We see ourselves as a provider, especially with our homegrown players, to the top five leagues. Our players reach their peak in terms of transfer value when they are aged 22 to 23 maximum. When they are 24, 25, it is more difficult because the curve is going down in terms of value.
A bright future
Lech Poznan had, by their own president and owner’s admission, a disappointing 2020-21 season.
The excitement of UEFA Europa League football at the start of the campaign - being the first Polish club in five seasons to make the group stages of a UEFA competition - soon ebbed away, with a mid-table domestic finish made worse by coming below city rivals Warta Poznan.
Since winning the Ekstraklasa in 2015, there has been heartache for Lech Poznan, losing the Polish Cup in successive seasons between 2015 and 2017.
But there were rays of light in 2020-21, with some optimism that success could come in 2022 when Lech Poznan celebrate their centenary.
Four Poland Under-21 internationals became regulars in the matchday squad: wingers Jakub Kaminski (19) and Michal Skoras (21), attacking midfielder Filip Marchwinski (19) and striker Filip Szymczak (19), who will spend the 2021-22 campaign on loan at Katowice.
That quartet are a walking advert for the Lech Poznan academy, the training school that the owners have placed great faith in as a link to the community.
Aged just 19, Jakub Kaminski is one of the leading talents in the Ekstraklasa
Piotr Rutkowski, President of Lech Poznan, explains: “Our mission as owners of the club is very simple: give something back to the region. This is a huge club with a lot of tradition, and our goal is to make people proud and to give them joy, because we are building a European football club, built on players from the region, so our academy is very important. Homegrown players are central to this mission.”
Conveyer belt of talent
As owners of Amica, the international household appliances firm, the Rutkowskis (Piotr’s father Jacek bought the club in 2006 and was President until January 2021) are not in football to make money, but nevertheless academy products have been a successful contributor to the PnL.
In 2017, Jan Bednarek and Dawid Kownacki joined Southampton in England and Sampdoria in Italy for €5m and €4m, respectively, while late last year two more players were sold to England, Jakub Moder to Brighton for a club record €11m, and Kamil Jozwiak to Derby County for around €4.3m.
Just last month left-back Tymoteusz Puchacz (22), one of the stand-out players in his position in the country and a member of Poland's European Championships squad, completed a move to Union Berlin in the Bundesliga in a deal worth around €3.5m.
While the sale of young talents is indicative of Lech Poznan’s place in the wider football ecosystem, Rutkowski says there is a formula to the timing and direction of those deals.
“We see ourselves as a provider, especially with our homegrown players, to the top five leagues,” he tells TransferRoom. “Our players reach their peak in terms of transfer value when they are aged 22 to 23 maximum. When they are 24, 25, it is more difficult because the curve is going down in terms of value.
“So our biggest transfers are those done with our 22- to 23-year-old players. We have sold younger players, some 20 year olds, but for us what is most important is to sell players that are ready to compete straight away.
“It is very important for our reputation that these players go to the top five leagues but that they also succeed. So we prefer to sell to a club like Southampton rather than Chelsea, for example, because we know that in Southampton our players will play and succeed in the Premier League, whereas going straight to a bigger club in England would be much, much more difficult for him.”
Rutkowski continues: “We see ourselves somewhere in the middle of the chain and obviously we are dependent on what is happening at the top. When we get the transfer fee, we invest it in a smaller league.
Tymoteusz Puchacz is the latest Lech Poznan academy graduate to move to one of Europe's big five leagues
Much of the transfer work was being done by Rutkowski, but in late 2018 he brought in a Sporting Director, promoting Tomasz Rząsa from, unsurprisingly, the academy.
The two now work closely together on recruitment and, as a hands-on owner, “every decision goes faster” at Lech Poznan, Rutkowski says.
Indeed the club’s use of TransferRoom is speeding things up even further.
Rutkowski says: “It is a good tool where we can say, ‘ok we have a 27-year-old player, his value is going down, he was performing quite well but we can do better in this position’. Then we can contact other clubs of our size where we see that he can help them.
“It helps us promote a player and make him available to a Swedish or Norwegian or Portuguese club who might normally think that Lech Poznan is too expensive. It is easier to trade non-obvious players on TransferRoom.”
He adds: “For players coming in, you can use it to quickly react. If there are a couple of weeks before the end of the transfer window, you get an injury and you need a replacement, you just put the information into the market and many clubs respond quickly. This can be helpful otherwise you would need to go through agents.
“We are able to get quick and correct information and this gives a lot of value in a world where information is crucial and it is often false in the transfer market.”