This summer several Premier League rivals are set to go head-to head for the Czech Republic’s latest talent. 21 year-old Patrik Schick has attracted interest from Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs among others. The striker has impressed for Sampdoria in his debut season scoring 8 goals in 24 appearances despite only starting in 6 of those games.

Schick joined Sampdoria from Sparta Prague last summer for 4M Euro after spending a season on loan at Bohemians 1905. He was one of several promising young additions to join the Genoese club but his signing went under the radar.

During loan spell at Bohemians 1905, the forward made 27 appearances scoring 7 goals.

The Czech international has made a fantastic start to life in Serie A under the tutelage of manager Marco Giampaolo. The manager prefers to play 4-3-1-2 with Fabio Quagliarella and Luis Muriel up front. Due to this Schick has become Sampdoria’s very own super-sub.

Schick prefers to play the centre froward role but often drops deep to take possession and link up with the midfield to build attacks. He is what the Italians call a seconda punta. The Czech international also drifts out wide to the right before cutting in on his preferred left foot attacking the full backs. Given his size and stature he is quite nimble with electric pace and he is a fantastic dribbler. Due to this you could easily mistake the 6″2 forward as a winger.

Marco Giampaolo when asked why Schick comes off the bench so often, joked “I keep him on the bench, otherwise they’ll sell him! I want him here next season.” Unfortunately money talks in modern football and the financial power of the Premier League clubs will be too much of a temptation for both Sampdoria and Schick in the summer.


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AC Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi has stated more than once over the past couple of years of his desire for his side to be filled with a majority of Italian players.

In an effort to build for the future by utilising the domestic league’s Italians while also nurturing players through their own academy, Milan are looking to form an identity in the present day after consecutive seasons of disappointment. The Rossoneri want to emulate clubs like Torino and Sassuolo who are currently fielding nearly an entire starting XI of Italians, and have found success doing it.

The former Prime Minister must have been pleased to note that eight out of Milan’s starting XI against Lazio were indeed Italian. Moreover, with the 3-1 win in the capital, Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men sit just four points off third-place.

Although the club’s past transfer windows have often been unable to forge a sense of completeness and stability to the squad, the additions of Alessio Romagnoli from Roma and Davide Calabria from Milan’s primavera side have been noteworthy and exceptional.

At just 20 and 18 years of age, the introduction of these two defenders in this campaign creates a real possibility of forming a formidable backline for years to come.

Romagnoli spent last season on loan at Sampdoria under his current manager, making 30 league appearances and winning plaudits from around the peninsula. The Italian giants purchased the left-footed centre-back in a deal worth €25 million plus possible bonuses, and has already proved to be a great signing for Milan.

The 20-year-old possesses great technique in his dribbling and passing abilities and can also feature at left-back. His intelligent positioning allows him to meet defenders head on and eloquently dispossess them of the ball. Impressively, the former Roma man has won 78% of his headed duels and recorded 86% passing accuracy this season.

Composed and confident, Romagnoli’s patience on the ball speaks volume for how mature he is for his age.

Romagnoli has had to pair up with Cristian Zapata, Alex and Rodrigo Ely in the back this season under Mihajlovic. But despite the shuffling of defenders, the 20-year-old has kept his concentration levels high and has been one of Milan’s bright spots so far this season.

However, as he appears quite lean, the young centre-back should enhance his game by bulking up and getting stronger in order to battle the game’s fiercest attackers.

While Romagnoli is marshalling the centre of defence, Calabria has stepped in and provided quality at right-back. The 18-year-old rose through the ranks of the Rossoneri’s academy, making 47 appearances, before making his senior debut this season.

Calabria has a delicate first touch and great close control. In his three matches played so far, he has showcased considerable pace down the right-flank as well as an impressive amount of stamina and endurance.

Explosive, dynamic and alert, he has proved to be a solid right-back option for the likes of Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio.

The youth product completed his debut against Palermo in the fourth round of Serie A play, coming on for the injured Abate, helping his side to a 3-2 win.

Calabria was then handed a start in the club’s next match against Udinese. He put in a solid shift and surprisingly, was subbed off for Alex just five minutes after half-time.

It turned out to be a poor move by Mihajlovic as the Rossoneri would concede a pair of goals and almost threw away their 3-0 lead. Nonetheless, the academy product would complete the full 90 away to Genoa, which unfortunately ended in a 1-0 loss.

Looking at his performances, Calabria has prided himself in moments of decisiveness. Not daunted by the high level of play, the right-back has averaged 4.7 tackles and 1.3 appearances per match.

Aggressive and always looking to push forward to join the attack, Calabria represents the modern day fullback. He also has the ability to pick out a pass, having created three chances thus far, the second most of any other Milan defender.

An area in which Calabria should look to improve in is his overall passing. While he possesses good intentions, his over eagerness at times lets him down, resulting in numerous misplaced passes. He has recorded 67% passing accuracy this term, which is the lowest return of any outfield play of his side bar Philippe Mexes.

Calabria will have to continue to battle with Abate and De Sciglio for a starting place this season, but when called up, the 18-year-old will show his quality. Furthermore, his good form won him a call-up to his country’s under-21 setup last month.

All in all, with Milan’s hopes of returning to the pinnacle of Italian football, entrusting in two young, Italian talents in Romagnoli and Calabria is a wise choice in establishing a solid foundation for future success.

About the author – Matthew Amalfitano

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, the Independent, Betfair, beIN Sports USA, Squawka and others.

twitter: _MattFootball


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Sporting a Sampdoria cap, a slick blue suit and a pair of matching slip-on shoes, Walter Zenga, Sampdoria’s manager, certainly looked the part as he took in the action from the sidelines against Bologna.

While Zenga’s outfit saw him looking rather slick, his team’s performance didn’t quite match his sharp attire, but they nonetheless did enough to secure a 2-0 win, courtesy of goals from star men Eder and Roberto Soriano.

There would’ve been one man, in particular, he would’ve been taking a keen interest in, though. And that was his 20-year-old Slovakian sensation, David Ivan.

Ivan, who signed for the club back in 2011, from FC Nitra, and recently made his debut, in the 5-2 mauling of Carpi, knew he had a point to prove to Zenga against Delio Rossi’s side.

Despite the fact he enjoyed a largely successful debut, his late sending off undoubtedly tarnished the occasion. Crucially for him, however, Zenga’s trust and faith in the diminutive midfielder remained undiminished. As a consequence, the Italian coach decided to throw down the challenge to his young charge by immediately reinstating him to the starting lineup for the Bologna game. And Ivan didn’t let him down.

From his right-sided central midfield position, he went about his work confidently and fearlessly, showcasing suitably that he was by no means overawed by the occasion.

Fleet-footed and nimble, the Slovakian international’s technical ability allowed him to undertake his role nicely. By being such a great user of the ball, he passed it around comfortably in Samp’s possession phases, working well with the likes of Soriano, Fernando and Edgar Barreto.

With the right wing often left vacant, due to Zenga’s desire to deploy Soriano, Eder and Luis Muriel in relatively close proximity to one another, Ivan would regularly push into this area and provide great width for his side. This tactic worked effectively, for it forced one of Bologna’s midfielders to go to him, thus creating some additional space for the brilliant Soriano, especially, to weave his magic and shine as a result of the extra time and space he could utilise.

For such a slightly built young man, it’s clear that Ivan makes up for his physical shortcomings by being tactically and technically excellent. Plus, his never say die approach to defending means he isn’t a weak link to his side without possession. Quite the opposite really, his defensive energy added a vast amount of intensity to his side’s stopping efforts. Pressing relentlessly, flying into tackles like a man possessed and challenging manfully for aerial duels, despite him on only standing at 173cm, were all ways in which he imposed himself on the Rossoblu.

Furthermore, he provided essential cover for his right back, which was initially Mattia Cassani and then Pedro Pereira, when the former suffered an injury midway through the first half. Pereira, 17, who was making his debut would’ve been full of nerves, but Ivan supported the youngster brilliantly. Ivan helped him track Emanuele Giaccherini, plus ably marked Bologna’s marauding fullback, Adam Masina.

Ivan’s night ended halfway through the second half when Zenga substituted him for another of Samp’s talented youngsters in Joaquin Correa. As a testament to his fine performance, Zenga embraced his young charge in congratulations to say job well done, while club captain Angelo Palombo gave him a big kiss on the forehead.

In just his second Serie A match, it’s been great to see the man who was superbly spotted by Sampdoria’s scouting network, five years ago, repaying the club’s faith in him and fulfilling his dreams.

“When Pecini came to see me, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to lose,” Ivan explained.

“Even though I would miss Slovakia, I had to seize the moment. Such an opportunity will only happen a few times in life.”

Moreover, it’s refreshing to see a player who’s come through the youth ranks to progress to the first team, especially in a world where clubs are so often all about buying talent, not taking the time to develop it.

The player himself, when recently speaking to the Sampdoria website, is rightly proud of what he’s been able to achieve in Italy.

“I came to Genoa five years ago and I was delighted to move here. I’m proud about what I’ve managed to do,” he said.

“I think it’s great that at Sampdoria players from the youth team graduate to the first team. I’m happy, as one of the players that have made it this far.”

Throughout his five years in Genoa, Ivan has always made the step up in class as he’s gone through the ranks. Although he admitted to finding the step up from the Allievi to the Primavera challenging, he crucially adjusted and even captained the Primavera side last season.

It’s come as little wonder then that Slovak who wears the number 95 has been able to cope with the step up in class required now he’s in the senior squad. Obviously, he’s earned the right to be there, but the level-headed youngster is importantly thankful for the support he’s received from his teammates and manager, saying: “I always give everything in training, but I have to thank Zenga who has given confidence to a player like me, in spite of me having done nothing in my career so far.

“It’s so much easier when you’re playing alongside fantastic players like the ones we have here. They help you on the pitch by talking to you and with their movement. Having support from players like Fernando, Barreto, Cassani has allowed me to play with confidence.”

All things considered, it’s apparent there’s no better place to be for this promising 20-year-old whose father and grandfather played football professionaly in Slovakia’s first division, especially as the Blucerchiati are a great example of a club that is willing to give their youth a chance to shine.

Naming the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Samuel Eto’o as his idols, coupled with his unyielding desire to keep learning, has undoubtedly given him an outstanding foundation to get all the way to the top of the sport.

Only time will tell if he does, in fact, make it that far, but one thing’s for sure, and that’s that it’ll be fascinating to follow his career to find out.

At this stage of the journey, especially, as he plies his trade under the charismatic Zenga, things should be particularly intriguing.

About the author – Edward Stratmann

Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.



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