Lukasz Piszczek's audition to prove he should be Real Madrid's next right-back

By Enis Koylu | German Football Writer

It is perhaps fitting that Real Madrid will be facing Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday with a host of full-backs missing due to injury. Throughout the summer, Los Blancos searched for defensive reinforcements, only to fail to bolster their squad at the back.

And, of all the players linked with the Santiago Bernabeu, one name stands out above the rest: that of Lukasz Piszczek. Since making the move from Hertha Berlin to Signal Iduna Park in 2010, the Poland international has become an indispensable member of his team, helping them to back-to-back Bundesliga titles.

Going forward, there is arguably no finer full-back in world football. The 27-year-old’s intelligence, crossing and understanding with his colleagues on the right have made him a key feature of BVB’s slick attacks, while he has proven his eye for goal on more than one occasion, not least against Schalke at the Veltins Arena last season, when he scored a stunning volley to equalise in the first half.

Ever dependable at the back, there are few in Germany who can time a tackle better than him, his positioning is near-flawless, while he showcased his versatility by playing as a makeshift left wing-back in the 2-1 derby loss to Schalke on Saturday.

On the rare occasions that he is missing through injury, such as the 2-1 victory over Werder Bremen on the opening day of the Bundesliga season, his absence is certainly felt. Without him, there was a definite lack of shape and sense to his side’s defence, and JakubKubaBlaszczykowski, his partner in crime on the right wing, endured a frustrating evening with Oliver Kirch behind him.

Meanwhile, in the Spanish capital, Jose Mourinho’s back line looks to be shakier than ever before, conceding a string of sloppy goals in a slow start to their Liga defence. How they could have used a player with the presence and organisational skills of Piszczek.

Piszczek has undoubtedly made one of the most astonishing developments in the Bundesliga over the past two seasons. From being a mediocre player at relegated Hertha Berlin, he has become the league’s best right-back (despite Philipp Lahm playing there for Bayern) as his club claimed back-to-back titles. Piszczek is very strong defensively and is brilliant going forward, helping him pick up plenty of assists. His timing and vision are arguably his biggest strengths.

Falko Bloding | Germany

Even if the former Inter boss had a full complement of defenders available for the trip to the Ruhr, his defence would be somewhat lacking in quality. Despite proving himself to be capable and possessing a wealth of experience, Alvaro Arbeloa was signed as little more than a back-up to Sergio Ramos, who has since announced his preference for a role at centre-back. On the other side, Fabio Coentrao’s inconsistencies since moving to La Liga from Portugal have been well documented, and Marcelo, while an excellent left-back, has always had problems with his rash tackling and on-pitch discipline.

However, on Wednesday, the only one of Madrid’s senior full-backs that Piszczek has a chance of facing is Ramos, with the visitors’ injury crisis likely to force the deployment of Michael Essien as a makeshift left-back. And it could be disastrous. If, as expected, Mario Gotze makes his comeback on the right of the attacking midfield three, the Germany star’s combination with Piszczek could make it an evening to forget for the Ghanaian.

There is, though, a significant blot on his copy book. As a youngster on loan in the Ekstraklasa, he was one of a number of players who helped fix a match between Zaglebie Lubin (his own team at the time) and Cracovia for a sum of around €25,000 in 2006. He later received a ban for his part in the scandal, which was eventually rescinded.

Piszczek was widely castigated in the wake of the saga, but on the other hand, it could be argued that it helped him develop as a player and a person. The harsh media treatment forced him to grow up, and fast, and aided his development into the model professional of 27 that we see today.

Of course, Jose Mourinho has often targeted younger players than Piszczek during his time in charge at the Bernabeu, and the Pole’s contract extension until 2017 means that he will cost any suitors a huge sum of money, but should they reignite their interest in him next summer, there’s no doubt that he would be worth every penny.

And on Wednesday, Piszczek will have ample opportunity to prove to Madrid and Mourinho just how good he is.

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10 2012
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