Borussia Dortmund star Lukasz Piszczek sets Polish Bundesliga record
Lukasz Piszczek set a Polish record 250th Bundesliga appearance in Borussia Dortmund's 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
The 32-year-old is now in his 11th season in German football and has been vital to Dortmund for much of that time, reaching his landmark 250th Bundesliga appearance against his former club Hertha on Matchday 2.
Piszczek enjoyed a winning start to what is his eighth season as a Dortmund player by helping his side to an impressive 3-0 win over Wolfsburg on Matchday 1. The last time they mauled the Wolves was in February, when the 32-year-old got his fifth league goal of the campaign.
At that stage the marauding defender was Dortmund’s second-best goalscorer, something his captain Marcel Schmelzer was particularly pleased about.
"Piszczek's a real weapon for us at set-pieces – he's really good at positioning himself [for second balls]," the club captain told Reviersport. "I’m really happy for him that he’s so successful in attack this season – above all because he’s in my Fantasy team!"
Piszczek’s final tally of five goals in 25 league matches last term was a career high and a reminder that he was more of an out-and-out attacker when he first moved to Germany.
Hertha signed a teenaged Piszczek from Gwarek Zabrze for next to nothing in 2004 and in the same summer he became the joint-top goalscorer at the European Under-19 Championships.
Watch: Piszczek's Top 5 goals!
Hertha coach Falko Götz hailed the 18-year-old as an “outstanding talent” following his successful trial but the Old Lady immediately loaned Piszczek to Zaglebie Lubin for the next three seasons. He returned from his homeland as a Polish league champion, having scored 11 goals in the 2006-07 Ekstraklasa season.
Having begun life in Berlin as a forward, Piszczek moved into midfield before finally being converted into an attacking right-back. Lucien Favre, another of his former managers at Hertha, was the man who backed the Pole to be good enough to make the switch.
“He has game intelligence and a good sense of space and time,” the Swiss tactician told Berliner Zeitung.
After 68 Bundesliga matches over three years in the German capital, Piszczek moved to Dortmund on a free transfer in the summer of 2010 - the same year Die Schwarzgelben picked up his compatriot Robert Lewandowski from Lech Poznan.
Jürgen Klopp said Piszczek’s speed was a deciding factor and that - having played in a difficult situation with a Hertha side that were relegated - his latest signing had not yet reached his peak.
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How prescient Klopp was. Dortmund won the league in Piszczek’s first season there, with their new number 26 contributing seven assists in 33 matches.
Piszczek’s first goal for the club came early in their title defence - a last-minute winner at Mainz - and his fourth of that campaign was a stunning equaliser at Schalke in April 2012. Dortmund went on to win that match – all but ensuring there would be no way back for Bayern in that year’s championship race.
Piszczek also played in the 5-2 DFB Cup final victory over Bayern that completed a league and cup double and in October 2012 he was rewarded with a new contract.
“I’ve spent two years in Dortmund, during which time I’ve become firmly embedded in the football culture, the club and the Borussia Dortmund fans,” he said at the time.
Piszczek felt he was playing for an “extraordinary team” and, alongside his club and international teammates Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski, he and Dortmund would prove as much again in the 2012/13 season. He started 12 games on a thrilling run to the Champions League final, where Klopp’s side fell to an agonising 2-1 defeat against Bayern at Wembley.
Watch: Blaszczykowski and Piszczek renewed old acquaintances on Matchday 1
Hip surgery restricted the flying full-back’s progress the following season but he rolled with the punches through some up and down years for his club to bounce back in style – culminating in him being named in the Bundesliga team of the season for 2016/2017 and his second DFB Cup win in May this year.
Following that 3-0 home win over Wolfsburg last February, then Dortmund-boss Thomas Tuchel was asked about his in-form Pole.
“We’re truly lucky to have him in our team – both in a playing and personal capacity,” Tuchel said. “There’s never a day that goes by when we don’t see him smiling. Lukasz is incredibly professional and a real family man too. I get the feeling that he feels very happy at this moment in time.
“He’s really conscientious, a role model, the best you could hope for. He embodies everything that is good about BVB and what BVB should stand for.”
High praise indeed and it was no surprise, then, that Dortmund offered him a one-year contract extension in April that will keep him at the club until 2019.
“'Piszczu' is an absolute model professional and, as such, a role model for our younger players,” Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc said. “He’s developed into a very highly-regarded figure during his time here.”
On signing the new deal Piszczek said he was proud of playing in black and yellow and he will be prouder still since making his 250th league appearance in Germany.
He has surpassed former Bochum and Schalke defender Tomasz Waldoch as the Polish player with the most Bundesliga appearances in history, fittingly reaching that milestone in Dortmund – in front of the fans he respects so much - and against the team where his German adventure began.