* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Grzegorz Lato (left) and Brazil's Marinho Chagas at the World Cup 1974 in Munich
Grzegorz Bolesław Lato (born 8 April 1950 in Malbork) is a former Polish footballwinger, and coach. He was the leading scorer at the 1974 World Cup. Lato's playing career coincided with the golden era of Polish football, which began with Olympic gold in Munich in 1972 and ended a decade later with third place at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, a repeat of the Poles' impressive finish in 1974 in Germany. He is the only Polish player ever to win the Golden boot at a World Cup.
For Poland, Lato has been capped a record 100 times between 1971 and 1984; he scored 45 goals, which is second-best in national history behind Włodzimierz Lubański. Other than the 1974 World Cup, where he scored seven goals, he also participated in the 1978 and 1982 tournaments. In the 1974 World Cup, he won the Golden Shoe after scoring 7 goals throughout the tournament. In a difficult Group 4, the Poles made an early impression, defeating Argentina by a score of 3–2, with two goals from Lato, the first being scored after just seven minutes of play. Buoyed by that success, Poland then posted the tournament's second largest win with a 7–0 defeat of Haiti (the largest being Yugoslavia's 9–0 demolition of Zaire), with Lato weighing in with another two strikes. In the second round, the Stal Mielec-based striker was even more instrumental, scoring winning goals against Group B rivals Sweden (1–0) and Yugoslavia (2–1). And while even Lato was powerless to prevent an agonising 1–0 defeat by Germany in Frankfurt the in-form marksman was able to propel his team to third place courtesy of the only goal in the play-off victory over Brazil. He was then known as Poland's favorite player. While playing for Poland, he helped them win several titles.
After a second-round finish at the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, where Lato scored goals against Tunisia and Brazil, the striker earned another bronze medal in Spain in 1982, where he would record his last strike for his country against Peru. Lato officially retired from international football in April 1984 after collecting his 104th cap against Belgium. He ended his career with the Polish national team with 45 goals – a record that stands to this day – and a total achieved accompanied by an impressive ratio of 0.43 goals per game. Lato had also won the gold medal for Poland at the 1972 Summer Olympics and the silver medal in 1976.
Lato spent most of his club career with Stal Mielec and led them to Polish Premier League championships in 1973 and 1976, as well as an appearance in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in the 1975–76 season. He earned the distinction as the league's top goalscorer in 1973 (13 goals) and in 1975 (19 goals). Lato spent most of his career with the club, where he made 272 appearances and scored 111 goals in the Polish Premier League. The Polish league prohibited player transfers abroad until a player reached the age of 30, which hindered Lato's opportunities to display his talent on a regular basis for a larger audience across the continent. Lato had turned down a personal invitation from Pelé to play for the New York Cosmos, and in 1980, he began playing for the Belgian club K.S.C. Lokeren. He had also played in Mexico during the 1982–83 season for Atlante F.C., where he amassed 15 goals. He also spent some time in Canada, playing for Polonia Hamilton in the mid-1980s in an amateur league in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
From 2001 to 2005 Lato, as a member of Democratic Left Alliance, was a senator in Poland. In October 2008 he was elected President of the Polish FA (PZPN). In 2011 he said in an interview, that if Poland isn't promoting Euro 2012 to quarterfinal will hand in his resignation from the position of President of the Polish FA. 19 June 2012 he said he wouldn't hand in his resignation.
Blessed with remarkable acceleration, the talented right-winger consistently lived up to the high expectations placed before him whenever he was given the opportunity to compete at the international level. Lato was not renowned as a crowd pleaser, but rather as a consistent and complete team player. His uncanny awareness on the playing field was ostensibly what allowed him to achieve great success at the international and club levels. He could also play as a forward.