Southampton have started their summer spending with the signing of Polish Under-21 international Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznań.
The young centre-back has become the Ekstraklasa’ most expensive player after joining the Saints for a reported fee of £5.7m.
As the 21 year old is little known to most English fans, Ryan Hubbard has given SMM the lowdown on Bednarek. An expert on Polish football, Ryan has written for Mirror Football, FourFourTwo and Goal.com, and has appeared on Sky Sports News Radio TalkSport and BBC Radio Five Live amongst others as arguably England’s most recognised figure on the Ekstraklasa and the Poland national team.
St Mary’s Musings: It would be fair to say most Saints fans won’t have watched a great deal about Jan Bednarek, so what kind of centre back is he?
RH: He's a talented young centre-back, with quite a maturity for his age. Comfortable on the ball, not afraid to take his time in looking for the best pass rather than the easiest, and with a reasonable amount of strength.
He likes to play the ball forward where possible, and has a good ability to spray a pass out to the wings which has proved rather useful for Lech.
SMM: Last season seems to have been his breakout year at Lech Poznań; how did he end up playing so many games?
RH: Bednarek's introduction to senior football came at Lech, but he cut his teeth during a loan spell at newly promoted Górnik Łęczna in 2015/16. It was a baptism of fire for the teenager, as Górnik only narrowly avoided relegation.
Upon his return to Poznań, he was seen as the replacement for Stuttgart-bound Polish international Marcin Kamiński; and despite the arrival of new coach Nenad Bjelica in August, continued to display enough to be considered as an integral part of the back-line. Although Lech eventually finished third, their defence was the strongest in the league.
SMM: He arrives for a fee reported to be around £6m, an Ekstraklasa record sale; who is getting the better end of the deal at the moment?
RH: At the moment, I'd say Lech are getting the better end of the deal. The sum received for him was an astronomical amount for a Polish player, and there was probably not much more developing he could have done in the Ekstraklasa.
That's not to say it's a bad signing for Southampton, as in relative terms it is a low-risk deal for an English club. If he realises his potential it will be a steal for them.
SMM: Saints fans would have seen him briefly for Poland U21s, but he didn’t have the best tournament. Why was that in your opinion?
RH: There are a myriad of reasons as to why Poland struggled as a whole: the pressure of a home tournament and key players underperforming at the end of a long season being the main ones.
The lack of warm-up games and no competitive games leading up to the tournament was also a problem. It's difficult to single just one player out, as so many underperformed.
SMM: Bednarek is only 21 so has plenty of years left to grow. How good could he become?
RH: There's no doubt Bednarek could go on to become one of Poland's best defenders, but the worry is that making such a large leap will see him stagnate. Adapting to the physicality of the Premier League may take a little time, and I believe Southampton already have several other defensive options which could limit game time.
If worse come to worst, he'd benefit more from a loan move than languishing in the U23s.
Thanks again to Ryan for the lowdown on Southampton’s first signing of the summer window. You can follow him at @Ryan_Hubbard, and you can check out his website at www.ryan-hubbard.co.uk!