Feb 05 2011

Slovakia: 10 to Watch

One of the most satisfying aspects of watching football regularly in a country like Slovakia is that you have the opportunity to spot players with potential before they become known to a wider audience. It’s a pleasure that has lessened slightly over the last few years since some of the country’s most precocious talents, Marek Hamšík and Vladimir Weiss Junior among them, have joined the academies of big clubs in Europe’s major leagues at a very young age. But there are still plenty of very good footballers in the Corgoň Liga, some of whom attract considerable attention from abroad. Šport last week published a list of 10 Slovakia-based players considered most likely to be of interest, along with an estimation of how much each might be worth on the transfer market.

The top three are players we’ve discusssed in various contexts on Britskibelasi before ; Momodou Ceesay and Babatounde Bello of Žilina and Karim Guédé of Slovan Bratislava. Ceesay owes his inclusion almost exclusively to his performances and spectacular goals in the Champions League qualifying rounds, since when he’s been, to put it mildly, inconsistent (infuriating is my preferred adjective). Not many would dispute Bello’s or Guédé’s place on the list ; a midfield containing both would be pretty formidable in better leagues than the Corgoň Liga.

Next are three players I’ve very much enjoyed watching over the last 18 months or so. Slovan’s Erik Grendel is the captain of the Slovakia Under 21 team and is a highly skillful  midfielder with the vision and technique to play defence-splitting passes.

Grendel scoring for Slovan v Red Star last summer

Ružomberok’s Tomáš Ďubek, a playmaker with an especially good left foot, was sometimes favourably compared as a youngster with Hamšík. His development then slowed somewhat but his form this season, in a largely disappointing Ružomberok side, has been excellent. Issa Koro Kone of Spartak Trnava is another who has begun to fulfil his potential this season. He can play either as a striker or out wide and is fast and tricky, offering his team a great outlet when they are on the defensive but looking to counter-attack. If he could add composure to his finishing, he would be a very attractive proposition for a bigger club.

Ivorian Kone

Then comes Mario Pečalka. I feel I can pass him over this time, having already written at length about him when Hapoel Tel Aviv seemed on the verge of landing his signature last week. Pečalka is followed by Prešov’s Jakub Diviš, the only goalkeeper on the list. Slovak keepers are all the rage at the moment and Diviš’s recent loan move to Hibernian sees him join three of his compatriots and fellow custodians in the Scottish league. The list is completed by two players who had pretty much escaped my notice. They are Senica left-back Filip Lukšík and Banská Bystrica’s young utility player Jakub Brašeň. Of course, one of the nice things about a newspaper feature like this is that it does give you ideas about who to look out for in future and I’ll certainly have my eyes open for Lukšík and Brašeň when their teams next face Žilina.

The other beauty of this feature is that it makes you think of players you would have included if you’d had to write it yourself. There are three I would definitely have found room for. First is Bystrica’s captain and central midfielder Viktor Pečovský. He is the man who keeps one of the league’s most attractive teams functioning. He’s good at finding space for himself, does the simple things effortlessly and can spot and play a killer pass. It was good to hear this week that national team coach Vladimir Weiss Senior recognises these qualities and has included Pečovský on the reserve list for next week’s friendly in Luxembourg.

Pecovsky in action for Dukla

Then there is Milan Pavlovič, a holding midfielder with Vion Zlaté Moravce. He is an inelegant looking player but the fact that Vion allowed few chances to both Žilina and Trnava when I saw them away to these sides last autumn owed a lot to his ability to cut off opposition attacks. Finally, based purely on how he’s performed when I’ve seen him in action, I would include striker Marek Kuzma, another Under 21 international. Kuzma showed promise at Dubnica, flourished at Bystrica (together with Dušan Uškovič, he cut Žilina’s defence to pieces in a September 2009 league game) and was signed by Slovan last January. His career has been stalled by injury and loss of form since then and he seems likely to spend this spring out on loan. From what I’ve seen of him, though, he’s too good a player to be out of the domestic spotlight for much longer.

Marek Kuzma

The Šport list, together with the current club, age and market valuation of each player, is below :

Momodou Ceesay   MŠK Žilina   22    800,000 Euros

Babatounde Bello    MŠK Žilina   21    750,000 Euros

Karim Guédé    Slovan Bratislava   25    700,000 Euros

Erik Grendel     Slovan Bratislava   21    650,000 Euros

Issa Koro Kone    Spartak Trnava    21    400,000 Euros

Tomáš Ďubek   MFK Ružomberok   24    300,000 Euros

Mario Pečalka   MŠK Žilina    30    300,000 Euros

Jakub Diviš    Tatran Prešov (on loan at Hibernian)   24    300,000 Euros

Filip Lukšík    FK Senica    25     300,000 Euros

Jakub Brašeň    Dukla Banská Bystrica    21    200,000 Euros

James Baxter

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Slovakia: 10 to Watch”

  1.   britskibelasion 05 Feb 2011 at 6:53 pm

    James, thanks a lot for this. Definitely an interesting time to post it, mid-season, and we will certainly revisit the article a few months down the line to see if any of the players do move on.

    At least I know who to look out for once I back back to Slovakia and am able to watch a few more domestic games, and I’m sure a few more players will rise to the top in the coming months too.

    Personally looking forward to see what Slovan’s new signing Marko Millinkovic adds to their challenge in the 2nd half of the season. He certainly sees Slovan as his stepping stone to bigger things.

  2.   Michal Petrakon 11 Feb 2011 at 3:39 pm

    James, good post as always. Just a slight correction – Jakub Diviš is a Czech goalkeeper. Born in Turnov (NE Bohemia) and went through the youth teams of Slavia Prague.

  3.   James Baxteron 13 Feb 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Michal, thanks for that. Obviously the Sport thing wasn’t only about players of Slovak nationality, with 4 of the 10 originating from Africa, but I neglected to verify that all the others were indeed Slovak.

  4.   Michal Petrakon 14 Feb 2011 at 10:35 am

    That doesn’t lower the value of your posts, James:) He is an interesting player – one of many young talents whom Slavia let go cheap in the years of abundance and now could beg them to come back…

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