Krzysztof Piatek joined Hertha Berlin on a long-term contract in January 2020. - © getty images
Krzysztof Piatek joined Hertha Berlin on a long-term contract in January 2020. - © getty images
bundesliga

Krzysztof Piatek: 10 things on the Hertha Berlin striker seen as Robert Lewandowski's heir

He might not like it, but Hertha Berlin striker Krzysztof Piatek can't escape comparisons with Poland teammate Robert Lewandowski. bundesliga.com gets to the bottom of the justifiable hype...

1) Not a Lewandowski imitation...

Two-footed, strong in the air and robust on the deck, Piatek has more than just a Polish passport in common with Lewandowski.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old is astute enough to recognise comparisons with a player who has scored over 450 competitive goals for club and country are premature.

"I can't stand the comparison with Lewandowski, but I can get to those levels," he said during an earlier spell in Italy with Genoa. "When you play in Serie A you must have a clear head, use it always and not just to score.

"It's wrong to think that: 'I scored five goals, I'm a football god'. You're nobody, anyway. The road is long."

2) ... but Lewandowski fan

That's not to say Piatek isn't in awe of Lewandowski's achievements. Lewy is Poland's eight-time Footballer of the Year, a four-time Bundesliga top scorer, the German top-flight's record foreign marksman and a seven-time Bundesliga winner, after all.

"He's the best striker in Germany and one of the best in the world," Piatek said. "When I train with Robert in the national team I always watch him: I watch everything he does and see what he does best. I speak with him all the time because I want to learn, and I hope I will learn all the time."

"He’s a complete forward. He has only one goal in mind: scoring. He’s both footed, he’s good in the air, he chases people and he makes it very difficult for defenders."

Piatek (r.) has had to get used to comparisons with Poland teammate Robert Lewandowski (l.). - PIOTR KUCZA via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Newspix

3) Stage I - Poland

Lewandowski had been doing exactly that in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund for approaching four years, when Piatek made his professional debut for Zaglebie Lubin in Poland's top flight.

Having represented the club's U19s and reserves, he made his debut against future employers Cracovia on 18 May 2018. His emergence on the senior scene came too late to prevent relegation to the second tier, but eight goals and four assists in 31 1.Liga outings helped ensure Lubin weren't down for long.

Back in the big time after 12 months away, Piatek opened his top-flight account in a 2-2 draw with Legia Warsaw on 11 September 2015 - one of six strikes that season - before moving to Cracovia.

He helped himself to 32 league goals in 65 appearances for the club, with his 21-strike haul of 2017/18 bettered only by Carlitos (Wisla Krakow, 24) and Ivor Angulo (Gornik Zabrze, 23).

4) Stage II - Italy

With more Ekstraklasa goals to his name than Lewandowski, Piatek joined Genoa of Italy's Serie A in summer 2018. His transition was equal parts swift and emphatic, marked as it was by a record-setting debut comprising four goals - including an opening 19-minute hat-trick - in a 4-0 win over Lecce in the Coppa Italia third round.

Proving he is more than just a one-hit wonder, Piatek went on to find the net in each of his first seven Serie A games, becoming the first player since the legendary Gabriel Batistuta to do so. He scored nine times during that run and, with five in his first four outings, equalled Andriy Shevchenko's introductory purple patch with AC Milan back in 1999/2000.

Spotting the similitude, Milan made their move in January 2019. Piatek had rattled off 19 goals in 21 competitive appearances for Genoa, and duly hit the catwalk running in Italy's fashion capital. He struck four times in as many competitive games, becoming the first to score on his first three starts since Mario Balotelli, and usurped Nils Ledholm as the fastest player to reach six goals.

Genoa's 13-goal top scorer and Milan's nine-goal leading marksman, Piatek even outfired Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo in the final 2018/19 scoring charts.

"Coming to a Bundesliga screen near you!" Piatek (c.) enjoyed a record-breaking spell in Italy with Genoa and AC Milan. - getty images

5) Stage III - Hertha

Piatek was on cloud nine. He shed the No.19 shirt and inherited the iconic No.9 previously worn by the likes of Marco van Basten, Jean-Pierre Papin, George Weah and Filippo Inzaghi - but the fates conspired against him.

Piatek, like Alexandre Pato, Alessandro Matri, Fernando Torres and Gonzalo Higuain before him, could not ward off 'macumba di SuperPippo Inzaghi', the curse of Inzaghi.

He scored four times in 18 Serie A appearances during the first half of 2019/20 - his worst goals-to-games ratio in three years - and suddenly found himself behind the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as Rafael Leoa and ex-Eintracht Frankfurt attacker Ante Rebic, in the pecking order.

When Jürgen Klinsmann's Hertha offered him the chance to break free from the career-stalling hoodoo, Piatek seized it with both hands.

"We have a lot of big plans for the future - for myself and the club," he told bundesliga.com after making his full Bundesliga debut in a 3-1 defeat to Mainz on 9 February 2020.

"In the summer, there will be many more good players coming in. We're in a building phase."

Watch: Krzysztof Piatek talks to bundesliga.com about project Hertha

6) Hot property

According to reports, Hertha are not the only European club to have pursued Piatek down the years.

In his Genoa days, he was touted by media as a long-term replacement for Barcelona's Luis Suarez, while there was a strong suggestion that English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur were more than keen, before Hertha opened the door to the 10-time Poland international.

German tabloid Bild suggested Mrs. Piatek was involved in the decision-making, reports which she categorically denied.

"I don't know where such information came from really and how it got to the press," Paulina, a lawyer, wrote on her Instagram page.

"Yes, my husband holds my opinion in high regard, but I have never picked a club for him based on which city or climate I liked and I will never try to do so. Any place in the world, that allows my husband to grow, be happy, and make his dreams come true, is perfect for me.

"Decisions about new clubs are made solely by Krzysztof along with his managers who care only about his growth and well-being."

7) Lewandowski's right-hand man - and heir?

Playing under Germany great Klinsmann Hertha, and alongside Lewandowski at international level, can only be good for Piatek's prospects.

The Hertha No.7 could partner Lewandowski in the Poland attack at the UEFA 2020 Euros, having already laid the foundations for a potentially explosive partnership.

Poland topped qualifying Group G ahead of Austria, scoring 18 goals along the way. Lewandowski accounted for six of them, while Piatek was next on the list with four in his eight appearances.

The finals would represent the first major tournament for the former U20 and U21 Poland international, who made his senior debut in a September 2018 friendly with the Republic of Ireland, before opening his account in his next outing against Portugal in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

Lewandowski has scored over 60 goals for his country, but it took him 26 games to reach five. Piatek - some seven years his mentor's junior - has hit five in 10...

Poland's UEFA Euro 2020 Group E rivals Spain and Sweden defenders better get used to seeing the backs of Lewandowski and Piatek (l-r.). - imago

8) Sharpshooter

Bundesliga fans will be well used to seeing Lewandowski’s signature celebration. The Bayern Munich striker typically crosses his arms over his chest with his fingers pointed up, and has got into the habit of putting fist-to-fist to finish - but has kept its meaning under wraps.

"The celebration has something to do with my daughter," he told Bayern’s YouTube channel. "I don’t want to go into details, it’s a little secret!"

Piatek has been slightly more forthcoming on the subject of his post-goal jollification, a variation fans of a certain vintage might view as a nod to Batistuta's iconic machine-gun round.

Known as 'Il Pistolero', which translates from Italian into English as 'The Gunslinger', Piatek celebrates by crossing his arms and firing off imaginary bullets like a cowboy.

"It's my style," he told calciomercato.com. "When I score, I shoot. It's a natural thing."

Piatek: 'The Gunslinger' by name, 'the Gunslinger' by nature. - getty images

9) Penalty-box predator

Piatek celebrated in kind after scoring on his first competitive start for Hertha in the 2019/20 DFB Cup round of 16.

The Old Lady were beaten 3-2 by Schalke in extra-time, but the Pole's well-taken effort was a further indication of exactly what can be expected from the poacher extraordinaire.

Like 19 of his 21 goals in Genoa colours, and all 16 of his Milan strikes, Piatek's Hertha duck-breaker was dispatched from inside the opposition penalty box. Quackers!

10) Behind every good man...

... is a good hen - no, seriously. As we mentioned, Piatek's better half is a trained lawyer, who studied at the University of Wroclaw.

Paulina's also an active fashion blogger, with a healthy 81,000 Instagram followers.

The couple tied the knot at Lagow Castle, Poland in June 2019, after four years together.