/t Maciej Slominski at The Guardian). 

The same can be said about Milik getting the better of Hummels, who played a key part in Germany's World Cup triumph. 

The goal fell into place for Milik.

  • Hummels failed to look over his shoulder. 
  • Piszczek underhit his cross.
  • No German tracked the run of Milik.
  • Neuer opted to rush out, instead of staying on his line. 

Having scored twice in 709 combined minutes of Bundesliga football for Leverkusen and Augsburg, Milik's career has slanted more towards Michal Papadopulos than Lewandowski.

Signed from Gornik Zabrze for €2.6/£2.1 million in 2012, Milik was put on a pedestal by Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller, one of Germany's greatest No. 9s.

"Arkadiusz Milik is considered to be possibly the biggest rising star in Poland at the moment," Voller said, per Leverkusen's official website. "He has already made it to the Poland squad at the age of 18."

Whereas, Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc reacted moderately when sealing a €4/£3.2 million deal to sign Lech Poznan's Robert Lewandowski.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement [with Poznan] to sign Robert after some tough but fair negotiations," Zorc said, per UEFA's official website. "He will provide us with more attacking options for the coming season."

League OnlyArkadiusz Milik 12-13 + 13-14Robert Lewandowski 10-11
Goals/Games2/248/33
Goals Per Game0.080.24
Shots Per Goal11.510
Minutes Per Goal354.5202.5

A shoot-on-sight policy is fine if you are Gerd Muller, but Lewandowski's 0.24 goals per game did not give grounds for his selfishness. 

He was derisively nicknamed "Chancentod" (the death of goal-scoring opportunities) by local newspapers during his first season for Dortmund, per Raphael Honigstein at Sports Illustrated

Then-teammate Shinji Kagawa was often irked and frustrated with Lewandowski. 

"Lewandowski's game is purely focused on trying to score himself," Kagawa said, per Nikkei (h/t Stefan Coerts at Goal). "That's why I hardly get the ball from him. There's nothing you can do about that, though. That's simply the type of player he is."

Milik needs to adopt Lewandowski's ambitiousness. 

A combined 0.08 goals per game, 11.5 shots per goal and a 1.0 shots per game average for Leverkusen and Augsburg in the past two seasons confirms Milik is inefficient in front of goal and does not take enough shots. 

It is unacceptable that Milik (two goals) was outscored by 11 Bundesliga defenders last season.

  1. Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez (five).
  2. Hoffenheim centre-back Niklas Sule (four).
  3. Augsburg right-back Paul Verhaegh (three). 
  4. Borussia Dortmund right-back Lukasz Piszczek (three).
  5. Borussia Monchengladbach left-back Oscar Wendt (three).
  6. Hamburg centre-back/right-back Heiko Westermann (three).
  7. Nurnberg centre-back Per Nilsson (three).
  8. Schalke centre-back Joel Matip (three).
  9. Werder Bremen left-back Santiago Garcia (three). 
  10. Wolfsburg centre-back Naldo (three). 
  11. Wolfsburg centre-back Robin Knoche (three). 

Kicker rate players on a scale of 1-6 (one being world class, six being not Bundesliga standard). 

Milik's 4.14 rating was the worst of any Augsburg player last season, per Kicker

This is why Leverkusen effectively replaced Milik by signing Josip Drmic from Nurnberg for €6.8/£5.4 million.

Drmic scored twice in a nine-minute window in Nurnberg's 2-0 win over Stuttgart, whereas Milik took 709 minutes over two seasons to score two goals. 

Finishing the season with 17 goals for a relegated Bundesliga team proved Drmic's ability to work with lesser players, something Milik failed to achieve on loan at Augsburg.

"We won out against serious competition and are happy that Josip Drmic has opted to take up a long-term deal with us," Voller said, per Leverkusen's official website. "He's quick, strong and can play on either wing as well as in the middle. Josip is a top player who really fits in with our ambitions."

Milik does not fit in with Leverkusen's ambitions thus why Ajax have the option to extend his loan into a permanent deal. 

The imperative words being "have the option."

"I'm looking forward to playing in the Dutch [Eredivisie] competition," Milik said, per Ajax's official website. "Obviously, I'm hoping to score many goals."

Milik is an enigma. 

Touching the ball 18 times and not registering a single shot in 58 minutes during Ajax's 4-1 win over Vitesse is inexplicable from Milik.

But he was class from the get-go in Ajax's 2-1 win over Heracles Almelo.

It is his lack of application and inconsistency which hinders Milik

He is languorous, plays with no urgency and unsurprisingly has warmed the benches in 62.5 percent of his league games for Ajax. 

He is a funk like Zlatan Ibrahimovic was during his first season at Ajax, per his autobiography I am Zlatan:

I hadn't lived up to the expectations. It was my first real set back. But I refused to give up.

I would show them. That thought went around in my head, day and night, and honestly, I had to, regardless if I was getting sold or not. I had to show that I was good no matter what.

It's was just that: how would I do that when I wasn't getting any playing time? 

Like Ibrahimovic, talent is not in question when it comes to Milik's future. 

Milik shoots with either foot and has almost attempted more shots with his right (three) than his left (four) this season. 

He provides an aerial presence, is technically excellent and can play in his teammates. 

Milik has flashed the ability to one day reach Lewandowski's level, like six goals in Ajax's 9-0 KNVB Cup win over JOS Watergraafsmeer and a clutch header against Germany. 

@allanjianga

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