Twelve months ago a list of eleven players was published. Those eleven were followed from a distance over the course of the calendar year; their progression was monitored and their performances noted. Then some conclusions were drawn.
Now, CZEFootball presents a second list of eleven young footballers. As of today they some of the most promising and exciting prospects that the Czech Republic has to offer. This is the Jedenact (the Eleven) for 2015.
Some might move on to bigger clubs in more prosperous divisions and some might become reliable fixtures in the Synot Liga. Others might have a year to forget.
The criteria for selection were simple: The individual must have been born between 01.01.1994 and 01.01.1997, with preference given to those who were playing first-team football wherever they may be. This explains why Ajax’s Vaclav Cerny was overlooked once more (though expect to hear much more of the former Pribram forward in years to come), why Patrick Schick can blame David Lafata for his omission (he probably won’t even bat an eyelid, but nevermind) and why Roman Macek and, more agonisingly, Jakub Jankto and Lukas Buchvaldek weren’t on the list.
Club: Viktoria Zizkov (on loan from Viktoria Plzen)
You can spin statistics in a number of different ways, but Viktoria Plzen’s twenty year-old forward has already found the back of the net twenty times in the Juniorska Liga this season. But despite his prowess in front of goal, Cerny’s path to first-team football at the Doosan Arena has been blocked by big money signings.
And so he was going to be left off the list. But then fate intervened was he was snapped up, on loan, by Viktoria Zizkov. With a prolonged stint in a club’s starting eleven a real possibility, Cerny could well be one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. Given his exploits at youth level it is fair to say we expect him to rise up the FNL scoring charts.
But then what? That is the crucial question. Hopefully if he performs well in Prague then he can work his way into Miroslav Koubek’s thinking for next season, or at least have a couple of suitors vying for his signature.
Club: Sigma Olomouc
Sigma Olomouc’s academy has produced many a talent over the years and the 6’ 5” striker (insert something about him having good feet for a big man etc.) could well be the best graduate since a certain Tomas Kalas.
Chory has been eased into Sigma’s first-team – there’s no point rushing things like this – but from his performances during winter training camps and quotes from Leos Kalvoda suggest that he is going to be given the freedom of 2015 to make a name for himself. In many ways, Sigma’s relegation last season has given him a fertile ground to ply his trade before he (and the club) makes the inevitable step up. With a handful of league appearances to his name already and a hatful of goals, the next twelve months should, hopefully, be prolific.
Club: Banik Ostrava
Position: Left-back / Left-wing
If there is to be one poster boy for this group of eleven then that honour would be bestowed upon Banik Ostrava’s most prized asset, the versatile Daniel Holzer. No real explanation is required to justify his place on the list; he’s just very, very good and has begun to turn heads outside of his homeland.
With Banik selling Jan Gregus and Jan Baranek (and then Patrizio Stronati), it is clear that the struggling club desperately want to keep hold of their left sided starlet at all costs. But with that comes a level of responsibility, something which the nineteen year-old will surely have to deal with.
Over the past year he has ascended through the age ranks at international level and has the chance to make the U21 squad for this summer’s European Championships. All in all, 2015 should continue to be upwardly mobile and, probably, lead to a move away from Ostrava in due course.
Oh, and with Banik’s signing Luka Lucic, there’s every chance that Holzer will be given the chance to be an out and out winger once more.
I can’t wait.
Club: Mlada Boleslav
Position: Centre back
The latter half of 2014 has been very encouraging.
The defender, nineteen, first made a Mlada Boleslav teamsheet back in 2013. Since then however, he’s had to bide his patience. This summer though he was thrust in at the proverbial deep end by Karol Jarolim. Handed his full debut in the 2-1 victory over Siroki Brijeg in the Europa League, Hulka then had to wait a while before being brought back into the fray. He returned as a half-time substitute in September, but has since started every league game of his club.
Naturally he has shown enough to warrant his inclusion on this list. Aside from one display against Viktoria Plzen (when the entire defence was culpable) he has rarely been outclassed by opposing strikers and he has slotted straight into the Czech u20s. Not a bad 2014 by any means.
Club: Slovan Liberec
There’s no ducking the obvious: Slovan Liberec were woeful in 2014.
Despite all the off-field troubles, mounting injury lists and firesales, Ondrej Kolar has emerged from the past twelve months with his reputation intact. For a goalkeeper – and an inexperienced one it must be said – that’s nothing short of a miracle.
On the final day of last season Kolar made his debut for Slovan, keeping goal in a 1-1 draw with Sigma Olomouc that would send the Andruv Stadion club down. After starting this campaign off on the sidelines, he soon ousted the more established Lukas Hrosso and has been ever present for Liberec since mid-August. He has also made a few appearances for the Czech Republic at youth level.
The only worry is Liberec’s much needed change in management could see him relegated to being Hrosso’s understudy once more. Time – as they say -will tell.
We all know what life with Pribram entails. You work hard to be noticed as a teenager, impress a few foreign scouts and then earn a move abroad, normally to the Netherlands. Except Mateju’s deal with PSV was for twelve months and he, obviously, hasn’t stayed in Eindhoven.
Mateju though is talented. He has long been mentioned in the same breath as Vaclav Cerny and Dominik Masek and whilst he may be in the Czech Republic, he is in a place where – theoretically at least – he should be able to get first-team minutes under his belt. Sadly that hasn’t happened this season for the versatile defender. Even though he has made his debut this term, action on the pitch has been limited. Hopefully with the departures of Martin Sus and Fernando Neves this winter, that changes sooner rather than later.
A regular international at youth level, Mateju has the skillset to succeed. The only worry is that at Pribram shrinking violets can often get overlooked.
Masek has long been hyped as one of the most-promising youngsters that the Czech Republic has produced in a while. But whilst he has impressed in the Hamburg system and represented his country with distinction, the time has come for him, we feel, to fly the nest and leave the relative comfort of Die Rothosen’s setup. First-team football looks slim at the Imtech Arena in the immediate future and so the former Pribram midfielder should be looking elsewhere. Recent reports suggest that Groningen have a long-held interest in him.
At nineteen Masek has looked a cut above the majority of his teammates at youth international level. He’s capable of playing anywhere in the three behind a lone striker and has been, at times, deployed deeper when turning out for Hamburg II. He’s immensely talented, but this year will be crucial.
Hopefully, he’ll be turning heads in 2015.
Club: Varese (on loan from AC Milan)
Position: Centre-back / Right-back
As noted in his 2014 report, last year was all about finding the right level for Stefan Simic. Firmly entrenched in the Varese first-team and – by all accounts – proving himself to be an accomplished performer in Serie B, we’d like to see much more of the same over the next twelve months as he becomes an established presence in Italy and, eventually, the Czech Under 21s.
Club: Austria Vienna
Stronati is somebody who has been on watchlists for a while now, but has never merited inclusion due to a lack of playing time, a few inconsistent performances here and there and a general lack of faith invested in him by managers. However everything changed this year as Stronati partnered the very highly rated Jan Baranek in the heart of the Banik defence, looking every bit his equal.
The Italian born Czech has represented his country at U19 and U20 age level and, was the subject of interest from an unnamed Belgian club during the winter. However Banik said no, and stated that they wouldn’t be any further sales after the departures of Jan Baranek and Jan Gregus. True to their word, Stronati was sold to Austria Vienna not long after.
Position: Centre-back / Defensive midfielder
Ladislav ‘Laco’ Takacs made his debut for Teplice last March, coming on a last-minute substitute against Slavia. He had a repeat cameo the week after against Jihlava and then once more against Pribram and had to wait until the final game of last season to get his full debut.
This season, however, Takacs has exploded out of the blocks at a rapid rate. With half of the campaign in the books the eighteen year-old defender has cemented himself in Teplice’s back line and has worked his way – rightly – into Jakub Dovalil’s Czech under 21 squad. It has been a rise of meteoric proportions.
Takacs looks like he has the ability to do everything, and he’s more than comfortable shielding a back four, a job he did to aplomb against Germany in November.
Travnik has nearly fifty appearances for Slovacko to his name and made his full debut back in 2012. This season he featured eleven times; only Libor Dosek and Lubos Kalouda have scored more goals than him and only Jaroslav Divis has laid on more assists. He is enjoying his most productive campaign in Uherske Hradiste so far. He has also been promoted to the Czech u21s. Yet, mysteriously, he is still under the radar.
The main reason is that he isn’t especially flashy. But Travnik is slowly becoming a no-frills type of player who gets the job done and links attack with defence without breaking sweat. It might be presumptuous to say it, but if he continues at this rate Viktoria Plzen probably should be chasing him.
It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop under the tutelage of Svatopluk Habanec, especially with Marek Havlik (who just missed out) as competition. He could, quietly, become one of the best in the country. Time will tell.
As always the list is subjective and favouritism occasionally does come into play. This isn’t the definitive list so please feel free to start a debate, take this entire project to task and complain. Every comment will be heard.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 3rd February 2015