It happened some time. Nobody is quite sure when, but there was a moment when people expected greatness from Pavel Kaderabek every time he took to the field in Spartan or Czech red. A blizzard of action down the right, the Prague-born 23-year-old has been by far and away the best player in the Synot Liga for (at least) twelve months and if you believe the press he’s set to sign on Hoffenheim’s dotted line in the not too distant future.
From ploughing away in the Czech second division with Sparta’s reserves, from being loaned out to relegation-threatened Viktoria Zizkov, to being almost cast out on his ear, the right-back is set to be the focal point for the Czech Under-21s on home soil. He’s coming off the back of a truly outstanding season in which he was voted Synot Liga Player of the Year – by some distance. He has also claimed the right-back spot as his own for the senior Czech side, scored his first international goal and has become the most valuable commodity in the Czech Republic.
It’s been his year and this will be his summer. If you don’t know the name now, you soon will.
Who is Pavel Kaderabek?
Like many of Sparta Prague’s promising core, Kaderabek was born and raised in Prague and soon found himself in the Generali Arena club’s youth system where he’d work his way up through the age groups before finally graduating to their reserve side which, at the time, played in the Czech second tier. His debut for Sparta’s ‘B’ team came in 2010 and just six months later he was given a token twenty minute run out in a Champions League qualifier against Zilina, a tie that was already lost.
The trajectory had been forward but he hadn’t been fast-tracked or promoted through the ranks especially quickly – he was being eased in and helped upwards.
Already a regular for Sparta ‘B’ by this summer of 2011 he was sent on loan to Viktoria Zizkov for the start of the following season where he played eleven times in the league before returning that winter, only to be placed in the reserves once more. There he toiled away before finally breaking through into the Letna side’s senior ranks, but only as a bit-part player. If this were Football Manager, there’d be an asterisk next to his contract stating “to be used in a squad rotation system”.
At this point, it seemed his time at his boyhood club was up, though it’s important to note that he was seen very much as a right-winger at this point in time. He was functional, solid and very reliable – but nothing special. And probably not a good enough option going forward given that Sparta also had Tomas Prikryl, Jiri Skalak (who was on loan at Brno) and the golden boy Vaclav Kadlec who could play in that position on their books – not to mention others like Tiemoko Konate and Borek Dockal, who would arrive later that autumn, replacing the Frankfurt-bound Kadlec.
Kaderabek was staring at the scrapheap.
But then something happened. Whether it happened by luck or by chance is irrelevant. Vitezslav Lavicka, in the midst of a mini-defensive crisis, needed a right-back and there was this slightly stocky winger who was surplus to requirements from an attacking point of view. And so Lavicka and his coaching staff began to reposition Kaderabek, who then went on to start (and finish) every single league game for his club that season. When it was all said and done Pavel Kaderabek had been transformed from an average right-winger to the league’s best right-back. Sparta sealed the double and the Prague native ended the season with five goals to his name and double the assists.
As noted earlier, in the past twelve months he’s gone from strength to strength and ousted the extremely capable Theo Gebre Selassie from the Czech Republic starting XI.
In this modern age where a full-back is expected to be as competent going forwards as he is tracking back, then Pavel Kaderabek is very much the archetype of that positional trend. The only question to ask at the moment in time is ‘how good is he really?’ as we won’t know the answer until he makes the leap abroad.
His former life as right-winger remains very much part of his game and you suspect that he’s savvy enough to ease back into that role, or act as a bona fide wing-back, depending upon his manager’s whims.
He’s capable crossing from deep, but not truly outstanding. Instead, he comes into his own when marauding down the flank, quickly linking with those around him and deploying the afterburners. More often than not he’ll find himself heading towards the touchline with opponents trailing in his wake. More often than not he plays the right ball.
As you would expect given the nature of his game he’s physically very fit.
So far, it’s all been about the attacking part of his nature – so what about the bread and butter, nitty, gritty defensive work that occurs when on the back foot?
He has a higher successful tackle ratio (52%) than both Jose Romera (51.8%) and Frantisek Rajtoral (46.6%), the two other premier right-backs in the Czech league, and beats them into touch when it comes to ‘defensive tackles’ statistics as well (59% as opposed to 56% and 51% respectively).
The truth is, in his current surroundings there are no weaknesses to his game. He has the measure of opposing wingers and fullbacks in the Synot Liga and has barely foot a foot wrong in UEFA competitions for club and country thus far.
That’s not to say there aren’t some issues which could be worked upon. He isn’t the cleanest tackler in the world and you could say that aerially he can be a little vulnerable, which belies his stocky frame. A consistent step up in quality could also expose him positionally, given his licence and desire to roam forwards – but that impulse can be worked on.
Okay, his passing and crossing range might not be the best (just a 51% success rate for ‘long’ downfield and crossfield passes), but his interplay is more than adequate over short and medium distances.
By all accounts, he’s set to complete a move to Hoffenheim in the near future, though his current club may like to contest that statement whilst they try and extract as much money from the Baden-Wurttemberg outfit. Though Kaderabek has had his heart set on a switch to the Bundesliga for a while now, countless other European clubs should be cursing their scouting network for failing to register concrete and public interest in the defender. His agent has hinted that Southampton and others were vaguely keeping track, but Hoffenheim have been the only side to emerge as a viable, potential and likely suitor. Scouting networks should hang their heads in shame.
As with all Czechs who move north, Kaderabek will face questions about his ability to adapt to a more physical, pacier style of game. However he, unlike others we could name, should make the transition with relative ease: He’s obviously bulked up recently, but that hasn’t hindered his natural game or his fitness, and he has been taking German lessons for some time now. If anybody is going to take to the Bundesliga like a duck to water, it’ll be Pavel Kaderabek.
Further forward, who knows? There’s no reason why he can’t move up higher than Hoffenheim in a few years time, all due respect to ‘Hoppenheim’.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 17th June 2015