Poor Tomasz Kuszczak. Not only is his name nigh on unspellable, at least without Wikipedia’s aid, but the Polish goalkeeper has become a last bastion of a modern-day slavery. Trafficked from his place of birth in Krosno Odrzańskie, Poland to Old Trafford, Kuszczak has been asked, no, compelled to play for the world’s most supported football club, Manchester United, on no less than 61 occasions.
That Kuszczak has endured this horror five seasons long, comforted only – for what little comfort money can bring – with compensation of £25,000 per week only adds to the indignity of it all. No wonder that it proved all too much for the Pole, who has finally cracked after being denied a loan move to Leeds United.
“I’ve become a slave to Manchester. I’m frustrated but I don’t want to slander or criticise Ferguson,” said the 29-year-old stopper, before criticising and then slandering Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It’s not my style. I’ve talked to Ferguson recently. I asked him to let me leave the club now, before the January transfer window. I told him I want to play and get back into the national team, because Euro 2012 is just around the corner – but it seems he doesn’t care. The possibility of a two-month loan to Leeds United came up two weeks later. The club blocked it. It was a glimmer of hope for me. It would have reminded the Poland manager about me – but I didn’t get the club’s approval. I have respect for Ferguson because, for me, he’s a great manager, but I hope he will let me go in January.”
Fortunately for Kuszczak, whose contract runs to June 2012, there is almost nobody at Old Trafford – fans, players, coaching staff, manager or tea lady – that wants any different for the big-mouthed Pole, who has become increasingly vocal in his failure to land a more permanent role at United. Five years after joining the Reds from West Bromwich Albion, Kuszczak’s inability to land the number on spot in Ferguson’s side has surprised few. Save for a brief spell two years ago, when Edwin van der Sar took time off to spend with his sick wife, Kuszczak has rarely looked a man with United-calibre talents.
Moreover, now relegated to fourth choice behind David de Gea, Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos, Kuszczak’s bizarre decision to self-publicise a desired move to Leeds is unlikely ingratiate the ‘keeper with anybody at the club. Least of all his manager, who has never reacted well to being embarrassed in the media. It is a fact Jaap Stam will recall well.
Yet, this is a sad end for a stopper whose talent was good enough to take him to Old Trafford, but not to propel the former Hertha Berlin player ahead of van der Sar in the pecking order. Ferguson’s decision to recruit first Lindegaard, and then De Gea, was the final nail in Kuszczak’s United career. In that there is some sympathy; United reportedly asked for £4 million in the past summer. It is a fee that would have represented a profit on a player, who has never been more than a reserve, and less than a year to run on his contract.
However, with three Premier League winners’ medals – each via special dispensation – two League Cups, three FA Community Shields, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, Kuszczak will carry away more silverware than a man of his limited talents would normally. It is a good haul, especially for a player who has completed just one full season in an entire career, and that was just 28 games.
At international level Kuszczak was selected by coach Franciszek Smuda for friendly matches against Romania and Canada last year, but is considered far from first choice. Indeed, the player’s 10 caps have been spread over eight years. With Arsenal duo Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański available, it is unlikely Kuszczak was ever going to start Poland’s attempt to win Euro 2012 when it kicks off in Warsaw on 8 June 2012, even had a move to Leeds materialised.
Having insulted club and manager, Kuszczak’s fate is now out of his own hands. At least until his contract runs down and the 29-year-old can negotiate a free transfer away from his personal hell.
Tomasz Kuszczak Facts
Hertha BSC – 2001–2004 – 0 appearances
West Bromwich Albion – 2004–2006 – 35 appearances
Manchester United – 2007– present 61 appearances
Poland national team – 2003-present – 10 appearances
DFB-Ligapokal: 2001, 2002
Premier League: 2007, 2008, 2011
League Cup: 2009, 2010
FA Community Shield: 2007, 2008, 2010
UEFA Champions League: 2008
FIFA Club World Cup: 2008