It might not be the Magic Magyars, but Hungary has to start somewhere. Tomasz Mortimer is optimistic that better times lie ahead for his beloved nation and has three good reasons.
In the recent 8-0 mauling of San Marino, and the last gasp 2-1 victory over Finland in Helsinki, three Hungarian youngsters came to the forefront as major stars of the national team. Their names; Balasz Dszudszák (PSV), Adam Szalai (Mainz) and Vladimir Koman (Sampdoria).
I know many people out there would have heard of these young lads, with all three of them being tipped to come to England at some point, and I would say at least one of them will come over within the next three years. Despite all being 23 or under, they are probably the best players Hungary has currently.
I’m going to start with the one who will most likely come to England and a player who is one of my favourite footballers to watch as things stand; Balazs Dzsudzsák or Juji as he’s known in Hungary. Juji may have come to people’s knowledge quite a few years ago, but still just 23, he has a huge future ahead of him, and already has 31 caps for the national team. Dzsudzsák started his career at Debrecen and played over 50 games for the Hungarian giants, in 2008, he moved to PSV and instantly became a fans favourite by tormenting defenders and scoring many goals from midfield. Dzsudzsák is a left sided winger who is reminiscent of a young Ryan Giggs, with great pace and the ability to beat a man with such ease. His ability to change direction at such speed is a fantastic asset and allows him to beat his marker to open up space ahead of him to create chance after chance for the strikers. He also puts a fantastic ball into the box similar to that of David Beckham, be it from free kicks, corners or crosses on the run, with his fantastic left foot or his slightly weaker right. He takes every set piece for PSV and Hungary; penalties, direct and indirect free kicks and corners, and in the recent demolition of San Marino in Budapest he set up 3 of the 8 goals and also scored 1. Dzsudzsák was also the hero in Helsinki by finishing fantastically from just inside the area, from an incredibly tight angle, past a more than competent keeper in Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Over the past two years, he has been watched by many clubs, and rumours have spread that he will be moving away from Holland in the not too distant future. Palermo seems to be the most interested club in recent weeks, with their manager claiming that they would be taking him to Italy in January. Arsenal had scouts monitoring his progress in 2009, but the hefty price tag of about €15million probably put Arsene Wenger off.
In August 2010, Dzsudzsák looked destined for Fenerbache, but he did the right thing and turned them down, considering a move to Turkey may be a backwards step for his career.
Many rumours have been circulating that Real Madrid and Manchester City have been keeping a close eye on him, but after the signings of Silva and Di Maria to Man City and Real Madrid, these moves seem to be now out the window.
In my opinion Juji would adapt to English football better than anywhere else and he’d fit brilliantly into a team like Man Utd, Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa or even Chelsea, altough with the latter he may struggle to get past the likes of Malouda to become a first team regular. As Man Utd, aren’t exactly blessed with wingers any more, with Giggs nearing the end of his career, Valencia out with a broken leg, possibly never coming back the same and Park possibly nearing the end of his Man Utd career, Juji would fit in well on the left side at Old Trafford.
Vladimir Koman is the player who probably has the most potential out of the three. At the age of just 21, Koman is now a first team regular for Italian giants Sampdoria after signing the player from Szombathely Haladás in 2005. He only had to wait two years to make his full debut at the tender age of 18, starting against Torino where he also set up a winning goal. He found first team opportunities quite hard to come by to begin with but with, but being so young this didn’t matter. He achieved a bronze medal with the Hungarian Under-20 national team in the 2009 World Cup, and was sent on loan to Serie B outfits Avellino and Bari in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons respectively. Koman can play anywhere across midfield but prefers a more central attacking role. He loves to dictate the play, and is really comfortable on the ball at such a young age, has a great range of passing and loves to move forward with the ball.
In Hungary’s recent 2-1 win over Finland, Koman was brought on at half-time with the score at 0-0, and he assisted the first goal by playing an exquisite pass to Adam Szalai who rounded the keeper. But when times got tough later in the game, Koman didn’t shy away from the pressure like more experienced players like Gera. He was always looking for the ball, trying to make something happen to give his side that important second goal. This quality is really important to see in a player, as most youngsters would not have the confidence to take the game by the scruff of the neck and win a match for his team. This was similar to the performance of Steven Gerrard at Liverpool when he dominated the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham. If I was to compare Koman to another European great I would probably compare him a young Xavi, as he can pick a wonderful pass to the front man and can fit into a playmaker role. If Koman becomes half the player of the Spaniard, Hungary will have a true great.
Many teams have looked at Koman, and the most frequent rumour involved Liverpool in 2009, following the Under 20 World Cup. But this transfer never transpired and even though teams like Fulham and Napoli have taken a look at Koman, he seems to be very settled in Genoa, and as he is at such a big club, it doesn’t look like he’ll be moving anytime soon.
Ádám Szalai, 22, is a completely different player to the previous two. He’s not got the glitz and glamour and he’s not as easy on the eye as Juji and Koman, but Szalai is very effective in what he does and the way he plays. Standing at 6”4, Szalai is a big strapping old-fashioned striker who plays in a target man role, holds the ball up, brings others into the game and moves across the ground very quickly. He’s a bit similar to Luca Toni or Emile Heskey (oh no, I hear you say) but much more nimble and faster. So far for the national team Szalai has scored 4 goals in 5 games and 3 goals in 8 for Mainz this season. He left Hungary at 16 to play for the Stuttgart youth team, and stayed there until he was 19, never making a first team appearance, before moving to Real Madrid Castilla in 2007. He made nearly a 100 appearances for them and scored a goal in roughly every four games. Szalai then moved to Mainz on loan earlier this year, making 15 league appearances scoring 1 goal, before moving permanently in the summer. He’s now become a first team regular starting most games this season for the German side, and has scored two winning goals, one against Bayern at the Allianz Arena and one against Wolfsburg in the last minute after a stunning comeback from being 3-0 down. Also, in the two recent internationals, he scored a superb hat-trick against San Marino and a goal against Finland.
As expected Szalai’s stunning start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed by Europe’s elite, with Real Madrid (who are looking for another striker) being the biggest club monitoring the Hungarian. As well as Real, Palermo have declared their interest in the target man as recently as a week ago, with their chairman being extremely inquisitive about a move for the big man. Several other teams have looked at Szalai including Porto and even Notts County (back when they had Sven), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves to a bigger club next summer. Szalai is one of those players who can play in any league, so don’t be surprised if he’s playing at a club near you some time soon.
These three stars really offer optimism to the Hungarian football fan, and anybody who else who wants to see Hungary become the footballing force that they once were. They are all terrific young prospects and if you haven’t seen them play, please get online, watch a stream, turn on ESPN or something. They are all incredible talents.
You can get the latest updates from Hungary by following Tomasz on twitter @HungariaFootbal