8th July 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
There’s been some wonderful central defensive partnerships on show at Euro 2016. We’ve had, to name a few, Italy’s formidable BBC, consisting of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, Iceland’s dogged duo of Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason and Germany’s slick pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
While all of those brilliant defensive units have all justifyably received widespread acclaim, Poland’s magnificent backline, and in particular centre-backs Kamil Glik and Michal Pazdan, seem to have been slightly forgotten. Glik and Pazdan have barely put a foot wrong all tournament for Adam Nawalka’s side, as they’ve formed the basis of what’s been one the finest backlines at the Euros.
Their terrific understanding, which saw them always willing to sacrifice themselves to support a colleague, in combination with their physicality and organisational qualities, ensured Poland only conceded two goals in their five matches.
To focus on Glik specifically, who played every minute of every game at the summer showpiece, he provided the essential leadership and vast top level experience required to set the tone for his colleagues and to rally the troops.
Playing alongside the brutish, all action stopper undisputedly inspired his teammates to squeeze every last ounce of effort out of themselves. His relentless fighting spirit and never say die attitude set the bar so high in terms of effort and application that his colleagues ostensibly had no option but to follow his lead.
Although Poland devastatingly crashed out of the competition at the quarter final stage, after cruelly losing to Portugal in a penalty shootout, the fiercely contested match aptly encapsulated so many of Glik’s strengths.
From his right sided central defensive station, the towering 28-year-old did a splendid job keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and co quiet. He unsurprisingly thrived in combative situations, with his aggressive, fearless approach working as effectively as ever, but it was his underrated footballing intelligence that really shone through on the night.
The former Torino hardman’s positioning had to be spot on to deal with the pace of Ronaldo and Nani, and it most certainly was, in a match where he rarely allowed the talented attackers to get in behind him. Using his crafty anticipation and awareness, Glik’s strength in this regard made certain he positioned himself perfectly for whatever Portugal’s frontline threw at him. The best example of this arose when Ronaldo embarked on his smartly angled and timed runs into the box from the left, where Glik’s alertness meant he was always on guard to track the superstar and nullify the success of the tactic.
Providing necessary cover to allow his right-back, Lukasz Piszczek, to motor upfield with freedom served as another way in which his intellect benefitted the White Eagles. Despite his tough exterior and uncompromising style, Glik yet again demonstrated how well he parlays brains and braun.
To round out his exemplary display, he even slotted his spot-kick in the shootout, but it wasn’t to be Poland’s night, with the Selecao eventually prevailing 5-3 on penalties. Glik and his teammates still had every reason to leave the tournament with their heads held high, though, for they were wonderful throughout.
Glik’s statistics from the Euros punctuated his massive contribution. His astonishing 10.4 clearances per game was the most of anyone, while his 3.2 aerial duels won pg and 87% pass completion rate further highlighted his importance.
After starring for Torino over the past five seasons, where his consistent, domineering displays endeared himself to their faithful fans, the man who became their first non Italian captain since 1960 made the tough decision to leave the Bulls for AS Monaco.
To get a sense of his mental fortitude and how seriously he took his duty, look no further than the habit he developed of personally inscribing slogans onto his captain’s armbands. One of his most inspirational read: “Demand from yourself, even if no one else demands from you.”
Natalino Fossati’s glowing praise of him when he was first awarded the captaincy showed how highly regarded he was at Torino. “No one deserves an armband of this great club more than Glik. He is designed to lead the group: strong, fearless and loyal,” said Fossati, himself a former club captain.
The €15 million Monaco paid for him is certainly money well spent, for they’re acquiring an utterly accomplished defender who will give them the nous and guidance at the back they were so desperately craving.
“We are very pleased to welcome Kamil Glik. His power, his charisma and his defensive abilities that he demonstrated during the Euros will be a great addition for our team,” said Monaco director Vadim Vasilyev.
“Kamil, whom we’ve been monitoring for quite a while, represents the perfect profile of an experienced central defender that we were looking for.”
Glik, who used to play for Real Madrid as a youngster, then added how excited about the next chapter in his well storied career he is, saying: “I am very proud and happy to get involved with AS Monaco, a great French club that will allow me to take a new step in my career.”
“I will do everything to help the team and the club to achieve their objectives. This is a very exciting new challenge, and I’m eager to start writing this new page.”
Judging from his exceptional body of work at club and international level in recent times, expect Glik to adapt seamlessly to his new surroundings. He’ll just get on with the job at hand and let his football do all the talking.
After all, Glik’s actions always speak louder than words.
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