Bratislava, Slovakia – Stanislav Lobotka’s €27m transfer from Celta Vigo to Napoli made waves in his home country as it was the most one club paid for a Slovak football player. To add to that, his league debut couldn’t have been any better. The reigning champions, Juventus, were outplayed and defeated 2-1, and Lobotka contributed by playing the last 20 minutes of the game and making sure their lead stays untouched.
While at Celta, Lobotka proved he was one of the best play-makers in Spain. He will undoubtedly be Slovakia’s most important player for years to come, and he is only 25.
After the 1-1 draw between Slovakia and Wales last year, even Wales boss Ryan Giggs admitted he was difficult to play against. “He first takes the ball, pulls it, pre-brakes, and then stops. It’s not easy to play against a football player like him,” said the Manchester United legend.
A few years go, he was on the verge of going to PSG, but the Spanish club demanded €45m which was too much even for them. Ever since, he was targeted by some big clubs in Europe including Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Barcelona, but this winter his new destination was finally revealed.
The Slovak midfielder started his career in AS Trencin in 2011, in Slovakia where he made his name and Ajax quickly, two years later, decided to bring him to Amsterdam. While there, he mainly played for their second team, Jong Ajax, before joining the Danish club Nordsjælland in 2015. He impressed in his first season and was voted club’s player of the year. Two years later he received the same reward but departed for Celta who recognized his qualities.
Despite being in La Liga, Lobotka didn’t like the fact that the club was on the verge of relegation each season and voiced his concerns last year. Many clubs were put on alert, but Napoli won the race for his signature this year. It is said that the Italian club’s former captain and fellow Slovak international Marek Hamsik had recommended the midfielder to Napoli. He should be an ideal addition to their midfield as their manager, Gennaro Gattuso, is looking to play 4-3-3.
In addition to Lobotka, Napoli also signed a defensive midfielder, Diego Demme, from Leipzig who should together with the Slovak make Napoli’s core. While Demme is more defensive in his style of play, Lobotka should act as a playmaker who often finds himself playing from the deep, just in front of the back four. This season in La Liga, his passes per match were impressive with a completion rate of 89 percent, while defensively you can rely on him to take the ball from an opposition with simplicity and without diving in unnecessarily.
To be in a good form while playing for Napoli will be crucial for the Slovak national football team who, on the March 26, play against Ireland in Bratislava. The prize is as big as it gets, the play-off final against Bosnia or Northern Ireland for the place at the upcoming European Championship. Slovaks will hope that Stan will be the man to take them there.
Slovak manager Pavel Hapal recently stated he was confident that his team could triumph against Ireland and set up their second visit to the European Championship finals.
By Valentino Komusar
Valentino lived in Croatia for 23 years before moving to Sunderland in the UK for his Master’s Degree in Sports Journalism. He is now living in Kraków, Poland, and works as a sports journalist in Croatia for Vecernji and Goal.