Patrik Schick Has World at His Feet, but the Time Has Come to Deliver on Promise

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistOctober 18, 2017

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01:  AS Roma new player Patrik Schick looks on during the friendly match between AS Roma and Chapecoense at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Over the past few months, various other transfers, teams and players have overshadowed him, but there is little doubt the summer saw Patrik Schick become one of the most talked-about stars in football.

A sensational debut campaign with Sampdoria led to the Czech Republic forward finding himself among the hottest properties on the market. His name was linked with various clubs in an endless stream of reports across Europe, including one from La Gazzetta dello Sport that named Juventus, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea as potential suitors (h/t Football Italia).

Schick joined AS Roma, but only after failing a medical with Juve. That led to concerns over his long-term health. The Bianconeri released a statement on their official website noting they had cancelled their deal for the player, while director general Beppe Marotta refused to discuss the player at all in the months that followed.

In late August, the club official told Mediaset Premium that he expressed "regret that it ended this way" (h/t Football Italia). That paved the way for a loan move Roma's official website reported could be worth a club-record €42 million (£37.5 million) if it's made permanent.

It also allowed for the bizarre unveiling video shown in the tweet above, but all of the noise surrounding the complex deal and a suspected heart condition shifted attention away from the quality player the Giallorossi have signed.

With that in mind, and as he prepares to help Roma take on Chelsea on Wednesday, Bleacher Report went to discover just how highly regarded the 21-year-old is in his homeland and in Italy by those who have seen him most.

Our first port of call was the Czech Republic, where Schick began his career with Sparta Prague. Making his debut in May 2014 at the age of 18, he managed just 10 appearances over the next 12 months, scoring only once before being sent on a loan to Bohemians 1905 that would help him dramatically.

"During his year with Bohemians, it became clear to all involved that Schick was something special," Czech football expert Chris Boothroyd told Bleacher Report. "He started the season with little in the way of expectations and ended it by receiving an invitation to join the Czech Republic's senior side at their pre-Euro 2016 training camp.

"He started off that year in fairly unassuming fashion but gradually eased into things. Patrik progressed at a rapid rate, though from a physical perspective, he still looked like a boy playing in a man's world from time to time."

He scored eight times in 27 outings for Bohemians, and it was then that Sampdoria made their move. That deal was reportedly worth just €4 million (£3.6 million), but plenty of observers didn't think he was ready to make the jump into such a demanding league after only one season of top-flight football.

"To be honest, I was a little sceptical about the move," Boothroyd went on to tell Bleacher Report. "There had already been plenty of talk about Italian clubs chasing him, and while this would probably have been seen as a good thing, this was also shortly after Josef Husbauer and others had failed to really make their mark in Serie A or have a positive experience moving there.

"I think it would be fair to say that nobody really expected him to have the year that he had with Sampdoria. Like I said, it was clear that he was talented from his season with Bohemians, but I don't think anybody expected him to be that good this quickly. In hindsight, making the move to Sampdoria was the right one."

Schick bagged 11 league goals despite being largely used as a reserve, starting only 14 times but finding the back of the net once every 137 minutes. It was perhaps no surprise Juve monitored him so closely, with his maiden Serie A strike coming at the home of the champions.

He maintained an impressive strike rate throughout the campaign. Averaging just 3.18 shots per goal, WhoScored.com shows he compared favourably with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain (4.45), Paulo Dybala (5.9) and Mario Mandzukic (6.4).

Yet as the video above illustrates, there is so much more to his game. Playing with incredible confidence, the tall striker prompted compatriot Pavel Nedved to make a startling comparison, with the 2003 Ballon d'Or winner telling Denik (h/t FourFourTwo):

"Schick has a great future in front of him. Right now he doesn't have the muscles, but you can just imagine him in two or three years. He reminds me of Zlatan Ibrahimovic because he was like that when he came to Juve. He didn't have the muscles either. Then Zlatan gained muscles and turned into a world-class striker. Schick is also this type of striker; great feet, tall and fast. If Patrik keeps improving himself he can turn into a world-class striker as well."

Impromptu moves and stunning flicks repeatedly lifted the Sampdoria faithful out of their seats, with his impact surprising even those who had witnessed the likes of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

"The thing that impressed me the most about Schick was his ability to score in limited time and his technical ability, especially for a player as tall as he is," Sampdoria fan and blogger Vito Doria told Bleacher Report. "He has great natural ability and he showed maturity beyond his years.

"Aside from his technical ability, the attributes that helped him to impact on games were his mobility and agility. He is graceful on the ball and has great balance, which helps him move around the pitch instead of being a poacher like a typical No. 9."

Understandably, Schick seemed to be frustrated when his move to Juventus collapsed, but the consensus appears to be that joining Roma could turn out just as well for his long-term future.

"He appeared to be disappointed to miss out on Juve, but joining Roma is still a step up for him," Doria explains. "As a Sampdoria fan, I wanted him to stay so he could improve his game and increase his market value, but Schick is ambitious and has self-belief. It is easy for young footballers to be overconfident, but a player with his talent looks capable of adapting to any environment and any team."

Boothroyd said: "Long term, I think he can easily replace Edin Dzeko and become the focal point of Roma's attack for years to come. I do wonder though whether he'll be able to make an immediate impact in the Italian capital due to the protracted nature of his transfer, what went on with Juventus and the massive amount of hype that's engulfed him.

"Maybe an extra year with Sampdoria would have been beneficial for all involved, though I understand why Roma want to get him immediately. There's obviously been a lot of press coverage in the Czech Republic about it, to the point of overkill."

But with the deal behind him and the future stretching out before him, the 21-year-old must start proving he is worth both the media spotlight and Roma's expensive outlay. For Patrik Schick, the time is now.

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