The big money of the winter transfer window was spent early when Viktoria Plzen opened their chequebooks to sign a quarter early, catching the rest of the division – especially Sparta Prague – with their pants down. Then the other clubs made their moves: Jablonec continued down their newly laid path of making well-thought out signings to improve their chances of turning the top two into a top three and Sparta simply waited, pounced and then brought the prodigal son back home.
With that in mind, here is an analysis of the biggest moves last Christmas.
Who has succeeded, who has failed and who hasn’t been given a chance?
To: Viktoria Plzen
Depending on who you converse with you’re likely to get differing views on the Bosnian forward’s time at Viktoria Plzen so far.
Since Pavel Vrba’s departure, Plzen’s front line has been a problematic area. Goals haven’t dried up – they are by far and away the Synot Liga’s highest scorers this season – but their expensive array of strikers haven’t really stood out – yet. Jan Chramosta looked to be the part, but then struggled, Stanislav Tecl showed flashes, but has largely disappointed this term, and Jan Holenda has always been the Plan B.
Thrust into the starting XI, Aidin Mahmutovic followed in that mould of flatter to deceive when staring down opposition goalkeepers.
There was a debut goal in a rout of Ceske Budejovice, but after that there was nothing until he scored twice last weekend against Brno.
However, goals are overrated.
What Mahmutovic has offered is a work-ethic that none of the others brought to the table. He harries, he presses; he opens space for marauding midfielders to exploit. He has become a crucial cog in Miroslav Koubek’s well-oiled machine and even though his return in front of goal appears to be disappointing, he has certainly hasn’t failed.
But unless he starts scoring soon, he’ll have go down as a disappointing purchase.
From: Odds (Norway)
To: Sparta Prague
What a waste.
Whatever the motives were to sign Shala from the Tippeligaen, they don’t appear to be sporting given at this moment in time.
Shala, an Albanian international, arrived on a free transfer and, reportedly, on a big money contract. He came with glowing recommendations and in Sparta’s mid-season training camps he appeared to impress. He was the final piece of the Vitezslav Lavicka’s jigsaw.
With Josef Husbauer‘s future at Sparta in question for the best part of half a year – he embarked on a six months “Will he, won’t he?” saga with Cagliari – a gaping hole in the centre of the Letna club’s midfield was beginning to open up. Injury and fitness worries saw Husbauer sit out parts of the autumn and to counter this Lavicka moved Borek Dockal in the centre, away from his usual right-wing position. This worked, initially, largely thanks to some brilliance form shown by Tiemoko Konate. But this never looked like it would be a long-term solution, that would be Shala.
But then Vaclav Kadlec arrived.
One okay (for the record, ‘okay’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’) fifty minute display against Pribram later and he was hauled off in favour of the prodigal son. Kadlec scored twice and Shala has barely been since.
The sad truth is that Shala may never get a chance.
From: Eintracht Frankfurt
To: Sparta Prague (loan)
Despite showing flashes of brilliance at Frankfurt, Kadlec was never able to maintain the form that saw him score three in three upon his arrival at the Commerzbank Arena. His return of six goals in twenty-five appearances isn’t bad, but it’s clear that the Bundesliga club expected more and unable to match Alexander Meier’s (or Haris Seferovic’s) form on a consistent basis, Frankfurt acquiesced to his desire for first-team football. The stars aligned, allowing Kadlec to head back to Letna.
Since his return to the Czech Republic it’s been a case of so far, so good. He has hit the ground running and looks an improvement on the fresh-faced youngster that packed his bags to leave home eighteen months ago. He’s making the same darting runs that give defenders nightmares, he’s been allowed a fair degree of freedom in the final third and he’s continued his love affair with the tattoo parlour. He also stepped up to bully Slavia when Sparta needed him to in the most recent ‘S’ derby. Importantly he has an extremely impressive return of five goals in eight fixtures.
For once, it’s hard to find fault with the twenty-two year-old. Whether he stays or goes come June is still to be decided. There’s a suspicion he’ll stay, however. And if he does, Sparta has to be moulded around him.
From: Banik Ostrava
Apart from scoring one absolute screamer in a development game, Jan Gregus failed to convince those in charge at the
Reebok Macron that he was worth a permanent deal. But since returning to Greater Silesia from Greater Manchester the industrious midfielder has looked a man transformed.
After (literally) running Banik Ostrava’s midfield singlehandedly for the majority of the autumn, Jablonec, looking to continue their summer spending spree, came calling. In the midst of their very own ‘everything must go’ winter sale that also saw Jan Baranek and Patrizio Stronati depart, Banik were happy to agree to the move.
The move from the Bazaly to Strelnice has gone smoothly and has seen the bust Slovak continue on his impressively upward trajectory. He has slotted into the Jablonec midfield with ease and looks extremely comfortable playing alongside the vastly experienced Tomas Hubschman. His presence has also allowed Silhavy to deploy a vertical threat through the centre too: Hubschman marshalls, Pospisil creates and the ever industrial Gregus gets up and down, crucially providing a potentially potent threat in front of goal. And he’s made his debut at international level, partnering Patrik Hrosovsky for Slovakia in their 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
A big thumbs up.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 22nd April 2015