Jakub Blaszczykowski has become a fans' favourite at Borussia Dortmund
Jakub Blaszczykowski has become a fans' favourite at Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund's Polish dynamo

Jakub Blaszczykowski - a tongue-twister even for the die-hard Borussia Dortmund fans, who have renamed him "Kuba" for simplicity. Yet little has been so simple in the life of the Poland international.

He grew up in the small town of Truskolasy, kicking a ball around from an early age and taking things more seriously alongside his brother David from the age of eight. He spent three years with Rakow Czestochowa before tragedy struck: his mother died tragically, an event which affected him so deeply that he gave up playing football altogether. It took a year before he would play again, his uncle Jerzy Brzeczek, himself a former Polish international, helping persuade him to give it another go with Rakow.

In 2002 Blaszczykowski signed up with Gornik Zabrze, but unable to make the breakthrough there he moved on to fourth division KS Czestochowa. Two years later, he made the grade with Wisla Krakow, one of Poland's leading clubs, and helped them to the league title in 2005.

Two years further down the line, Borussia Dortmund came calling. "When I first arrived, I had to adapt to the quality of the league, and the team," he recalls. "Size and strength play a far greater role in the Bundesliga than they do in the Polish league." Adapt he did and, despite a few injury setbacks, "Kuba" soon carved out a niche for himself, both in the team and in the hearts of the BVB fans, for whom wholehearted commitment to the cause has always been of paramount importance.

Whether in the attack, midfield, or somewhere between the two, Blaszczykowski is a pivotal figure in Dortmund's game. His pace, vision and irresistible dribbling made him the 2008 Polish footballer of the year - not bad for a young man who at one point had given up the game for good.

After helping Dortmund to two consecutive league titles in 2011 and 2012, he scored one of the goals of Euro 2012 in the hosts' group match against Russia.

Despite a usual tireless display in the Champions League final against FC Bayern Munich, Blaszczykowski was unable to prevent his side slipping to a narrow defeat at Wembley.