Lukas Podolski: Not just a kebab seller.

5 forgotten footballers we can’t believe are still playing in the Polish Ekstraklasa

Former Leeds United, Arsenal, Monaco, Nottingham Forest and Wolves players are among the forgotten footballers still turning out in the Polish Ekstraklasa this season.

You might only think about Polish clubs when they come up against more fancied opposition in the early stages of the Europa League and Conference League, but there are some big clubs, fervent fanbases and a competitive, unpredictable top flight – as well as a handful of familiar faces.

Without further ado, here are five memorable players who are still turning out in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2024.

Lukas Podolski

The Arsenal and FC Cologne cult hero is part of an exclusive club of players (also featuring Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) from the 2006 World Cup who are still playing professionally in 2024.

If you’ve ever visited one of Podolski’s world-famous kebab shops in Germany, you might have made the assumption that he’d hung up his boots and turned his attention to becoming a full-time doner entrepreneur.

It’s nearly nine years since he left the Emirates, and in that time he’s spent his time away from the spotlight in Turkey (Galatasaray and Antalyaspor), Japan (Vissel Kobe) and – since 2021 – Poland with Gornik Zabrze.

He’s notched three goals and three assists in 22 Ekstraklasa appearances this season, with Gornik Zabrze fifth and not mathematically out of the title picture.

Kamil Glik

Over a hundred caps for Poland and a stalwart of European football throughout the 2010s with Torino and Monaco, Glik is now winding down his career back in his home country with Cracovia.

The grizzled 36-year-old centre-back left Serie B side Benevento last summer to sign for the Krakow-based outfit, who are enduring a miserable campaign in the lower reaches of the Ekstraklasa table.

They look set to survive but avoiding relegation is not yet mathematically ensured.

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Barry Douglas

Regular Championship watchers will remember the Scotland international as an industrious if not all that flashy full-back that won promotion with Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves and Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Unfortunately for Douglas, he never tasted Premier League football, with both Leeds and Wolves moving him on once they’d made it up to the top flight.

The 34-year-old is currently in his second stint with Lech Poznan, having previously represented them between 2013 and 2016. In each of his spells he’s won the Ekstraklasa title, though this season he’s played more of a fringe squad role in their title challenge.

It looks as though Lech Poznan will fall just short this season, with surprise leaders Jagiellonia Białystok boasting a four-point lead with three matches left to play.

Yuri Ribeiro

Another Football League old boy, Benfica academy graduate Ribeiro made over 50 Championship appearances for Nottingham Forest a few years back – a part of the side that memorably, spectacularly, bottled a play-off place in 2019-20.

In 2021, he signed a three-year deal with Legia Warsaw. Last season he was memorably sent off just six minutes into the Polish cup final, though his team-mates spared his blushes by going on to grind out a 0-0 draw in his absence, winning on penalties.

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Tom Hateley

Born in Monte Carlo while his father Mark was leading the line for Arsene Wenger’s Monaco, defensive midfielder Tom never quite reached the heights of his England international old man, but he’s forged a respectable enough career in a path less trodden.

He came up through Reading’s academy but only made a handful of appearances in English football with Basingstoke and Tranmere, plying his trade north of the border with over 150 appearances for Motherwell between 2009 and 2013.

Over the past decade, Hateley has spent his career on and off in Poland, turning out for Slask Wrocław and now into his second stint with Piast Gliwice. In fact, he was a key part of the Piast Gliwice that punched above their weight to win their first and only Ekstraklasa title in 2018-19.