It’s now been confirmed that Southampton Football Club have made their first acquisition of the summer, with the purchase of Lech Poznan’s Jan Bednarek.
The 21-year-old joins the club on a five-year-deal, for a fee that’s believed to be in the region of €6m, rising to €8M. But rather than sitting here and rambling away as if I know about our latest signing, I spoke to a man who does; Christopher Lash.
First and foremost, what can we look forward to in Bednarek?
Well, he’s probably the best young defender in his position in Poland. He’s relatively quick, decent on the ball, pretty good in the air, quite strong, and in general a pretty aware central defender. He only really broke through into the Lech first team this season, and he became a key defensive player as the club rose up the league after a poor start.
Are there any defenders that you would compare him to?
He’s better on the ball than your average central defender, so in that respects you could compare him more to the John Stones/Rio Ferdinand model. But he’s also good in the air and strong, so he has the kind of capabilities required for more typical central defensive work as well.
What weaknesses has he shown?
Lots, unfortunately. He’s been a key defender in the Polish league for Lech this season, making a lot of pundits’ team of the year and it’s clear that he has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of areas in which he needs to improve. His anticipation can go missing at key times in games and his positional play is a bit haphazard. For a big guy, he can sometimes be bullied off the ball by opposing strikers. All of this can be coached out of him and he’s only 21, so Southampton are buying mostly based on what he could turn into, rather than what he is now. But don’t be surprised to see him make quite a large number of mistakes if he’s thrown into the deep end.
How has Bednarek performed at International level?
He’s not made his debut for the full international side yet, although there have been strong rumours that he will make the Poland squad in the autumn as the Polish team moves inexorably towards the World Cup Finals in Russia. He has played a lot at youth levels though and was a key member of the u-21 side in the recent European championships hosted in Poland. He didn’t have a particularly good tournament (but then neither did the rest of Poland’s squad), getting sent off in one match and making a number of mistakes that led to goals (the non-squeamish can look up his mistake which led to Slovakia’s winning goal in Poland’s opening match). The most important thing is Poland’s NT coach Adam Nawałka firmly has his eye on him and he should have a fine international career.
Has he had to face any challenges or great pressure in his short career so far?
Well I’d say he’s done very well to win a starting place in Lech’s first team after not being considered a key player even last summer, so that’s definitely a challenge he’s overcome. The recent u-21 championships were a big challenge for him, but one that he didn’t really pass with flying colours. All good experience though.
What do you make of the reported €6M fee rising to €8M?
It’s a massive fee to be honest and will break the transfer record for a player transferred out of the Polish league. In that respect there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him, especially from the Polish media who will be checking on his progress pretty intensely. I’d say in some ways the media hype of the move from the Polish side might be just as difficult as the jump in class that he’s going to experience in the English league. I suppose we’ll see if he has a mature head on his shoulders because he’s going to need to be level-headed to succeed with all the pressure he will be under.
Finally, what do you think of Southampton as a destination for Bednarek’s development?
Hopefully it will be a perfect match. As you know Southampton are renowned for being a club that brings through young talent and so, in that respect, Bednarek couldn’t be headed to a better club. The big worry in Poland is that Bednarek will go the way of Kapustka who couldn’t break through whatsoever at Leicester and looked a shadow of his former self at the U-21 championships recently. I wouldn’t expect Bednarek break through straightaway but hopefully Southampton will be able to provide him with the know-how and coaching to advance the level of his play appropriately.