Arkadiusz Milik not only accepted the task of replacing Gonzalo Higuaín at Napoli this summer, he also became the most expensive Polish player ever with his €32m move from Ajax, the fee more than ten times what the Eredivisie club had paid Bayer Leverkusen for the striker 12 months before.
Still, the 22-year-old – a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-finalist, and Poland’s match winner against Northern Ireland in Nice – shows no signs of pressure. Milik scored twice on his Serie A home debut against AC Milan and repeated the trick on his UEFA Champions League bow for Napoli at Dynamo Kyiv, his first-half double earning a 2-1 comeback victory.
As the Partenopei now prepare for Wednesday’s Group B visit of Benfica, Milik sat down with UEFA.com to discuss life in Naples, his cosmopolitan career and why he feels no pressure.
- To see what Milik has to say about Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, click on the video player above.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your feelings when you signed the contract with Napoli? It must have been a special moment in your career.
Arkadiusz Milik: Signing the contract was certainly a special moment, because I was signing for a big club. So it was a big reason to be proud. I was delighted to move to an even bigger club than I’d been at previously, a club where I can continue developing, play in the Champions League and fight for the big prizes.
UEFA.com: What are your first impressions of the club and the city?
Milik: It’s difficult to say. I’m the kind of person who tries to settle in as soon as possible. It certainly helps that there are other Poles playing here – Igor [Łasicki] and Piotr [Zieliński] help me with the language.
The fans are also very important – they’re fanatical and it’s hard to walk through the city centre without a photo or an autograph. You can see how fanatical they are, football means the world to many of them.
UEFA.com: You’re a young player but you have lots of experience. You know the Polish, German and Dutch leagues; what lessons learned at your previous clubs can benefit you now at Napoli?
Milik: I took my baby steps in Poland [at Rozwój Katowice and Górnik Zabrze], and I met coach Adam Nawałka [at Zabrze] who helped me a lot. As we all know, he’s the Poland manager now. He’s a fantastic person who taught me a lot.
Then I moved to Germany where I learned some hard lessons. It might have looked like a great transfer, but I didn’t play as many minutes as I really wanted to, particularly at Leverkusen. Of course, [on loan] at Augsburg I played more, I got more minutes as well as whole matches, but it wasn’t what I wanted so I decided to take another step.
Ajax became interested in me and I decided to develop further there. I knew I could become an even better player learning from a striker like Dennis Bergkamp. So I did my best to move forward and take another step in my career. I joined Ajax, played two seasons there, made more appearances for the national team and gained more experience on the European and international stages.
And then Napoli became interested in me after the EURO. My career has moved quickly, but that makes me happy. I’m at Napoli and I’ll do my best to learn even more.
UEFA.com: Let’s move on to Kyiv. Were you stressed at all before your UEFA Champions League debut with Napoli?
Milik: Not really, there was no particular stress. The same as before any match: it’s about concentration and being focused on your match objectives. I was mostly pleased just to be playing in that kind of match.
UEFA.com: What about the game itself?
Milik: They’re certainly good memories. Yet we didn’t play as well as we can – this team has a lot of potential – and coach Nawałka would have said there were things lacking in our performance. But we won and I was happy with that, as well as with my two goals. I helped the team win, I made my own small contribution. But we as a team were happy with the victory, that’s the most important thing.
UEFA.com: You’re the most expensive Polish player at €32m. Are you proud of that, do you feel extra pressure, does it make any difference?
Milik: It doesn’t matter. The way you play every day, the training sessions, the matches every three days – that’s what shows who you are. If you play great one day, you need to prove it again three days later, otherwise people quickly forget about it. You can score two goals in one match, but three days later you can play badly.
You need to keep proving yourself in football, keep proving you’re a good player. Even if you play badly once, that doesn’t mean you’re going to play badly three days later – it could be the best match of your life. Anything is possible. I know that and I always try to move forward. I always try to do my best on the pitch.