Nov 17 2011

Focus On: Karim Guédé

If I was asked who the best footballer currently operating in the Slovak Corgoň Liga is, I would probably say it is Karim Guédé. Various facts and opinions could be cited to back up such a view. Guédé has made close to 200 appearances in Slovakia, and has won league and cup doubles with both the clubs he has represented here – Artmedia Petržalka in 2007/2008 and Slovan Bratislava in 2010/2011 – as well as a cup winners medal with Slovan in 2009/2010. As a midfielder, he combines great skill and athleticism and, at his very very best (this may sound grandiose, so forgive me), reminds me a little of Patrick Viera. Many of those who’ve played against him regularly name him as their most difficult opponent.

This doesn’t quite explain, however, why Guédé is also a personal favourite player of mine, despite the fact that he plays for a rival club (I support Žilina). Other Slovan players, such as Juraj Halenár or Filip Šebo, are objectively good to watch but, whereas I always wish these two nothing but ill when they play against Žilina, I never find myself hoping Guédé has a particularly bad game. This isn’t even because he’s an especially honest player ; a penalty-area belly-flop in last April’s Žilina-Slovan game suggested that he’s as prone to sharp practice as any other professional. When it comes right down to it, I suppose my main reason for admiring Guédé could be described as a kind of inverse racism. It is that he is a black footballer in Slovakia, probably not an easy thing to be in itself, and one who has committed himself to the country sufficiently to qualify to play for its national team.

Guede (right) joins Filip Sebo to put their faces behind Slovakia's anti-racism campaign

The first time I saw Guédé play was in April 2007, towards the end of his first full season in Slovakia. The occasion co’incided with probably the best Žilina performance I’ve yet witnessed, a 6-1 humiliation of Petržalka, which as good as decided the outcome of the title race. There was so much to enthuse about after that game, not least the brilliant hat-trick from substitute Dare Vršič, but I do distinctly remember a friend commenting to me that Guédé had looked useful in the visitors’ midfield. It was an impression he would more than confirm in the years to come.

When owner Ivan Kmotrík pulled out of Petržalka to invest in Slovan in the summer of 2008, a matter of months after their double success, he was soon followed by a veritable procession of some of the better players, including Branislav Obžera, Radek Dosoudil, Kornel Saláta and Halenár. Guédé and Ján Kozák, by contrast, stayed behind for the time being. In Kozák’s case, this may well have been because he’d made some ill-advised comments about Slovan and their fans before and indeed these rebounded on him soon after he eventually did join the club, in the spring of 2009. Guédé remained with Petržalka for a further year, often being the stand-out player in an increasingly forlorn-looking side. When he did join forces with his old team-mates across the river Danube, success followed fairly quickly as Slovan thrashed Trnava 6-0 to win the Slovak Cup.

It was later that summer, when the dust had settled on Slovakia’s World Cup adventure, that Vladimír Weiss began to talk of Guédé as someone he would one day like to select for the national side. FIFA regulations and Slovak citizenship laws had to be observed first but Guédé was in fulfilment of these by August of this year, in time for a friendly in Austria. It was a good moment for the symbolism alone ; a black player representing the country associated with some of the most notorious football-related racial abuse of the new millennium did feel like a step forward. There were good footballing reasons to be optimistic too. With Zdeno Štrba retired and Miroslav Karhan nearing the end of his career, there was a feeling that the team needed Guédé and his qualities in its midfield. And those who, like me, had seen him give dominant performances against their favoured club were looking forward to watching him line up for a team they actually supported.

In action v Stuttgart

Sadly, however, the start of his international career appears to have co’incided with a bit of a slump in Guédé’s all-round form. He has perhaps been unlucky that Slovakia have not been playing well in general, as their failure to get anywhere near Euro 2012 qualification demonstrates, but his individual performances have not convinced. His passing has been erratic, his positional awareness a little suspect and he’s looked somewhat unsure of himself.

Guede shares a joke with Weiss Jr & Marek Hamsik

The strength and athleticism which help him run games in the domestic league have been neutralised. These problems have not been confined to the international arena either. Guédé also appears to have struggled recently in the Corgoň Liga (he was blamed for a late equaliser Slovan conceded against Senica two weeks ago, for example) and in the Europa League. In the latter competition, he was substituted in both the recent matches against PSG – in the first, this seemed to be because he was running the risk of being sent-off.

It could be that this is just a lot of pointless wittering about one of those temporary losses of form all players endure. In fact, I genuinely hope that proves to be the case. But remember that Guédé is, of this moment, unique. He is the only player who has had to fulfil residence requirements in order to play for Slovakia and that has meant more than five years of Corgoň Liga football. Most of us have seen players here who have clearly been too good for this league. For me, Stanislav Šesták, Marek Sapara and (ultimately) Peter Pekarík spring to mind as examples. The difference is that these players were free to move on and play at a better level, in the process actually improving their international prospects. With Guédé, it might be that hanging around in Slovak football has limited his development ; that now, at the very time he can play for Slovakia, he is not quite the player he was two years or more ago.

As I say, I hope these worries prove unfounded. If Guédé is as good as I’ve always thought he is, he’ll come back and be an integral part of the Slovakia squad for the next few years. He might even emerge a better player from this dip in form and at least he can now say he has been playing against some quality sides this autumn, what with the Slovakia matches and Slovan’s clashes with Bilbao, PSG and Salzburg. Also, of course, with Slovak citizenship, he is free to move abroad if the right offer comes in. On balance, and despite club loyalties, I hope that doesn’t happen just yet. Guédé has become a familiar figure, he’s a player I like to watch, and, for reasons I hope I’ve explained, he’s been good for Slovak football.

James Baxter

 

17 responses so far




17 Responses to “Focus On: Karim Guédé”

  1.   George Mon 17 Nov 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Does Dan not write on HIS Blog baby anymore ? Perhaps he is suffering fro writers block or Tweeters twat ?

    Anyhow to the article , I agree with the profile in the main , although to compare this guy with Patrick V , is a bit of a stretch I dofeel …other than he is tall and black errrr what else ?….PV was a class act , a World Cup winner ….this guy is stuck for 4 years in the Slovakian Blue Flag league .

    Had you been at the juniper berry juice before you wrote this article James ?

  2.   StaryJazvecon 17 Nov 2011 at 3:33 pm

    O man, one of my fave ‘Zalka players ever. Inspired me and Dave to verse, hang on I’ll go and get them, where’s poetry corner on this site?

  3.   StaryJazvecon 17 Nov 2011 at 3:40 pm

    “With Guédé, it might be that hanging around in Slovak football has limited his development ; that now, at the very time he can play for Slovakia, he is not quite the player he was two years or more ago.”

    Yep, you are absolutely right. I wld says his touch has got worse. He gallops forward, but unlikely to do much creative with it. He should play deeper in a purely destructive role.

    Watching Slovan recently, as I was unfortunate enuff to have done, I think Jan Kozak Jnr. is exactly the kind of player they desperately need right now, given they dont have the money to buy anyone really top drawer. There is just Sebo on his own and not enuff invention in the final third. Also they need to have the big lump option to go to upfront, someonel like Jakubko, Oravec or Vittek, altho he’s out for the season

  4.   Jameson 17 Nov 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Yes George, the Viera comparison was a bit of a flight of fancy, though you didn’t guess the substance right. What I meant was that Guede dominated games here in the way Viera did for Arsenal even if, clearly, we’re talking about a different level of football.

    Interesting about the need for sb like Kozak Jr – where is he these days? A luxury player in many ways but could land the ball on a sixpence. Needed time, space and sb to do his running for him, of course. And why Slovan brought in Lacny, Hartig etc rather than Oravec or Jakubko is a mystery.

    As for Guede himself, having questioned his recent form, it’s only right to mention his brilliant headed equaliser for Slovan against Bystrica last week.

  5.   George Mon 17 Nov 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Where is Kozak jnr plying his trade these days ????

    As for Vittek …god dont re-sign him another Mr Sick Note …what did he injure this time , his huge hooky nose ???

  6.   StaryJazvecon 17 Nov 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Last I heard JKJ was playing in Timisoara, Georgie.

    Weiss praising Jakubko to the skies in the press after Slovan-Dukla. He will be a Slovanista in Jan, I predict.

  7.   StaryJazvecon 18 Nov 2011 at 2:35 am

    Couldnt see your 9:08, James, when I wrote my 9:36, the internet is very freaky, or I was pissed.

  8.   StaryJazvecon 18 Nov 2011 at 2:41 am

    Wiki:

    Ján Kozák Personal information
    Full name Ján Kozák
    Date of birth 22 April 1980 (age 31)
    Place of birth Košice, Czechoslovakia
    Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
    Playing position Attacking midfielder
    Senior career*
    Years Team Apps† (Gls)†
    1997–2000 MFK Košice 8 (0)
    1998–1999 → Lokeren (loan) 5 (0)
    2000–2002 Slavia Prague 13 (0)
    2002–2003 MFK Košice 34 (6)
    2003–2008 Artmedia Petržalka 129 (42)
    2006 → West Bromwich (loan) 6 (0)
    2009 Slovan Bratislava 30 (3)
    2010 Politehnica Timişoara 10 (1)
    2011 Larissa F.C. 10 (0)
    National team‡
    2004–2010 Slovakia 25 (2)

  9.   StaryJazvecon 18 Nov 2011 at 2:44 am

    42 goals in 129 starts at Zalka from central mid, plus loads of assists, ok in his pomp, its 3 years on, how many do Zofcak, Grendel et al score?

  10.   Estojaon 18 Nov 2011 at 9:37 am

    @James, StaryJazvec,

    I’m travelling tomorrow to Trnava to see Spartak-Žilina, in case you feel like joining.

    @Dan,

    You are not in SK for the weekend, aren’t you?

    Cheers,
    Jose

  11.   Jameson 19 Nov 2011 at 10:22 am

    Estoja,

    Enjoy it. I think Trnava will win. I’m away this w/e unfortunately, or I’d def join you! Let me know when you’re coming to Za.

  12.   George Mon 19 Nov 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I think Trnava will win , well huh ???? Whatever happened to the Champions League of score prediction?

    Did you three just all give up, or was this just another of barmy Dan’s idea gone south ?

  13.   StaryJazvecon 20 Nov 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Barmy Dan went North I think but I agree Georgie, things need to improve or I’ll be demanding my money back.

    But in the meantime, I am this week’s guest match reporter and I will be doing Trnava – Zilina either as a haiku or a sonnet, havent decided yet, stand by.

  14.   StaryJazvecon 20 Nov 2011 at 6:40 pm

    F*ck its tough this match report writing business, isnt it. I’ve only managed one sentence so far, so I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Might have something to say about the moronic flare-throwing incident and equally moronic policing later.

    “After half-time, I returned refreshed by a massive fruit tea with hruška to find myself in fine voice as Momodou Ceesay once again collapsed implausibly, this time right in front of us. This lad seems to have a very high centre of gravity.”

  15.   Dave Williamson 22 Nov 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Guédé was poor along with the rest of the midfield IMHO in the second game against PSG. Wikipedia (French) would have it that he would have been in the Togo squad for WC2006, but got replaced by someone else (I assume due to injury).

    Any sentimental reasons linking him to Slovakia? Although as a German-born Togolais, I guess nationality is not a clear-cut concept and as he’s matured he’s become more bound to his adopted country than any other. Fair play to him!

  16.   Jameson 22 Nov 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Dave, from what I understand, the latter explanation is closer to the truth. I read one interview where he said how much his mum had encouraged him in his efforts to play for Sk.

    After a decent performance and nice goal against Bilbao, he hasn’t been good in the last 3 EL games. SJ is probably onto sth with those points about his role. In the domestic league, he can be so dominant and get up and down so effortlessly that Slovan only really need him and one other in central midfield. That would be far too gung-ho (at least for Weiss) in the EL or international football so there’s always a midfield 3 in those games. I don’t know for sure but Karim’s problem might be that he’s neither a pure holder nor a playmaker. That means he should be the link btw the two but sometimes he seems to get a bit lost.

    My Viera comparison (rightly, I suppose) had scorn poured on it before but he was another one who didn’t need 2 partners in central mid, at least till his legs went.

    I’m a big Guede fan anyway and I’d love to see him bridge that quality gap. This season’s the first time he’s had a succession of games against really good sides and I hope and believe he’ll come out the better for the experience.

  17. [...] them 12 times is a middle finger extended to xenophobia. Equally, his pivotal role alongside Karim Guédé in the securing of Slovan Bratislava’s sixth title last May won him favour before his loan [...]

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