Manchester United and Chelsea are among a number of clubs across Europe keeping an eye on Polish defender Sebastian Walukiewicz, who is currently plying his club trade at Cagliari.
Lazio, Inter, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid are others on the list of suitors of the Pole, who made his international debut in October.
90min revealed the interest in the 20-year-old earlier this week.
Here’s a look at various things fans need to know about this emerging talent.
1. Meteoric Rise
Walukiewicz was only 18 when Cagliari bought him in January 2019. He spent the remainder of that campaign in Poland, helping Pogon Szczecin to a mid-table Ekstraklasa finish, and made the switch to Italy that summer.
The youngster was initially part of the first-team squad without playing more than occasionally. He spent much of the early campaign on the bench, unsurprising given his age and lack of experience – his league debut even ended in a 4-0 thrashing by Juventus.
But Walukiewicz fought his way into the Cagliari XI permanently when the suspended season resumed in June. They had gone 12 Serie A games without a win prior to his first real run in the side and were without a clean sheet since November. And although the slide down the table continued, results did improve overall and the 20-year-old has kept his place in 2020/21, starting every game so far.
International recognition came when he made his senior international debut for Poland this month.
2. On the Radar for Years
Even though it was Cagliari who took the plunge and signed Walukiewicz in 2019, reports towards the end of 2018 suggested that a number of top clubs were already aware of him then.
Arsenal were believed to have had scouts watch the defender at that time, while Liverpool and Barcelona were said to have also been keeping an eye on him. Southampton, a club with a strong record of developing young talent, were linked as well.
3. Long-Term Contract
Cagliari hold the immediate power when it comes to Walukiewicz’s future. He is under contract until 2023, a deal which includes the option of being further extended by a year.
Although a sale is ultimately inevitable for a club of their standing, they are not under pressure to accept a low-ball approach from potential suitors.
4. ‘Majestic in the Air’
‘Majestic in the air’ is how Cagliari described Walukiewicz when they announced the completion of his transfer from Pogon Szczecin in January 2019.
Despite the trend for clubs to play possession-based football out from defence, aerial prowess remains one of the key attributes any elite defender must have. No club with an aerially commanding centre-back should be too vulnerable to set-pieces.
5. Stature & Style of Play
Standing at around 6’2, Walukiewicz is a similar height to Rio Ferdinand or Giorgio Chiellini and a couple of inches shorter than Virgil van Dijk.
His aerial prowess has already been covered, but Walukiewicz is also considered to be confident with the ball at his feet, which is another major tick as top clubs search for all-round defensive talents. Being able to bring the ball out of defence to start attacks is another valued skill.
His passing accuracy in Serie A this season is just shy of 90%, while he performed two dribbles in action for Poland against Italy this month and averaged close to one dribble per game in Serie A last season.
Stats via WhoScored