Pol­ished Per­former

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

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Words Con Sta­mo­costas

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.”

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