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Player: Kaziu Deyna
City appearances: 43
World Cup: Argentina '78
There was expectation and excitement when City announced that Kaziu Deyna would be signing for Manchester City after the 1978 World Cup.
This was a man revered as a hero in his homeland having won 97 caps for Poland and regarded as one of Europe's best forwards.
A gold medallist at the 1972 Olympic Games and a silver medal winner at the 1976 Games, Deyna finished third in the 1974 Ballon d'Or award, being placed behind Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.
He’d captained his country during one of the most spectacular World Cup final tournaments ever at Argentina ’78 and now the Blues were about to sign their first true European superstar.
But there was reams of red tape to cut through before Kaziu arrived at Maine Road.
Deyna was a captain in the Polish army and City had to first secure his release from military service, then agree a deal with his club Legia Warsaw and, after lengthy negotiations, a fee of around £100,000 was agreed.
It wasn’t until November that the graceful Pole finally signed for City, but Kaziu’s stay in Manchester was not quite what the City fans had hoped for.
Deyna wasn’t match-fit when he arrived, and it was a further fortnight before he made his league debut at home to Ipswich Town.
His appearance added around 6,000 to the Maine Road gate in a game the Blues lost 2-1, but at least the contribution he made proved enough to convince the fans that he was indeed worth the wait.
Deyna missed the next game but returned for the match after that – another 2-1 defeat, this time at QPR – before picking up an injury that ruled him out of the next four games.
He returned for another home defeat, this time to Chelsea, and he was then relegated to the bench for the 3-0 win at Spurs.
It wasn’t until the final eight games of the campaign that he returned to the side fully fit and began to show the undoubted class that had made him a legend in his homeland.
His late stooping header against Middlesbrough was his first goal for City and by the end of the campaign, he’d bagged six goals in six games and helped the Blues avoid the drop.
Against Aston Villa in the final match of the season, he bent a free-kick over the wall into the top corner of the net and received a rapturous ovation from the Maine Road crowd, who had, quite frankly, never seen the like before.
Deyna had the ability to always seem to have time on the ball and he had a grace and poise all-too-rarely seen on these shores at that time when the number of overseas players could be counted on one hand.
The City fans loved him because he was capable of playing beautiful football and there were great expectations for his second season at Maine Road.
Sadly, injuries disrupted the 1979/80 campaign for Deyna who would play just 21 times, scoring six goals.
When he did get into his stride, he scored goals and also made them for team-mates. His stunning volley against Borussia Monchengladbach in the second leg of City’s UEFA Cup quarter-final showcased his ability, but question marks were raised about his fitness.
With Tony Book and Malcolm Allison sacked in October 1980, John Bond took over and within a short space of time, Deyna was on his way out of Maine Road and off to North America where he joined the San Jose Earthquakes.
He appeared, briefly, in the 1981 movie ‘Escape to Victory’ alongside the likes of Mike Summerbee, Pele, Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine.
There was no doubt Deyna was a world-class talent and he is still revered in his homeland as one of Poland’s greatest-ever stars.
He was one of the pioneers for the thousands of overseas footballers that would follow, but he remains the only Polish player to have played for City.
Tragically, Kaziu died in a car crash on September 1, 1989 in San Diego California. He was only 41-years-old.
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