After he was frozen out of his national side following a move to the Middle East, Adrian Mierzejewski has two goals - win everything, and get back to playing international football
Sydney’s Adrien Mierzejewski
When Melbourne City’s Iacopo La Rocca cut down Sydney FC’s new import Adrian Mierzejewski during their FFA Cup quarter-final, Alex Brosque’s reaction was clear – mess with Mierzejewski and you mess with me. Brosque earned a yellow for reacting to the challenge but sticking up for his teammate was an indication of the bond already established between the pair. Just a few minutes earlier, the duo combined perfectly with Mierzejewski’s chip setting up his captain’s dink over the keeper to put Sydney 2-0 ahead and into their second successive FFA Cup semi-final. And it’s wasn’t a one-off moment of magic. His skill on the ball, neat touches and intelligent play saw him receive a standing ovation from the Sky Blue faithful at Leichhardt Oval. Already, Mierzejewski looks like he will be a cult figure – and the Pole believes he has more to give. “I know I can play much better and I expect I will do better things on the pitch,” says the 30-year-old. “For the goal against Melbourne City, Brosque did it all. It was perfect control and an amazing shot. My pass was just a simple pass but I am very happy that we won the game and he scored. “For fans and the media, it is important who gives the assist but for us as a team, the most important thing is getting the win and going through to the next round of the FFA Cup.” Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold says the Polish attacker is as skilful as Ninkovic but with more pace – but Mierzejewski is aiming to turn that comparison on its head. “I hope that after one or two seasons, when a new player comes, they will say he is like Mierzejewski,” he says. “I don’t compare myself with Ninkovic. I will just try to add something more. There is competition against each other at training because we fight to play in the first XI. But on the pitch we are the best of friends and a family. I know I have the chance to play with the best player in the league from last season.” Mierzejewski’s professional career began in 2003 at just 16 when he made his senior debut in the Polish first division for Stomil Olsztyn before moving to Wisla Plock where he spent the next five years. Then he joined Polonia Warsaw and his breakthrough campaign came in his second year when he captained the side and went on to win the Polish Player of the Year award for 2010/11. “That year the team signed Jose Mari Bakero [as coach] who was a legend at Barcelona and for the Spanish national team,” he recalls. “I got a lot of self-confidence with him and was feeling really good. During the season I scored seven goals and made my debut in the national team.” Mierzejewski’s 41 caps for Poland, included an appearance at the 2012 European Championship. However, the experience proved difficult with the home country failing to progress to the knockout rounds which proved to be a heavy burden for the winger. “It was big pressure,” he says. “We had to win the group and we had a minimum expectation to make the semi-final but we drew our first two games and in the most important match we lost 1-0 against Czech Republic. “It was a big drama in our country. I was very happy that I could be there but I do remember there was a lot of pressure and we couldn’t handle it.”
Below His move to the Middle East cut short his Poland career Right Adrian will be a fan favourite just as soon as the Cove find something to rhyme with Mierzejewski...
At the beginning of the 2011/12 season Mierzejewski signed for Trabzonspor, with the €5.25million fee making him the most expensive transfer in the history of the Polish League. Compared to Poland, the winger found the Turkish league a step up. “When I signed in Turkey, the level was really high,” he says “The tempo and the players were of very good quality. It was not easy. I played there for two years and I also played in the Turkish Cup Final. In the league we played against big names like Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder, Raul Meireles, and Emmanuel Eboué.” Mierzejewski’s career hit new heights there, tested against some of football’s elite by playing in Europe’s blue-ribbon club competition. “When I was young I was only dreaming of playing in these types of games - the Champions and Europa League,” he says. “When you play against Juventus with big players like Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal – you can feel it. “They were much better than us. It’s true and we could feel the difference. We knew how hard we had to train to get to this level.” Mierzejewski spent three seasons at Trabzonspor before moving to Saudi club Al Nassr who purchased the winger for €3million-plus and the 30-year-old has nothing but praise for football in the oil nation. “The level in Saudi is not low – I believe it is the strongest in the Middle East,” he says. “We played an Asian Champions League game in Iran and there were 100,000 people in the stadium. We were joking that there were more fans than in Barcelona at the El Clasico.”
After three seasons at Al Nassr, Mierzejewski spent the following year in the United Arab Emirates with Al-Sharjah. Since his move to the Middle East, Mierzejewski hasn’t played for Poland – but the winger revealed that earning a recall was one reason he signed with Sydney. “I want to come back to the national team, that’s my target,” he said. “I know when Marc Janko was here he played for the Austrian national team. That’s what I hope for as well and I will try everything to play for Sydney FC and the fans, but also for myself to show everyone in Poland that I can come back to the national team.” Besides Janko a couple of current and former Sydney FC stars were reference points when Mierzejewski made the move to the Sky Blues. “I played with Marc Janko in Trabzonspor in Turkey for one year and he had only positives to say about his teammates, the club and about the level of the A-League,” he says. “I also knew Bobo because he played for Beşiktaş and we played a few times against each other when he played for Kayserispor.
WE HAVE TO WIN THE LEAGUE, THE FF A CUP AND THE ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. BUT IT’S NOT LIKE WE HAVE ARROGANCE. WE TRUST THE COACH
“I also played against Filip Holosko when he was at Besiktas and also for the national team when we played against Slovakia. I noticed that these are good players that are in the Australian league and especially at Sydney FC.” Sydney broke almost every A-League record on the way to winning the Premiership and Championship double last season – but Mierzejewski is determined to play a big part in surpassing even those achievements this season. “I will do everything,” he says. “It is not easy to join a team that has won the league because everyone can say we don’t need another player to improve the team because we won everything. “But I can bring the experience of having played 40 games for the national team, European Champions League, Europa League and Asian Champions League.
“I will do my best at training and in the games because I didn’t sign a contract to come here for a holiday. I have my dreams and goals.” With Graham Arnold able to keep the core of his side, the Sky Blues are aiming higher than just going back to back this time round. Wining every trophy on offer is the true target – and Mierzejewski is confident. “After my first conversation with Arnie he told me that we are the best team and he wants to be better and win every game,” he says.
“The coach has said that we have to win the league, the FFA Cup and the Asian Champions League. But it’s not like we have huge selfconfidence or arrogance. We trust the coach. He knows the players, he knows the teams. “It’s not like we’re putting ourselves under big pressure, but we have confidence that we are the best team, but we have to prove this on the pitch, at training, and matches. “You can see the plan and the strategy and every player is giving their maximum. The effort will come. If you work 100%, you will get the results.”