The wondergoal wonderkid: Stoch relishing 'dream' Chelsea clash

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The Slavia Prague winger is coming up against his former club and is confident that they can produce another upset having already knocked out Sevilla

"Slavia will play... Chelsea!"

Upon the announcement of the draw for the Europa League quarter-final, Slavia Prague wildly celebrated as they earned a tie against one of Europe's big guns - and one man in particular will be extra motivated to play against the Blues.

Miroslav Stoch was on Chelsea's books between 2006 and 2010, and made a total of five appearances for the club before sealing a permanent move to Fenerbahce.

He was regarded as a wonderkid at Stamford Bridge and many believed he was capable of making the grade after he moved to the club aged 16 and not being able to speak English.

Although the Slovakia international failed to make the grade in west London, he has no regrets and is delighted that he and his team-mates get to face his former side in the last eight of the Europa League.

"They got in touch when I was about 15, and I went there for a few trials, then I transferred when I was 16," Stoch told Goal in an exclusive interview. "It was a huge step for me, a whole different world. I couldn’t say a word in English, so the first three or four months were tough for me.

"They put me, along with two Finnish and one Swiss player, into an English family who helped us to fit in. Once I started to talk, it was all good. I eventually made it to the first team. My team-mates are all huge legends. I am honoured that we shared the same dressing room.

"It was the best experience. To learn as a young player from the very best is a great opportunity for every young player and I am grateful for that. I always wished to draw Chelsea [in the Europa League], not just because I played there, but because I have been a Chelsea fan since I was a kid.

Miroslav Stoch

Miroslav Stoch

"We are enjoying the fact that we made it to the quarter-finals. To play against an English team is a dream for everyone who hasn’t played against them before.

"Chelsea is such a great opponent that it feels like a Champions League match. We see it as a reward that we will play against a club like Chelsea. We beat another team that has won the Europa League [Sevilla]. Why were Slavia so successful over two legs despite being considered underdogs?

"They [Chelsea] have top players, in some positions maybe even the best in the world. But, of course, they would probably imagine having better results in the Premier League. Of course [Chelsea are favourites], but we aren't giving in.

"Everyone knows that the biggest stars of Chelsea are Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante, I am looking forward to playing against them. I believe that, if we prepare well, choose the right strategy and play the same way that we did against Sevilla – together as a team and put our hearts into it - then we can succeed, even against Chelsea."

Slavia knocked out the Europa League's most successful club Sevilla in the last 16 to set up the tie against Chelsea, with the Czech side claiming a 6-5 aggregate extra-time win.

Stoch and his team-mates are reaching new heights, but for the Slovakian, a move to the neighbouring Czech Republic has seen his career get back on track.

Now 29, the winger's first move away from Chelsea was a loan spell with Twente, where he started almost every competitive match and scored 12 goals, helping the club to win the league for the first time.

The Eredivisie club couldn't afford to keep him, however, and the Blues cashed in on the youngster by selling him to Turkish giants Fenerbahce for €5.5 million. In Turkey, Stoch would beat Falcao and Neymar to the 2012 Puskas Award for a goal he scored in the Super Lig against Genclerbirligi.

And Stoch says he has no regrets about choosing to leave Chelsea for Fener in 2010.

"We were discussing all possible options, and we decided for the Netherlands, which was a great choice in the end," he said. "I believe that when I left on loan to Twente, it was the right time to go.

"Then Fenerbahce offered me a transfer and we decided to take that chance. I don’t regret it at all. I have just the best memories, not just of the club but also the city and my life in Istanbul. The whole nation lives only for football and religion.

"I am really honoured to have this experience. I love Turkey and Istanbul. I don’t regret any of my decisions. It is true that I could have gone to Galatasaray before I went to Fenerbahce. But, back in the day, Fenerbahce were a better team, so I decided to go there.

"I follow all the clubs that I played at. I wish them all the best, and I wish they would get back to the top where they belong."

However, Stoch's form would ultimately dip at Fenerbahce which led to three successive loan moves to PAOK, Al Ain and Bursaspor. Slavia then paid less than £1m to sign the winger, but the deal has proved a masterstroke, as he won player of the season in his first year and is now the club's top scorer with 12 goals in the Czech league.

Not only that, Stoch showed that his knack of scoring wonder goals remains, winning the 2018 Czech Goal of the Year for a strike against Dukla Prague.

And he assures that, while he may still be a Chelsea fan, he has found his football nirvana in Prague as he looks to secure a fourth league title in his fourth different European league.

He concluded: "I am enjoying playing for Slavia enormously. I hope that we will win as many trophies as we can. Prague feels like home, I bought a flat here, and I would like to settle down here in the future."

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