One of the figures of Fortuna Düsseldorf's remarkable rise from relegation candidates to being guaranteed a place in the Bundesliga next season is winter recruit Dawid Kownacki, who after a period settling in now has his sights on emulating his compatriot Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga.
Kownacki's career had stalled somewhat prior to his move to Germany, but he has hit top gear since joining the Flingeraner. bundesliga.com sat down with the Pole, who discussed his early impressions of the Bundesliga, life in Düsseldorf and his ambitions for the future.
bundesliga.com: Dawid, on 2 March you scored your first two goals in the Bundesliga for Fortuna in Schalke. Can you describe your feelings?
Dawid Kownacki: It was an amazing feeling because in the last half year when I was in Italy it was difficult for me as I didn't play. I came here to play and it was a very important goal for me because I could show everybody that I'm a good player and I want to play more. I was very happy because after this game I felt more confident; I felt that I was a good player because not every player has scored two goals in a Bundesliga game.
bundesliga.com: Was this your most exciting moment this year? Or was it maybe the birth of your daughter Lena at the beginning of April?
Kownacki: Of course the moment when my daughter was born was the most amazing feeling in my life. For me, the family is the most important thing in my life. When my daughter was born, I cried, I was very happy. Of course, scoring a goal in a big stadium with 60,000 people, with everybody watching, is also amazing. But, as I said, the most amazing feeling was when my daughter was born.
bundesliga.com: You've just turned 22 – what do you expect from your career?
Kownacki: It's a difficult question because I don't like to have too many expectations about my future. I've played professional football for six years. I started when I was 16, I won the Polish League, I won the cup, played in Italy for half a year and now I'm here so I have a lot of experience. I know that you cannot think about the next year or the next two years because in football everything can change in a day. It's difficult to say about my future, I only want to think about the next game and the next training session.
bundesliga.com: Coming to Düsseldorf at the beginning of this year, you said: 'I’m hungry, I can start right now.' How much patience did you need in the very beginning in Germany?
Kownacki: I was very angry and I wanted to play because, as I said, in the past six months with Sampdoria I didn't play much. I want to play here, I came here to play and help the team. However, in the first two games I didn't play, I came on for 20 minutes but didn't play much. When I came here I spoke with the coach and he told me: 'Be patient, you'll play here, but in the beginning you have to learn our system, our tactics and our team. You'll need some time, then you'll play.' After two or three weeks I started to play, I got slightly injured and had to miss a game against Wolfsburg. I came back for the game against Mönchengladbach and as I said I also missed the game against Berlin because my daughter was born.
bundesliga.com: What do you think of the team you joined here in Germany? Coach Friedhelm Funkel never tires of talking about the special character of the team. How would you describe this character?
Kownacki: The atmosphere's very good. Everybody's together; we have a good team spirit. This is of course even greater when you win against a good team because you feel better and think you can win the next game. We won 3-1 against Mönchengladbach, who are fighting for the Champions League. In the next game we won in Berlin. After winning like this, against big teams, you know that you can win against everybody. First of all, we think about the defence, and then we usually play the counter-attack. This is how we play the best football, defending and then counter attacks. We won a lot of games like this so this is our strategy. As I said, we have a good team spirit, the team's very good.
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself, your personality? What can you bring to the team?
Kownacki: I'm a player who works for the team, not only for myself. I think about the team. I know that if you give the team everything you have, the team will give it all back. To me this is important. I'm not a player who only thinks about my individual statistics: goals, assists. If you give assists and you score goals you can help the team. At first I came here as a striker but the coach told me I could also play as a winger. I said, sure, no problem. If the coach tells me I can play as a winger I'll play in that position, I'll not say no to that. Against Schalke I played as a winger and scored. However, I was happier that I helped the team defend. We were playing against a very good team and it was an offensive team. Their right back, [Daniel] Caligiuri, is like a winger who is playing at right back. Every action he would go forward and I was playing as a left wing and so I had to go back with him each time. I played this game very well defensively, I played for the team, and the team paid me back as I scored two goals and my friends gave me two brilliant assists. This is my character.
bundesliga.com: What do you think of Robert Lewandowski? Do you know him and what can you learn from him?
Kownacki: Robert Lewandowski's one of the best strikers in the world. Every season he scores a lot of goals. He's a very good striker. I've played with him on the national team so I know him very well. I saw him on the training ground and in the game. He's very strong, he plays well with his back to goal, but he's also the player who works hardest for the team, especially in the national team. He sometimes plays like a number nine, but sometimes he plays like a number ten, takes the ball and controls the situation. He's a very good player and in the national team he's our captain. He works very hard.
bundesliga.com: Up to now; would you say it was the right decision to join Fortuna and to come to Germany?
Kownacki: I can say that this was the right decision. I had a few other offers from Italy, England and Germany. However, I saw that Fortuna really wanted me, which was really important because I didn't play for half a year at Sampdoria and I need to be with a club that gives me a chance. I knew that Fortuna would give me this chance and so I wanted to come here. I did well.
bundesliga.com: Do you already know if you will stay in Düsseldorf next season?
Kownacki: I don't know if I will be here next season, I can say that I want to stay here but the clubs must speak with each other and see what will happen. It will be difficult because I can say that I don't want to stay at Sampdoria, but they can say that I have to come back. It's difficult for me because I feel very good here. I can say that I want to stay and I will do everything I can to stay here.