Ondrej Duda: Slovakia’s Arsenal-linked midfielder England need to be wary of
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: December 5, 1994
- Place of birth: Snina, Slovakia
- Position: Attacking midfield
- Current team: Legia Warsaw (99 apps, 16 goals)
- Former club(s): Kosice
- International: Slovakia (10 caps, 1 goal)
Everything pointed towards Ondrej Duda becoming an Inter player. Several newspapers reported a five-year contract, and Legia Warsaw’s key player was already looking forward to his move to a bigger club.
But, over a few days, the situation completely changed. Representatives of the Italian giants found out that the transfer fee commanded by Legia would violate Financial Fair Play rules. The move fell through.
Now, Slovakia's Duda – one of the most exciting young players at Euro 2016 – is on the radars of several European big guns. Hard-working and technical, he has shown such impressive ability belying his age that there is no doubt he is prepared for a move.
In the past many clubs have reportedly showed interest in him, including Arsenal, Liverpool or Borussia Dortmund. Roma have been linked recently and so too have Napoli, the club of Duda’s international team-mate Marek Hamsik.
Why you need to know him
Slovakia coach Jan Kozak gave Duda his Euros chance when his team was losing 1-0 to Wales. A few seconds after coming off the bench, the youngster showed why: after receiving a Robert Mak pass in front of the penalty area, Duda made a smart move to the left which completely deceived the Welsh backline, and masterfully finished into the bottom corner.
Hard-working and technical, he has shown such impressive ability belying his age that there is no doubt he is prepared for a move
Duda’s performance was so good that Kozak put him in his starting lineup for the next match against Russia. With an aim to solve his notorious centre-forward problem, Kozak picked Duda – typically an attacking midfielder – as the team’s most advanced player.
Kozak had hoped he would link up with Hamsik and, therefore, their frequent exchanges would confuse the rigid Russian centre-backs Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski. And the coach's plan worked perfectly: Slovakia won thanks to Hamsik’s brilliance, with Duda excellent in support.
Even if Duda wasn’t as visible as his far more famous team-mate, his contributions were hugely impressive. When he was replaced in the 67th minute, he’d completed 100% of his passes.
Kozak, as it happens, also helped shape Duda’s beginnings as a player. As coach of Slovak club Kosice he discovered the player in the small eastern town of Snina, and gave him his chance to appear in the Slovak Fortuna Liga. At the age of 18, Duda had already played 33 matches and, with his contract expiring in six months, wanted to transfer abroad. Angry Kosice bosses forced him to train with the reserves.
In February 2014 he accepted an offer from Polish super-club Legia Warsaw, who didn’t hesitate in parting with €300,000 for his services. Norwegian coach Henning Berg partnered him with the experienced Miroslav Radovic, and their cooperation helped Legia to a deserved league title.
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Duda immediately became Legia’s key player: he brought vision, speed and set an example for other players with his high work-rate in every match. When he got injured by a horror tackle by Viktoria Plzen’s left-back David Limbersky during a winter break friendly a year ago, Legia’s ambitions in the Europa League were dented.
Duda, however, came back stronger, broke into the national team and helped Legia to the domestic title again having provided two goals and eight assists in 27 matches.
The confident Duda has always achieved everything he wanted, and his manner of thinking influences those around him. He has a reputation for seeing the things that others might overlook.
He feels most comfortable as a central attacking midfielder or second striker, and has a knack of immediately shifting into the opposition box when he sees an opportunity to.
Despite his age, the 21-year-old already looks like a complete playmaker with fantastic technique and stamina.
If he wants to be a standout player in a bigger league – especially the Premier League – he will have to work more on his figure and gain some muscle. He’s a lean player, so isn’t very handy in the air either.
Then there’s the issue of experience: Duda had only played up to the Europa League before this summer. But there’s only one way to get more of it…
If he maintains his typical attitude to football, he can achieve great things. He would be a good investment for some bigger club
“He has a big future ahead of him,” said Radoslav Latal, Duda’s ex-coach from Kosice and a former Czech international. “If he maintains his typical attitude to football, he can achieve great things. Of course, he has to sacrifice a lot for the game yet. He would be a good investment for some bigger club.”
Did you know?
Polish fans have created some popular nicknames for him – “Dudinho” or “Ondrej Di Maria” – as his technical and ball skills reminded them of Robinho and Angel Di Maria. Duda himself, however, once said that he admires Steven Gerrard most as a player.
His father, Ondrej Sr., led the youth team in his hometown Snina, but he never coached the son who once used to sleep in his football boots.
What happens next?
If Duda wants to move up a level, as he did two years ago, he has to leave Warsaw and join a bigger club that will offer him enough playing time to develop as a player. The Ekstraklasa simply isn’t sufficient for him anymore.
It looks like the biggest interest for Duda is coming from Serie A, with both Roma and Bologna both eager to pay the release clause of just €4 million for him. But they will have to compete with other interested clubs – particularly Monaco – and a few from the Bundesliga, a league which would arguably suit him the best.