Here’s what you need to know about Spezia defender Jakub Kiwior, who is set to join Arsenal on a permanent €25m deal.
The 22-year-old joined Spezia for just €2.2m from MSK Zilina in the summer of 2021 and has established himself as one of the most exciting centre-backs in Serie A.
The Poland international has been closely monitored by Juventus and Milan during the last few months. According to Italian media, Spezia rejected a €22m bid from Borussia Dortmund only a couple of days ago.
Kiwior is a product of GKS Tychy Academy, a Poland club that he left in 2016 to join Anderlecht’s youth sector.
His career continued in Slovakia, first at Podbrezova and then at MSK Zilina, the same club from where Milan Skriniar arrived in Italy thanks to Riccardo Pecini, a former sporting director for Sampdoria and Spezia.
He is a very solid centre-back, 1,89m tall, so don’t expect him to build up from the back as many modern central defenders do. He is an old-style central defender, strong in man-marking and it’s no coincidence that two Serie A giants had been scouting him for a long time.
He made his Serie A debut at the Stadio Meazza in a 2-0 loss against Inter last season, under former Nerazzurri midfielder Thiago Motta.
The ex-Italy international had also tried Kiwior in central midfield during Spezia’s training sessions. However, after the game with Inter, Motta admitted that Kiwior is a ‘natural centre-back.’
“He didn’t play much at the beginning, but he has trained well, we needed a player who would give us more balance and we found it in Jakub,” added Motta.
“We also tried him in midfield, he is a smart player and works very hard. It’s a difficult role, but he manages to do it. He gives us balance and it’s what we were looking for.”
Kiwior played 15 matches with Poland’s U21 squad before making his debut with the senior team in June 2022. He has nine international caps to his name, including four at the World Cup in Qatar, where he started every match for his country.
His compatriot Robert Lewandowski was so impressed by his performances last summer, that he reportedly suggested Barcelona sign him only a few months ago.
The former Bayern Munich forward publicly praised Kiwior during the international break in June.
“The guy has great potential,” he said.
“During the warm-up of the game with The Netherlands, I thought: ‘Who is this guy?’ Then, during the match, I realised that he is extraordinary.”