This is the most important summer for Polish football. Until the next one anyway

The last Polish team in the top 100 of the Elo ranking was Wisła Kraków in 2005. If you even want to think about going back to that level, you have to start winning now. And that will become increasingly difficult.

The Elo rating (, despite its funny name, is one of the most serious sources of statistics among football fans.

The points scored determine the position in the ranking. You get this for winning matches. The more points you get, the better your opponent beats. And for failures, especially against weaker ones, points are lost.

In this way we continuously see how the balance of power in Europe is changing.

As you can guess, Poland looks pale in this ranking.

The chart above shows how the best Polish club has performed over the years.

Which is the best? Since 1992, i.e. from the moment the Champions League was founded, 8 clubs have been in charge in Poland: Lech Poznań, Górnik Zabrze, Legia Warszawa, Widzew Łódź, Wisła Kraków, Piast Gliwice, Jagiellonia Białystok and Raków Częstochowa.

From Kasperczak to Berg

The highest ranking was Wisła Kraków by Henryk Kasperczak in 2003. Then she joined the group of 50 best clubs in Europe.

But Polish football has not set up a permanent camp of even 100 places. Wisła dropped out of the top 100 after losing the draw to Panathinaikos in 2005. And no Polish club has returned to this level. The closest was Henning Berg’s Legion, which caused a furore in the Europa League at the end of 2014. She had 1,590 Elo points, she was out of ten.

The decline in the importance of Polish clubs in Europe coincided with major reforms in European football. In 2004, the group stage was played for the first time in the UEFA Cup. Since then we only had 12 teams at this level. In the Champions League – one. This is an important turning point, because the group stage means more matches and therefore more ranking points.

In summary: 18 seasons, 36 group stages (LM + LE), 13 Polish clubs at this level. They are single shots followed by dry years instead of fat years. For comparison: Sparta Praga has played 12 times in the group stage of the European cups since 2004.

Worst possible draw

The recipe for improving this situation is simple. You have to win in cups as quickly as possible at all costs. Otherwise it will get worse. But here the Poles got in the way in the qualifying rounds.

Lech Pozna was the worst draw in the cups. It’s bad enough that the draw of Karabakh Agdam, and later FC Zurich, has reduced Kolejorz’s chances of playing in EVERY UEFA competition in the fall (i.e. in addition to the League, also the Europa League and the Conference League). ) have fallen.

Before the draws – according to Twitter user @DBabsur – Lech had an 88% chance of making it to the group stage of a competition in the fall. After the draws, these chances are only 75%.

The drop seems small, but something else matters. Before the first whistle sounded in the qualifying fight, the chance that Lech would not play in the group in the autumn had doubled.

The June draw for Lech Pozna has a drastic impact on the most important decisions for Polish football this season, as Kolejorz has the best chance of playing in the group stage.

Poland in the Hunger Games

Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite the failure of the Superliga project, the biggest clubs have restricted football. And Polish clubs find out the hard way in such situations.

No fewer than 26 of the 32 participants in the group stage of the Champions League are already known.

So the Polish champion has to fight for one of the remaining six places. And actually four, because so much was meant for the national champions. To determine the winners, as many as 4 two-legged matches are needed. Lots of games, few chances.

When Lech previously became the Polish champion in 2010 and 2015, 10 teams entered the qualifying round.

And when Wisła Kraków fought for the Champions League at the start of the 21st century, she tried to win one of the 16 places that would make the game in the group stage. Admittedly, there were often much stronger teams, such as Real Madrid or Barcelona, ​​but there were only 4 matches to play. And this was the most important in late August, not early July.

So, today we have twice as many games and four times fewer seats.

Today’s football forgives the big clubs a lot. The smaller margins of error are microscopic and must participate in the Hunger Games. One bad kick can practically kill an entire season.

Why could it be worse?

Forcing Polish club football to the absolute periphery is therefore an accelerating process.

Polish clubs are unable to reach the group stage in European cups as they start playing preliminaries earlier and earlier and face increasingly tougher rivals. And this is because they do not get good results in the cups.

It is a vicious circle accelerated by the inability of the strongest Polish clubs to permanently build a team.

The most talented Poles leave the strongest European competitions and important foreigners get good offers from richer than Polish clubs. As a result, transfer policies often focus on filling the gaps rather than replacing the weakest links. It is always reacting instead of planning.

The difficult position of Polish club football is also a result of years of neglect and treating the European cups as a “kiss of death” or a “cup adventure”, which is just dessert after a successful celebration in the previous season.

And for all Polish football, the summer with cup qualifications is no added value and no reward for a successful season. This is more important than a big tournament with the national team.

Those who regularly win in the preliminaries can get on the train that will take you to the middle shelf of European football.

And in the UEFA ranking, Ekstraklasa is in 28th place – between Hungary and Kazakhstan. In terms of points, however, we are closer to Andorra, which is 54th, than Turkey, which is in second ten.

If there is no drastic improvement in the results of Polish clubs in European cups, the situation could be even worse. And Ekstraklasa will forever become an absolutely peripheral competition.

As Stefan Kisielewski used to say: – The fact that we’re in the ass – it’s obvious. The problem is, we’re starting to get organized in that.

And we’ve been doing this since 2005, when Wisła was eliminated from Panathinaikos.


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