It has been some 4 years for Arsenal’s latest signing Jakub Kiwior.
In January 2019, the Polish central defender was let go by Anderlecht’s academy with out a senior look and was thrown right into a relegation battle in Slovakia – one which in the end resulted in failure.
Since then, although, the 22-year-old has ended up marking Lionel Messi on the World Cup, been recognized as a future chief for his nation and has now joined the Gunners’ Premier League title bid, after finishing a transfer from Serie A’s Spezia Calcio for greater than 20m euros.
Kiwior, who performed 37 league video games for Spezia since becoming a member of in the summertime of 2021, is Arsenal’s second signing of the January switch window – after Belgian winger Leandro Trossard – and can present competitors for William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes within the coronary heart of the defence.
‘I all the time keep in mind donuts’
The transfer from Anderlecht’s youth sides to central Slovakia in January 2019 proved to be a decisive transfer for Kiwior’s profession.
4 years in the past, as a younger defender in Anderlecht’s academy, he had not had an opportunity to play for the membership’s first group earlier than signing for FK Zeleziarne Podbrezova, a small group struggling in Slovakia’s prime flight.
It was distant from his large footballing goals, particularly when Podbrezova misplaced their relegation battle and dropped into the second division.
Michal Hanek, Podbrezova’s assistant coach on the time, informed BBC Sport: “I knew that if Jakub stayed wholesome, he could be enjoying in a overseas membership, in Italy or Germany.
“Nevertheless, to be fully sincere, I would not guess Premier League and Arsenal. I’m shocked by this switch – however in a really constructive manner.”
Hanek remembers when, after one early coaching session, Kiwior joined his pal, Podbrezova goalkeeper Richard Ludha, to look at an area non-league sport close by.
“Once I take into consideration ‘Kiwi’, I all the time keep in mind donuts,” says Hanek. “He went there after our coaching and I requested him what he ate for lunch. He answered, ‘Doughnuts with jam’.
“That was humorous and I laughed a bit, however then I defined to him as a professional you can not eat donuts for lunch. He instantly accepted that he wanted to deal with his physique and consuming, and all the time tried to be taught from coaches’ recommendation .”
Regardless of relegation, Hanek believes Podbrezova grew to become a worthwhile studying floor for him.
He stated: “Jakub had all the necessities for senior soccer. He had good bodily attributes, was nice in duels, and as a younger participant he was already nice because of his bodily high quality.
“He would already take up large stress. In essential video games, it was seen that he was mentally very strong. He did not talk an excessive amount of and was relatively introverted, however mentally very robust and was by no means afraid of robust moments and hard opponents.
“There have been issues to work on, although. He had an issue with sport tempo, group of the protection, nevertheless it was clear that might enhance when he would begin enjoying frequently.”
Slovakia offered a really perfect place for his improvement as, attributable to lack of cash, lots of native golf equipment relied on younger gamers, who may get common enjoying time and would ultimately convey cash from transfers.
MSK Zilina, probably the most profitable golf equipment in Slovakia and a breeding floor for the nation’s nationwide group, acknowledged his potential and signed Kiwior after Podbrezova’s relegation.
“We comply with younger gamers in Slovak league systematically,” says one member of MSK Zilina’s administration group. “We noticed potential in him, and significantly as a result of he was left-footed. These are treasured kinds of centre-backs. He had monumental expertise so we labored laborious to get him and it helped as [Podbrezova] acquired relegated.
“Kiwior tailored to senior soccer most rapidly and I might additionally say that he was the most important expertise.”
After enjoying a number of video games for Zilina’s reserves within the second division, he broke into the primary group beginning line-up and have become one among their key gamers as they reached the Slovak Cup remaining.
“He grew to become a pacesetter within the dressing room. Typically he had the captain’s armband,” MSK Zilina’s official provides. “He’s a pleasant man with none conflicts and he focuses on soccer.
“He’s very calm, but in addition goes into challenges and he’s not careworn in any respect. In robust conditions, he can discover options.”
‘A future Polish chief’
Kiwior rapidly attracted curiosity from overseas, together with Borussia Dortmund, however It was Spezia Calcio who received the race, signing him for 1.5m euros in August 2021.
Over the past yr and a half, he has grow to be among the finest younger defenders within the league, with Spezia additionally enjoying him as a defensive midfielder at instances, even when that function would not really feel pure for Kiwior.
His debut for Poland adopted in June 2022 towards the Netherlands within the Uefa Nations League, and he instantly grew to become a starter.
In December, he was in Poland’s beginning line-up on the World Cup, showing in 4 matches because the nation reached the knockout levels for the primary time since 1986.
“Kiwior is thought to be the principle hope, probably the most proficient gamers and doubtless key nationwide group defender sooner or later,” says Mateusz Janiak, a Polish soccer journalist at Weszlo.com.
“Within the senior nationwide group, he has shaped a centre-back partnership with the skilled Kamil Glik and we will say that Kiwior grew up alongside Glik.
“Glik cannot construct assaults, so he gave all balls to the youthful Kiwior and attributable to that he has to take accountability. Kiwior has to move it to the midfield or assaults. Progressive passes or runs – that was Kiwior’s job. Not a straightforward one That helped him.
“He’s actually good at transporting the ball alongside the sector, makes progressive passes and runs. He is left-footed, that is one other plus. For those who ask about weaknesses, in all probability some actions in protection, generally he’s nonetheless making unhealthy choices.”
No matter occurs in his subsequent chapter, Kiwior’s rise to the highest has been removed from straight ahead.