Arkadiusz Milik (€32 million) (19/20)

Born in Tychy in the south of Poland, the rapid rise of Arkadiusz Milik hasn’t gone unnoticed. Tychy is derived from the Polish word “cichy”, meaning “quiet”, but Milik currently finds himself in Naples playing for Napoli, a bustling metropolis that is far from quiet. So, how did he get there?

A talented youngster, Milik was rejected by both Tottenham and Reading at a young age, ultimately deciding to focus on his footballing development in his country of birth. Milik began his career in nearby Katowice for lowly Rozwój Katowice in the third division of Polish football. Making his debut as a 16-year old, he scored 2 goals in a 4-0 victory. Just a year later, in 2011, Milik moved to Gornik Zabrze, the most successful Polish side in terms of titles won in history. Regular football in the highest tier of Polish football did Milik no harm, and he moved to Leverkusen the following year for a fee of around €3m, earning Gornik a tidy profit and Leverkusen a gifted forward.

Milik’s time at Leverkusen included a loan to Augsburg, where Milik racked up 18 appearances in the Bundesliga. However, he only started 5 of those, and it wasn’t until Ajax swooped in the summer of 2015 that we really began to see the emergence of Milik as an excellent centre forward. After signing for the Amsterdammers on loan, Milik evolved into a mainstay in the Ajax side, scoring 23 goals in 34 appearances, including 8 in just 3 games in the KNVB Beker.

Ajax swooped to sign him up for the following season on a permanent deal, for a snip that saw Leverkusen sell him for roughly the same price they bought him for. Milik didn’t disappoint, scoring 24 in 42 appearances, proving a very effective target man with excellent heading abilities, and a particularly accurate and rasping left foot. Such lethal form was enough to convince Napoli to come in with a bid of roughly €32m in July 2016 that Ajax simply couldn’t refuse.

To say that there was little risk involved in Milik’s transfer from Napoli’s perspective, however, would be untrue. Milik had yet to prove he could perform consistently in one of Europe’s toughest leagues and for one of Europe’s premier sides. It’s true to say his time in Leverkusen was troubled (from a goal-scoring perspective, anyway), and he wasn’t without periods of bad form whilst at Ajax despite his impressive tally. However, under Sarri, Milik began to emerge into a great target man and poacher for Napoli’s nifty wingers, namely Lorenzo Insigne, José Callejón and Dries Mertens.

Unfortunately, Milik’s progress has been stunted by an ACL tear which he suffered in 2016, which has seen him gain precious little game time since. With the emergence of Dries Mertens as a lethal finisher who can run the channels in the number 9 role, Milik’s future as Napoli’s go-to forward is questionable. Nevertheless, at 23 years of age, he still has years of playing time and development ahead, and the promise he has shown up until this point, especially at Ajax, bodes well for him.