It appears Bartosz Kapustka only made it to Euro 2016 by the skin of his teeth after getting involved in a brawl outside a bar just months before the tournament, but while the Poland teenager’s youthful exuberance may need to be kept in check, there’s little doubting his talent.
Premier League champions Leicester City are reportedly on the verge of snapping up the Cracovia youngster for £5.25m, with Everton and Southampton also thought keen, unsurprisingly at the price.
The tiny Krakow outfit, Poland’s oldest club with a 15,000-seater stadium less than half the size of bitter city rivals Wisla, posted their best league season since 1952 last term, qualifying for a crack at the Europa League.
Kapustka turned out 32 times in his second full Ekstraklasa campaign for the Stripes before becoming the only Cracovia player handed a place in Adam Nawalka’s Poland 23 for France, with the fairytale extended by a start in his country’s first match against Northern Ireland.
The 19-year-old held up his end of the bargain, winning three tackles, firing off three shots and completing two dribbles during an 88-minute shift wide on the left in a 1-0 win.
Leicester icon Gary Lineker tweeted of the ‘deliciously talented’, two-footed teen’s all-action display, which included a rasping shot that needed quick hands from impressive Northern Irish goalie Michael McGovern.
Kapustka signed off his first international tournament with a busy 40-minute substitute appearance in the penalty shoot-out loss to Portugal, firing in a couple more shots and beating experienced pros both in the air and on the ground as Poland bowed out.
With the new Ekstraklasa campaign already ten days old Kapustka shows little signs of wear, coming off the bench twice to aid Cracovia’s quest for points, but his days at Jozef Pilsudski Stadium look numbered.
Club president Janusz Filipiak gave his bargaining position away a little cheaply with this quote earlier in the year:
“The transfer rumours are not something that will keep me awake at night. If a club offer €1.5m-€2m, I will advise Kapustka against such a move. Such an offer would mean they’re a weak club, and he can do better.”
If only he had waited until the Premier League’s mega-money summer 2016 rush, Filipiak might have moved a decimal place.
As it is, £5.25m doesn’t seem a wildly excessive figure for a teenage midfielder/winger playing regularly at any improving European top-flight team, never mind one with international tournament experience.
Leicester are 100/1 with bwin to win the Champions League in their first season at Europe’s top table, so they’ll need a bit more than precocious teenagers, but Kapustka looks a good bet to hold his own in such exalted company.