Leicester's Euro 2016 prodigy Bartosz Kapustka enjoys remarkable rise
Here are five things to know about Leicester's new signing Bartosz Kapustka, the 19-year-old Polish prodigy who shone at Euro 2016.
He had a very fast rise to stardom
Few knew about "the little cabbage," as his name is amusingly translated from Polish, when he made his debut for Cracovia as a 17-year-old in March 2014. By September 2015, he was already considered the brightest young prospect in the country, and national team coach Adam Nawalka called him up.
Not only that -- he gave him the No. 10 shirt on his debut against Gibraltar. Kapustka was astonished to find his locker right next to star striker Robert Lewandowski, and that was a clear message of how well he was regarded. The midfielder scored just 11 minutes after replacing the legendary Jakub Blaszczykowski and a star was born.
"He is the most talented player I have ever worked with, with good head and good legs," former Cracovia coach Robert Podolinski said.
After a brilliant 2015-16, it was only logical that Nawalka made Kapustka an integral part of his plans in France. With Kamil Grosicki out injured for the Euro 2016 opener against Northern Ireland, the youngster started on the left flank of midfield and was the best player on the pitch in a 1-0 win.
His performances were less sparkling thereafter, but the impression had been made, while other rising talents like Piotr Zielinski and Karol Linetty didn't get a chance to shine. Kapustka's lucrative move to the Premier League was a natural step after such a remarkable rise to prominence.
He follows his heart
Kapustka was spotted by a several scouts when playing at the tiny Tarnovia Tarnow in his hometown in southern Poland. Legia Warsaw were very keen to sign him, and the midfielder even played in a few friendlies for them, scoring against Juventus. Bartosz chose Cracovia, however, and he felt it was the right thing to do.
"Tarnovia's shirts are similar to Cracovia's, and so are the traditions. In addition, Tarnovia graduates had a good role model in Mateusz Klich," Kapustka explained.
Klich, who moved from Tarnovia to Cracovia back in 2006, was an idol in the town, but his career didn't develop as expected, and he now plays at Kaiserslautern in the second division in Germany. Kapustka was proud to be compared to him a couple of years ago, but it is now clear that he has outgrown him.
In any case, the decision proved to be right because Kapustka got the opportunity to develop at Cracovia. This summer he felt that Leicester offered him the best chance of development. He used to dream of playing in Spain, and Ronaldinho has always been his favourite player, but the Foxes suited him most.
He is quite versatile
Kapustka is naturally right-footed, but has a decent left foot as well. During the Euros, he was used on the left flank in a 4-4-2 formation, which would certainly suit Claudio Ranieri as well. At Cracovia, however, he developed in a 4-2-3-1, and played both wide and centrally.
Cracovia coach Jacek Zielinski said: "I think he will develop into a playmaker in the future, but he has a better chance to play on the wing at Leicester. Last season he was playing as a false winger and cut into the middle."
Former coach Podolinski added: "Bartosz is a natural No. 10 or No. 8, but he can play as a defensive midfielder as well. I am convinced he can play on the wings and in any position in central midfield."
WP journalist Marek Wawrzynowski told ESPN FC: "Bartosz is very fast, has good technique and can play anywhere in attacking midfield. He is at his best when he has a lot of space ahead of him."
Therefore, the Pole can easily replace Marc Albrighton, but also cover for Riyad Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki if needed.
He has had a fair share of controversies
Kapustka is certainly no angel though. Sport.pl journalist Michal Zachodny told ESPN FC: "Kapustka is a huge talent who can potentially become a bright star, but he has to prove that he has the right mentality."
In March 2015, when Cracovia lost to the amateurs of Stargard in the Polish Cup, the youngster lost his head and tried to insult his opponents.
"Good for you to win, but tomorrow you will be forgotten, back to your day jobs, while we earn money by playing football," he reportedly said, before later apologising.
That wasn't his biggest error though: last winter he was involved in a brawl outside a nightclub. The midfielder was so embarrassed by his behaviour that he was afraid to call Nawalka, fearing the incident would cost him dearly. Luckily for him, the national team coach let him off with a warning.
It remains to be seen if he has learned his lesson. It is easy for a young player to lose touch with reality and his disciplinary record on the pitch could also be a bit worrying -- Kapustka received three yellow cards in just four games at Euro 2016.
He is not afraid of big occasions
He might be young, but Kapustka can become a leader, and Podolinski even considered naming him as Cracovia captain when he was 17. He is not afraid to make himself heard and isn't shy -- even in the national team when he is surrounded by veterans. Chances are that he will voice his opinions at Leicester as well.
During the Euros, he stated that his confidence grows when the stakes are high: "I like performing in front of a big audience. Important games don't paralyze me. I was never afraid to play against Legia," he said.
Kapustka will get plenty of big occasions to show his skills in the Premier League and the Champions League this season. Now it is time to prove that he is really up to it and that the hype has not been premature.
Michael Yokhin is ESPN FC's European football writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Yokhin