BVB’s Polish perfection

BVB’s Polish perfection

Statistics show that Germany has the highest ‘Polonia’ in Europe.

This is the word for people of Polish heritage living outside of Poland.

Although the United States of America has the highest Polonia (approximately 9 million) worldwide, it has been a very common trend over the years for Polish citizens to move westwards across the border to Deutschland.

The number may have shrunk in recent years but according to 2022 data, the Polish are the fifth best-represented foreign demographic in Germany.

A hotspot for some of the country’s top football clubs, North Rhine-Westphalia was home to 39% of Poles living in Germany in 2011 (almost 800,000, which is today’s current overall total).

Borussia Dortmund are regarded as the biggest club of the region and it’s fair to say they’ve also had their fair share of Polish influence over the years.

Eight Poles have donned the black and yellow strip, from Marian Brezinski before World War II to Joachim Siwek and Tadeusz Krafft of the 1970s and 80s.

But BVB’s Polish powers came truly into force when Jürgen Klopp became boss and led the club during its most recent golden era.

This article takes a look back at the club’s most prolific Poles.

Ebi Smolarek (2005-2007)

Appearances: 87

Goals: 26

Assists: 16

Honours: N/A

Łódź-born forward Ebi Smolarek joined Borussia Dortmund from Feyenoord in January 2005.

The striker scored on his debut away at Wolfsburg after signing on loan.

He then made his switch to Signal Iduna Park permanent in the summer and went on to score 25 Bundesliga goals in 81 games for the club.

A hat-trick at Kaiserslautern was one of Smolarek’s highlights in black and yellow.

In 47 caps for the Polish national team, his tally of 19 goals is the 10th highest in its history.

While a Dortmund player, Smolarek represented his nation at the 2006 World Cup; the second match of their group stage campaign was played at his own Westfalenstadion, which saw hosts Germany win in stoppage time.

After a third year with BVB, the current Feyenoord youth manager was sold to Racing Santander in Spain for a reported €4million profit.

He would go on to play for Bolton, Kavala in Greece, Al-Khor in Qatar, ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands and with Polonia Warsaw and Jagiellonia back in Poland, where he retired in 2013.

Jakub Błaszczykowski (2007-2016)

Appearances: 253

Goals: 32

Assists: 52

Honours: Bundesliga x2, DFB-Pokal x1, DFL-Supercup x2

In 2007, the 1997 European champions completed the eyebrow-raising capture of 20-year-old Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowski.

The winger had caught the eye for Wisla Krakow, registering five assists in the UEFA Cup to go with a strong league campaign in the previous season.

‘Kuba’ made 27 appearances in his debut season in North Rhine-Westphalia and only built on that start, after the 2008 arrival of Jürgen Klopp.

10 goal contributions across all competitions followed, which saw him establish himself as a firm fixture in the team.

He wasn’t only a star for club, but for country too, winning Polish footballer of the year twice in this period (2008 & 2010).

As Klopp’s side started to really challenge for silverware, Blaszczykowski stepped up, grabbing three goals and four assists in the club’s 2011 title win, before claiming 19 more the following term, which saw ‘die Schwarzgelben’ win a double.

He would end that season with two assists in the 5-2 DFB-Pokal final win over Bayern Munich.

That summer, ‘Kuba’ captained Poland as they co-hosted the 2012 European Championships alongside Ukraine – the first of three major tournaments he played in (2016 Euro’s & 2018 World Cup)

The Truskolasy native was in the prime of his career.

And this was only made clearer throughout the 2012-13 campaign, in which BVB reached the UEFA Champions League final.

‘Kuba’ registered 14 goals and 15 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions – a career-high tally.

A Polish hero

An anterior cruciate ligament injury the following season brought the special prime of a special player to an abrupt end.

Blaszczykowski only saw one more season in black and yellow, before a loan move to Fiorentina and an eventual permanent switch to Wolfsburg.

He left the club with 253 appearances and 32 goals.

He returned to Wisla Krakow in 2019, aiding the club financially.

The winger retired there last month and now co-owns the club, retiring as the second most-capped player in Polish history.

His 21 goals across those 109 caps see him rank a place above Smolarek in the national team’s top 10 goalscorers of all-time.

Lukasz Piszczek (2010-2021)

Appearances: 382

Goals: 19

Assists: 64

Honours: Bundesliga x2, DFB-Pokal x3, DFL-Supercup x3

The next Pole through the door at Signal Iduna Park was Hertha Berlin right-back Lukasz Piszczek.

Initially a winger in his time at Hertha and with Zagłębie Lubin, Piszczek was key at both ends of the pitch for Klopp’s Dortmund and was an ever-present from minute one.

In his first three seasons as a ‘Borusse’, he missed just eight league games out of a possible 102; in that time he claimed 25 assists from right-back.

Playing such a crucial role in a club’s golden era, it’s clear to see why this man is a legend of both Borussia Dortmund and of Polish football.

Injury issues in the seasons that followed meant that Piszczek wasn’t quite as available, yet he still added to a healthy record for the club.

The Bielsko County native gave 11 years of exemplary service to ‘die Schwarzgelben’, signing five contract extensions in that time to show his loyalty, and to etch his name into Dortmund folklore.

Having delayed his retirement plans to play another season in the Bundesliga, Piszczek left the club with 382 appearances, 19 goals, 64 assists, two Bundesliga titles, three Pokals and three Supercups.

The 38-year-old played 66 times for his country, playing at four major tournaments.

After leaving Dortmund, he returned to his hometown club Goczałkowice-Zdrój, where he is now player-manager.

Robert Lewandowski (2010-2014)

Appearances: 187

Goals: 103

Assists: 42

Honours: Bundesliga x2, DFB-Pokal x1, DFL-Supercup x1

During that same summer of 2010, another Polish international signed for Klopp’s side.

Earning his move to the big leagues at 22 years old, when Robert Lewandowski joined Borussia Dortmund, few could’ve foreseen that he would become one of the game’s greatest ever strikers.

Despite being in prolific form across the top three divisions of Poland for Znicz Pruszków and Lech Poznań, with whom he won the Ekstraklasa in 2010, ‘Lewa’ didn’t quite hit the ground running in Germany.

Eight goals and three assists wasn’t a bad tally for his debut season, in which BVB won the ‘Meisterschale’, but it would look measly compared to what he would go on to deliver.

In the 2011-12 season, Lewandowski bagged 30 goals and 12 assists across all competitions as the club sealed an historic double, becoming ‘Pokalmeister’ while winning a second Bundesliga title.

The following term, the Warsaw-born striker netted 36 times in all competitions and registered 13 assists; he was particularly influential in the Black and Yellows’ run to the UEFA Champions League final.

He scored 10 times throughout the tournament, four of which coming in one game – the iconic semi-final demolition of Real Madrid.

Despite such form, Lewandowski didn’t quite get his hands on the Bundesliga golden boot until 2014, when his tally of 20 was the league’s highest (28 in all competitions, with 13 assists).

Post Dortmund

Rather controversially, the 35-year-old swapped Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena that summer, joining ‘der Klassiker’ rivals Bayern Munich on a free transfer.

But it cannot be denied that he is a Borussia Dortmund great. Leaving with 103 goals in 187 appearances, four major honours and four hat-tricks, one of which in the 2012 Pokal final against Bayern, is no mean feat.

What followed was nothing short of elite goal-scoring at the highest level. After eight years of exactly that for the Bavarians, he won the golden boot in his first season with current club FC Barcelona.

His 142 caps and 79 goals for Poland since 2008 have not been topped and will be incredibly tough to do so. Lewandowski has also represented his nation at three European Championships and two World Cups – a phenomenal record.

Young goalkeeper Marcel Lotka is the only player with any international affiliation to Poland remaining on the books of Borussia Dortmund.

Whether he or any future Polish ‘Borussen’ can emulate those who went before them remains to be seen.

But few clubs can boast such an incredible Polish pedigree.