Michal Karbownik’s Brighton struggles go on after not being in pre-season camp
Michal Karbownik has not travelled with Brighton's first-team squad to Portugal. The 21-year-old is among a group of Albion players who appear not to have been asked to come out to southern Europe for their pre-season training camp. This may throw fresh doubt on the Polish international's future at the Sussex side.
The youngster swapped Legia Warsaw for the Seagulls in October 2020 before being loaned back to his old club until January 2021. The then 19-year-old, who was previously a reported target for the likes of Celtic, Tottenham, Barcelona, and Real Madrid, made his Brighton debut in an encouraging display against Leicester City in the FA Cup a month later. READ MORE: Season hints, injury blow and absentees: Three things spotted in Brighton's Portugal training
Since then, he has played just once more for the club and endured a tough loan spell at Olympiacos in the 2021/22 campaign. Karbownik made just nine appearances for the Greek giants and ended up playing more games, 12, for their reserve team. At the end of May, he announced he no longer wanted to play as a full-back and favoured a central midfield role instead.
He got his wish on Saturday as he played the first 45 minutes of Albion's pre-season friendly against Union SG in a more central position. But the fact he is not in Portugal and the Seagulls have Moises Caicedo, Enock Mwepu, Alexis Mac Allister, Pascal Gross, Steven Alzate as some of their quality midfield options, means Karbownik's time with Brighton could be drawing to a conclusion. So why has it gone wrong for him? Sussex Live spoke to Polish football expert, Ryan Hubbard, for more information.
"Karbownik has talked openly about his disappointing spell in Greece, and particularly of his mental struggles with both adapting to life in Piraeus and his lack of playing time. He has even mentioned to journalists in Poland his loss of enjoyment in playing football - particularly in the full-back position in which he was signed for both Brighton and Olympiacos," he said. "In discussion with Polish YouTube channel Foot Truck, Karbownik mentioned how he 'wants to have fun playing', and that in defence he '[doesn't] enjoy the game so much'.
With his agent, he has also talked about his next move; and how any decisions about a loan or permanent transfer will be driven by the club's willingness to play him in the centre of midfield." Karbownik's situation is in fairly stark contrast to fellow Pole Jakub Moder, who has slotted in nicely at the south coast side. Before suffering a serious knee injury in April, the 23-year-old made 32 appearances last term.
But according to Hubbard, Moder has been the "exception rather than the rule" when it comes to Polish players in the Premier League. "It's not surprising to see a Polish youngster struggle abroad, especially after moving at such a young age. We've seen it so often in the past: Bartosz Kapustka's disappointing spell at Leicester City being one of the most recent examples," he said.
"In fact, the impressive performances of Jakub Moder have probably been an exception rather than the rule. Some players naturally adapt to life abroad, and particularly to a different style of football, than others. Karbownik, it seems, is one of those who have found it difficult.
That's not to say he won't be able to adapt in the future and become a top player, but perhaps a refresh might do him some good." So, what now for Karbownik? Could he return to Legia?
Is another loan on the cards? He still has two years left on his contract but Brighton may find it difficult to recoup the amount they paid for him nearly two years ago. Either way, Hubbard says the trajectories of Karbownik and Moder have been worlds apart.
"Fans in Poland still see him as a huge talent. His performances for the Poland U21 team have been decent over the last year, especially considering his lack of first-team football at Olympiacos. Unfortunately for him, it's natural to compare his time at Brighton with that of Moder.
Even when the pair joined the club, Moder was probably regarded as the bigger talent; but their trajectories so far could not have been more different," said Hubbard. When asked if the best option was to part ways, he replied: "Potentially, but it's not as clear-cut as just letting him go. Brighton would probably have to sell him on at a loss, and it's difficult to see who exactly would be clamouring to secure his signature.
Legia Warsaw are, perhaps, one side who would be willing to see him back in their colours. "Their Sporting Director, Jacek Zielinski, has not ruled out an attempt to bring him back to Poland but, especially with Legia missing out on European football and the windfall which comes with it, at this stage a permanent transfer would be unlikely. Another loan, therefore, might suit all parties.
Hopefully, then, he can get back to enjoying his football and kickstart his development." An interesting summer lies ahead for Karbownik... READ NEXT:
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