Club: Cracovia (Poland)
One of the youngest veterans in Slovakia’s Fortuna Liga, Jaroslav Mihalík made over 100 top-flight appearances for Žilina by the tender age of 21. Established at youth international level, the winger – capable of playing on the both left and right flank – constantly provided goals and was widely recognised as being very, very good.
Nobody knew it would end up like this.
His switch to Slavia last winter was widely acknowledged as a good decision; a nice step up before going on to move to a bigger, better and a more financially lucrative league. Likewise, many thought that the Vršovice side had acted smartly in their decision to buy the Slovak winger and they’d get a couple of seasons out of him before cashing in and making a tidy profit.
Smiles and handshakes all around, you would think….
With Dušan Uhrin Jr in charge at Eden at the time, Slavia were generally geared up to play in a fairly conventional 4-4-2. And with Milan Škoda and Muris Mešanović amongst the roster of forwards, there was always going to be a totemic presence leading the line for the wingers to find on a regular basis. It appeared to be the perfect set up for somebody like Jaroslav Mihalík to thrive in.
The Slovak slotted into first-team relatively quickly but did take a couple of weeks to get going, as he took some time to settle and suffered a string of minor yet niggling injuries.
But once he got going, Mihalík ended the 2015-16 campaign in scintillating form, recording five assists in the final five matches of the season and reminding everybody just why Slavia Prague had pushed so hard for his signature.
Over the summer, Slavia once again spent heavily. In came Gino van Kessel, Ruslan Mingazow and Dušan Švento, amongst many others. Because of this spending spree, the statement laid down from above was clear: Slavia Prague would once again challenging for the Czech league title. Failure would not be an option.
This sudden influx left Uhrin Jr stuck between a rock and a hard place. He needed time to get another newly assembled side to gel; time he was not afforded and after a sticky start, he was relieved of his duties.
During this period, Mihalík, like many of his teammates, struggled for form. He was initially dropped from the starting lineup in order to accommodate new signings and when he was given his chance, he failed to impress. Whereas before he had the security of being far-and-away the club’s best right-winger, now he had to contend with a plethora of competitors, some of whom were shunted out wide just to get used.
Any hope that Jaroslav Šilhavý would restore Mihalík to the starting eleven was almost immediately quashed. Despite coming off the bench against Teplice and changing the complexity of the game, scoring one and setting up another, you got the impression that Šilhavý never really trusted the winger. And after trying (and failing) with a couple of formations, the former Liberec and Jablonec manager settled on a formation that relied more on flooding the centre with creative types and less on attacking down the flanks with wingers.
Just like Tomáš Souček, it became clear that Jaroslav Mihalík was a square peg in a round hole and that Eden was not the paradise everybody hoped it would be.
But let’s end this on a positive. Throughout the year, Mihalík has played every competitive game for the Slovak Under-21s. He’s a regular in an exciting-looking Slovakia side, so there’s that – at least.
Whilst wrapping up this review, news broke that Mihalík had been loaned out to the Polish side Cracovia for the rest of the season.
As disappointing as it is not to have seen the 22-year-old at anywhere near his best, the move is best for all involved: Mihalík will likely be a first-team regular in Kraków and the move gives him the opportunity to start anew (which is something he clearly needs if his interview with Deník Sport is anything to go by); Slavia will get some wages off their books and Jaroslav Šilhavý has one less player to worry about shoehorning into his side.
Slavia will most likely be a blip. Jaroslav Mihalík will do just fine in Poland.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 20th January 2017