Poland have consistently been one of the more underrated nations in international football despite the Eastern European nation being a perennial source of quality talent. With The Orly having finished 3rd in both the 1974 and 1982 World Cups and reaching as high as fifth in the FIFA World Rankings as recently as 2017 – it’s fair to say that Poland has a strong footballing pedigree. But who has proven themselves to be the best names to ever emerge out of Poland over the years? We take a look at the best Polish footballers of all time.
Best Polish footballers of all time
Poland was still reeling from the events of World War II in the 1950s but the country still produced some top footballing talent and none more so that Ernest Pohl. Choosing to stay in his native homeland, Pohl was a goalscoring machine for both Gornik Zabrze to winning 8 Ekstraklasa titles from 1957-1967.
This, added with the two titles he had won with Legia Warsaw, meant that Pohl was a winning league player for 11 out of 12 seasons from 1955-1967. His legacy still stands to this day as his 186 goals in the Polish top flight remains the all-time goal total in the competition to this day.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Polish national squad was at its most successful and Grzegorz Lato proved himself to be one of the reasons for this constant success. Naturally deployed as a winger, Lato was often a nightmare for defenders to cope with allowing him to both create and score goals on a regular basis.
For Poland, Lato was at the heart of the team that won gold at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the team that finished third in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups. The 1974 tournament was a great showcase for Lato where he won the Golden Shoe for most goals scored at the tournament as well as a place in the All Star team, making him one of the best Polish footballers ever.
With Polish football taking off in the 1970s, many of their national stars were starting to enjoy international fame including stylish midfielder Kazimierz Deyna. Deyna’s technical skill was widely awed by many in European football and helped Poland secure the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics where was top scorer in the tournament. After much success with Legia Warsaw in Poland, Deyna became one of the first Polish stars to move overseas signing for English side Manchester City in 1978.
His 13 goals in just 41 appearances showed glimpses of his potential although injuries frequently disrupted his time in England. He later traded England for the USA moving to the San Diego Sockers in 1983 and starred in the NASL for four seasons before retiring. Sadly, Deyna would tragically perish in a car accident just after retiring in 1987 but his reputation is still admired by fans across the world to the current day.
Polish football enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in the 21st century and much of this success has been led by perennial midfield Jakub Blaszczykowski. Able to play almost anywhere in midfield, Blaszczykowski proved to be a real asset to both club and country whether in defence or attack. Whilst not the quickest of players, his technical skills were at the highest level whether it was passing, crossing or from any form of set pieces.
Blaszczykowski was also seen as a natural leader on the pitch proving himself to be a long-term captain of both German side Borussia Dortmund as well as the Polish national team. Whilst at Dortmund, the midfielder played a pivotal role in BVB’s Bundesliga titles in both 2011 and 2012. He wasn’t goalshy either scoring 21 times in 108 caps for Poland. A true modern-game leader.
It’s hard to argue that Robert Lewandowski isn’t one of the top strikers of the modern era. The Pole has been lethal in all forms of competition and has destroyed the very best teams on the planet no matter if it was in the Bundesliga or for Poland. His pace and finishing ability is supreme and his composure in the final third is nothing short of phenomenal. These strengths have morphed into a truly deadly package where he has scored a staggering 270 goals in 350 Bundesliga games and he is one of the Champions League’s top scorers as well.
His best form has come with Bayern Munich having scored 40+ goals in 5 out of his 6 seasons in Munich including a career-best 55 goals in 47 games in the 2019-20 season. For the national side, Lewandowski has rewritten the record books holding both the caps and goal records with 66 goals in 116 games. Having won the Polish Footballer of the Year award 9 times as well as the FIFA Best Men’s Player in 2020, it’s safe to say that Lewandowski is one of the best Polish footballers of all time, if not the best.
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