Euro 2020: Marek Hamsik - the man behind the mohawk
Slovakia's biggest star will captain his country once more at Euro 2020, in what could be his farewell to tournament football
There were numerous highs during Wales’ Euro 2016 adventure, but one unsung early feat was shutting out Marek Hamsik. Not that they kept him totally quiet: Slovakia’s talisman nearly scored one of world football’s juiciest goals just three minutes into their opening game. He slalomed past umpteen Welsh defenders, only for Spurs’ Ben Davies to block brilliantly. Spoilsport.
The alternative outcome soon became apparent when he tore Russia to shreds a few days later in Lille. While his assist for Vladimir Weiss’ first goal was good, Hamsik’s own effort – a tight-angled top-corner torpedo – really was a thing of beauty.
The shark-finned midfielder has roamed penalty areas for a good 15 years now, as a legend for both his native land and his adopted home, Napoli. The hairdo and tattoos look pretty punk-rock but what lies beneath is a dedicated soul who served 12 years at the Stadio San Paolo, several of them as captain, as Napoli rescaled the heights.
And what happened when his agent tried to engineer a move to richer clubs? Hamsik decided to change his agent. “I need to have more than just a paycheque and trophies,” he said. “I need to feel something in my soul.”
Hamsik has helped to create Slovakian history. The dynamic start against Wales in France was probably a response to his nation’s first ever tournament, in 2010. The young captain was sluggish as Slovakia took one point from two games in South Africa, then fluffed an early chance against Italy, but he belatedly stepped up: the 22-year-old picked out Robert Vittek to score as they dumped the world champions out, 3-2.
Euro 2020 may be Hamsik’s tournament swan song, at 33. and he’s prepped. Having left Napoli for China in 2019, he persuaded Rafa Benitez to let him train in Europe prior to last November’s play-off against Northern Ireland. This March, he tore up his lucrative China contract in order to play in Sweden and tune up for the summer. The divine mohawk is not messing around.
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