Injuries are an inevitable challenge for footballers. Some emerge from injuries stronger than before while most others fail to recreate their previous form. Arkadiusz "Arek" Milik is a Polish footballer who is trying to avoid the latter scenario.
Milik is a Polish sensation who lit up Poland’s 2016 Euro qualifying campaign. While the limelight was justifiably hogged by his senior partner Robert Lewandowski, he too was highly rated and seemed set to become the perfect strike partner for the Polish frontman. However, after devastating injuries he his left with a shadow of previous self and is a regular benchwarmer at Serie A club Napoli.
Milik was born on 28 February, 1994 in Tychy, Poland. He joined Rozwój Katowice youth team where he performed exceptionally well and even scored a brace on his senior team debut. The teenage sensation was signed by a far superior local club, Górnik Zabrze.
Milik was undergoing a purple patch of form for Gornik that earned him a national team selection. He made his debut for Poland in a friendly against South Africa in October 2012 as a substitute. Played in the National stadium in Warsaw, the Poles overcame a tough fight to win 1-0 with a late winner.
Rise to glory
Milik had an astounding goal scoring record for youth teams of Poland. He has been able to replicate his brilliance in the senior team occasionally.
He formed a lethal combination with Lewandowski in the 2016 Euro qualifiers. While Lewandowski got the lion’s share of goals, Milik also chipped in with crucial goals. He scored six times in the qualifiers including one against world champions Germany in a famous win for Poland.
In the 2016 Euros, he played every minute in Poland’s campaign which ended in the quarterfinals with an agonising penalty shootout loss to Portugal. He scored the solitary goal against Northern Ireland in the group stages and bagged he assist for the winning goal against Ukraine.
Since the Euros, however, injuries have limited his gametime and he last scored back in September 2017 against Kazakhstan.
Milik was a consistent goalscorer at Poland, especially in his second season for Gornik Zabrze. It earned him a move to Bundesliga powerhouse Bayer Leverkusen in 2012. He was loaned due to lack of opportunities to Augsburg, where he struggled to find form.
However, a loan deal at Ajax was highly successful. An especially remarkable performance was in KNVB Cup game against JOS Watergraafsmeer where he netted six goals as Ajax romped the fellow Amsterdam club 9-0. His loan deal was made permanent for 2015-16 season. He was unstoppable that season as he finished with a tally of 21 goals in the Eredivisie.
Rising reputation and fine performances in the Euros created an interest among many top European clubs. Napoli signed Milik in 2016 as a potential replacement for star striker Gonzalo Higuain who signed for Juventus. He had dream debut where he scored a brace against Milan in a 4-2 victory. In the first few matches, he showed the Gliazzuri that he was ready to fill in the big boots. His supreme form came crashing down with an ACL injury that ruled him out for a large part of the season. He was not able to regain full fitness or form that season.
When he finally started getting gametime in the 2017-18 season, another major injury ruled him out till January. By this time, Napoli has found a new bankable centre forward in Dries Mertens and Milik’s return to the starting line up is highly unlikely.