Ondrej Duda: Slovakia’s Arsenal-linked midfielder England need to be wary of

In his two performances so far at Euro 2016, the 21-year-old has shown why several big clubs are interested in him. Now Inter might regret cancelling his arranged arrival last summer, writes Lukas Vrablik...

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  • 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.

Who'll spark brilliance at the Euros? Click the white button for our take

Who’ll Spark Brilliance | FourFourTwo Euro 2016 Guide


12 players who'll spark brilliance


KickerThis is a kicker.

Cristiano Ronaldo
forward, 31

Ronaldo recently became the first player in history to score more than 50 goals in six consecutive seasons not bad for someone who supposedly hasn't had his best campaign with Real Madrid.

As Portugal's team has become less impressive, Ronaldo's impact at tournaments has waned his most significant contributions were helping his country to the Euro 2004 final and the World Cup semi\-finals two years later. But Fernando Santoss team look notably better this time out, something even Ronaldo himself has acknowledged.

He's the favourite with some bookmakers to top the goal charts in France and with potential cannon fodder in Iceland, Hungary and Austria coming up in the group, you can see why.

Kevin De Bruyne
midfielder, 24

Eden Hazard may have been regarded as Belgium's biggest star in recent years, but his poor season at Chelsea coincided with an impressive debut campaign for De Bruyne at Manchester City.

It's the former Wolfsburg man who is currently Belgium's form man and he'll hope to be similarly inspirational at Euro 2016. De Bruyne actually has an English mother but made his debut for Belgium in 2010 and scored against the USA at the World Cup in 2014.

Thiago Alcantara
central midfielder, 25

Although born in Italy to a Brazilian father his brother Rafinha lines up for the Seleao Thiago represents Spain, the country where he broke through as a first\-team player at Barcelona.

His talents were appreciated to such an extent that Pep Guardiola eventually swooped to take his former protege to Bayern Munich, where he has since won three straight Bundesliga titles.

Injury ruled Thiago out of the 2014 World Cup but he'll be ready to shine at his first major tournament, where Spain are one of the favourites for victory as they seek a third consecutive European Championship crown.

Anthony Martial
forward, 20

"Fifty million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again," is the chant at Old Trafford these days, in honour of a Frenchman who has been a resounding success since moving to Manchester United last summer. Many thought United were mad to pay such a huge amount for a player who had scored only 11 league goals for Monaco, but Martial has proved himself to be one of the most exciting talents in world football over the past 12 months.

Now the 20\-year\-old has the opportunity to shine for hosts France at the Euros, and you wouldn't bet against it despite the fact that, when the squad was selected in mid\-May, he was still yet to get on the scoresheet in eight appearances for his country. Martial is likely to play on the left of a front three and he'll be a real threat as he cuts inside and looks to wreak havoc.

Robert Lewandowski

The main man for joint hosts Poland at Euro 2012, Lewandowski was one of the poster boys of that tournament and netted its first goal against Greece.

Things rather fell apart from there as Poland crashed out in the group stage without Lewandowski netting again, but the striker's status has only grown from there. There were the four goals he scored for Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League semi\-final against Real Madrid, then the move to Bayern Munich which has produced 67 goals in two title\-winning seasons. Oh, and five goals in nine minutes after coming on as a half\-time sub against Wolfsburg. Now that's what you call an impact.

Lewandowski was the top scorer in qualifying with a huge 13 goals in 10 games albeit six of them came in two matches against Gibraltar and is one of the favourites to be leading goalscorer at the tournament too.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

"One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch," was Zlatan's typically modest reaction when Sweden failed to qualify for Brazil 2014.

Thankfully Sweden and Zlatan will be at Euro 2016 almost entirely thanks to Ibras three goals in the play\-off double header against near neighbours Denmark.

The 34\-year\-old scored the goal of the tournament four years ago, an acrobatic volley against Italy, and this may be his swansong at international level. Despite that, he's still as big a threat as ever he netted 50 times during his final season with PSG, comfortably the best haul of his career.

Luka Modric
central midfielder, 30

Modric flourished at Real Madrid after the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as boss in January, and could be a key figure for a Croatia side who will believe they can be a surprise package.

Four years ago they found themselves in the same group as eventual finalists Spain and Italy, finishing a creditable third. This time they're with Spain again but they'll fancy their chances of edging out Turkey and the Czech Republic for the other qualification spot, then progressing from there.

Modric's tidy possession game could be crucial to that. Few players are more elegant and composed on the ball. On his day, the former Spurs man is a joy to watch.

Xherdan Shaqiri
forward, 24

Any man who has earned the nicknames 'The Magic Dwarf' and 'The Power Cube' during his career is a man that _FFT_ appreciates. Shaqiri netted the only entirely left\-footed hat\-trick in World Cup history when he helped Switzerland into the second round two years ago, kicking off the treble against Honduras with a stunning strike from outside the box.

The stockily built forward is very much Switzerland's main creative force and, although he can be erratic, he can produce brilliance at any moment, from any distance.

Andres Iniesta
central midfielder, 32

This will be Iniesta's first tournament without his perennial sidekick Xavi, a double act that helped Spain to glory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Not a bad list.

But Iniesta doesn't need Xavi to shine something he proved with Barcelona this season and will be an important presence as the elder statesman of the current Spanish side. He may be 32 now but hes still capable of delivering the killer pass and will play a major role in pulling the midfield strings.

Thomas Muller
forward, 26

Perhaps the most surprising statistic of Muller's career so far is that he is yet to score a single goal at a European Championship finals, having failed to find the net at Euro 2012 despite scoring 10 goals in two World Cups.

It's hard to see the Bayern Munich star drawing a blank again this summer. Muller usually delivers when the big games come around and Germany will fancy their chances of doing well on the back of their World Cup triumph two years ago.

Muller may not be the most graceful of players but he knows how to be in the right place at the right time and one way or another the ball usually ends up in the net.

Marek Hamsik
attacking midfielder, 28

Few players show such supreme dedication to hair maintenance as Hamsik, and _FFT_ waits with excitement to find out just what the Slovakian has planned for Euro 2016.

Mohawks aside, he can play a bit too, and he'll undoubtedly be Slovakia's biggest threat when they face England and Wales in Group B indeed, he recently scored a cracker in their warm\-up win over Germany in Augsburg.

Hamsik is a key man at club level for Napoli, runners\-up to Juventus in Serie A in 2015/16, and a regular goal\-getter from midfield.

Antoine Griezmann
forward, 25

Griezmann may not get quite the same attention as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in La Liga, but gradually he has established himself as one of the finest talents in Europe.

The forward netted 30 goals in a season for the first time in his career during 2015/16, leading the line superbly for Atletico Madrid. His pace and finishing ability could be vital for France, particularly given that Karim Benzema wont be involved at Euro 2016.

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.

Ondrej Duda

Duda has earned a reputation for being technically proficient


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…

Ondrej Duda, Legia Warsaw

Duda has made just shy of 100 appearances for Legia

They said...

If he maintains his typical attitude to football, he can achieve great things. He would be a good investment for some bigger club

- Radoslav Latal, Duda’s ex-coach

“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.

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