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How Ronaldo fan Schick went from €42m Roma flop to Euro 2020 star with Czech Republic

08:00 BST 03/07/2021
Patrik Schick Cristiano Ronaldo Czech Republic Portugal Euro 2020 GFX
The ex-Sampdoria striker struggled terribly to live up to his price tag at the Stadio Olimpico but a move to Germany has helped kickstart his career

Twenty-five years after Pavel Nedved led Czech Republic to the final of the European Championship, they look capable of emulating that remarkable run.

The Czechs are already through to the last eight and their star striker has even managed to score the goal of the tournament so far.

Patrik Schick’s outrageous effort against Scotland was even better than Karel Poborsky's famous scooped finish against Portugal at Villa Park at Euro 96.

Schick's shot from just beyond the halfway line shared more in common with another famous strike from the same year – that of David Beckham against Wimbledon in the early days of the Premier League. 

There is a connection between the two men, too, as the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England superstar is Schick’s ultimate childhood idol.

Schick had posters of Beckham on the walls of his bedroom and constantly asked his parents for Beckham jerseys, especially for his birthday. 

He ended up with at least a dozen and has always dreamed of lining out at Old Trafford in a United shirt. That's because Schick also fell in love with another United legend, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, during Euro 2004.

Schick still believes he belongs at one of the game's biggest clubs. He has never doubted himself, which is hardly surprising.

His talent was obvious from an early age, with him joining the Sparta Prague academy at the age of 11, but his attitude was said to be problematic. 

The forward was often admonished for not working hard enough by his mentors and, at one point, his future as a professional looked in doubt.

Unable to break into the Sparta line-up by the age of 19, Schick was farmed out on loan to Bohemians in 2015.

Bohemians were no longer a major force in Czech football but the popular ‘Kangaroos’ were a decent outfit back in the 1970s and remain proud of having nurtured the greatest hero of Euro 76.

Antonin Panenka, who scored that famous penalty in the shootout win over West Germany in the final, is now honorary president, and every player who passes through their modest home ground looks up to him.

Schick grabbed the chance to impress at Bohemians with both hands and his agent duly started looking for Italian teams to sell him to after he netted eight times for the relegation-battlers. 

Sparta were hardly happy to let him go but Schick could not be persuaded to stay.

He is a straight-talker – he even gave his own father the finger for criticising him harshly – and told the club: "Either you sell me now and make a profit, or I will leave later for free."
 
Sampdoria eventually paid €4 million (£3.4m/$4.7m) for his services in the summer of 2016, even though the player had only just made his debut for the national team.

After a period of acclimatisation in Genoa, things quickly spun out of control.

The Czech prodigy scored 11 goals in his first season in Serie A and the hype grew disproportionately. From a Sparta outcast, Schick suddenly became one of the hottest properties in Italy and off-the-wall comparisons were being made.

"Patrik reminds me of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He is tall and supreme technically," Nedved told Denik from his position as vice-chairman of Juventus, who were looking to sign a new Czech sensation.

Roman Pivarnik, Schick's former coach at Bohemians, disagreed, though, telling Tuttomercatoweb: "His style has nothing to do with Zlatan. Patrik is much closer to Marco van Basten.” 

Schick was also compared to another great Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp, as Schick scored a goal against Crotone was somewhat similar to the Arsenal icon's masterpiece against Newcastle.

Imagine what all those words were doing to a raw 21-year-old whose ego was sizable in the first place. Handsome and charismatic, Schick once said that he would have become a model – like his sister – if he weren't a footballer. 

His self-confidence was high but a big transfer was coming his way too soon. 

When Juventus pulled out of a deal due to doubts over the condition of his heart, Schick became the second-most expensive Czech player of all time, after Nedved himself, when Roma agreed to pay Sampdoria €42 (£36m/$50m) to take him to the Italian capital in 2017.

"Patrik is one of the brightest prospects in international football. We are all very satisfied to complete this deal because, despite being chased by a number of clubs, he has chosen us," Roma's sporting director Monchi said.

Schick seemed destined for superstardom. The truth, though, was that the hype simply wasn't realistic. He was incapable of winning a place in the line-up from Edin Dzeko, spent a lot of time on the bench, was used as a winger and only scored five goals in two seasons at the Giallorossi.

By the time RB Leipzig signed him on loan in the summer of 2019, he was considered a complete flop in Italy and desperately needed a fresh start. The Bundesliga has given him exactly that.

Schick scored 10 goals as a rotation player at Leipzig, who decided against signing him permanently, but he instead moved to Bayer Leverkusen for €26m (£22m/$31m) and netted 13 times in all competitions last term.

His brace against Scotland capped a magnificent performance even without taking the phenomenal manner of the second goal into consideration. 

Schick scored a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Croatia and coolly took his chance to kill off Netherlands in the majestic 2-0 win in the last 16 on Sunday. 

He now has four goals in the tournament, meaning he is just one behind his idol, Ronaldo, who has now been eliminated along with Portugal.

Denmark await Schick and the Czechs in the quarter-finals on Saturday and the stage is set for another great game between two of the tournament's surprise packages.

At the age of 25, Schick has found his true level. He is now confident, but not overconfident. 

He is a very good striker, but not a superstar. He isn't van Basten or Bergkamp but rather Patrik Schick. 

He has already proven himself capable of following in the footsteps of Panenka and Poborsky by making headlines at the European Championship.

He is just the hero his country had been waiting for.