Howard Wilkinson would argue that one good signing from every two completed was a decent strike-rate for any manager and Leeds United’s recruitment of Swedes last summer was a 50-50 split.
The club struck gold with Pontus Jansson, uncovering a hard and accomplished centre-back by way of a loan from Torino, but Marcus Antonsson’s move from Swedish side Kalmar caused less of a splash. Antonsson started six league games last season and was loaned to Blackburn Rovers two weeks ago. The likelihood is that his career at Elland Road is finished.
Leeds, nonetheless, went back to Sweden to sign Pawel Cibicki before the transfer deadline, paying a reported £1.5m to Malmo. Malmo was – and still is, in spirit – Jansson’s first club and it was Jansson who took the time to talk Cibicki into the transfer. “I spoke with Pontus about Leeds and he said ‘come, it’s very good and we’ll take care of you’,” Cibicki said. “When it was (agreed) 100 per cent I said ‘okay, I’ll come no problem’.”
Cibicki is not unlike Antonsson in physique or style – albeit with the promise of more versatility up front – but his CV contains league titles with Malmo, experience of European football and international outings for Sweden’s Under-21s. Born in Malmo but into a Polish family, there is talk of Poland persuading Cibicki to nail his colours to their mast before he wins a senior cap with Sweden.
In England, Cibicki is confident that he will blend in as well as Jansson has at Elland Road. “I like the way we play football,” he said, having taken part in his first train sessions at the start of this week.
“I like to play on the floor, two or three touches and combinations, and I think I’m going to help to the team. We’ll see if I play. It’s up to the trainer (Thomas Christiansen), not me.
“I spoke with Pontus about Leeds and he said ‘come, it’s very good and we’ll take care of you’,”Pawel Cibicki
“I’m a striker but I can play in all four positions up front. I think I’m a quick and very intelligent football player and I hope to score goals here.” The messages from Jansson, who completed a permanent transfer from Torino in July on the back of a stellar season on loan, were unerringly positive. “I spoke to him a lot,” Cibicki said. “He said it’s a good team, a good city. Everything is good. He told me just to come so I thought ‘okay, I will.’”
Cibicki joined Malmo’s youth-team system at the age of 12 and broke into the first team before his 20th birthday in 2013.
Last season, with Malmo headed for another domestic title, he was sent on loan to Jonkopings Sodra, another Allsvenskan side who needed Cibicki’s 10 goals to fend off relegation.
The forward averaged close to a finish from every two appearances during that period and was back in Malmo’s line-up at the start of this season.
Leeds’ approach for him, when it came, came late in the transfer window, instigated by Chris Wood’s sale to Burnley. Earlier in the summer, and after producing four goals in the space of seven games for Malmo, he was rumoured to have been scouted by Ajax and Manchester United, though neither club tabled a formal bid for him.
“It was in the last week (that Leeds made their offer),” Cibicki said, “and from there it went very fast. I’d heard something before but I wasn’t sure if it was 100 per cent. Of course I was surprised because it’s a very big club but I’m very happy to be here.
“I’d been at Malmo since I was 12 years old so it was not very easy (to leave) but I want to try my best out of Sweden, in Europe, and I hope to do very well. It’s going to be difficult and I need to work hard because every player here is good. After that it’s up to the trainer if he wants to put me in or not. But I’m going to show how good I am and hopefully I’ll play.”
The advantage for Cibicki is the fact that the Swedish season is in full flow, leaving no question marks over his fitness. Malmo’s campaign began in April and the 23-year-old played 20 times before his move to Leeds.
“I’ve played a lot already,” he said. “I’m in good fitness and I just need to prove that I’m good in training.”
Internationally, Cibicki is already ticking boxes. Poland capped him at Under-19 and Under-20 level but Sweden muscled in last August by offering him an appearance for their Under-21s as Poland tried to do the same. Cibicki turned out for Sweden and, now 23, made his final appearances at that age level during this summer’s European Championship. The tournament was coincidentally staged in Poland.
The distinction between Polish and Swedish is not one Cibicki would make. “The truth is I feel both,” he said. “When I’m back at home with my family in Malmo we always speak Polish but Sweden is where I was born. I feel Polish but also Swedish. I think I will stay with Sweden if nothing happens.”