Our columnist looks at the rapid rise and unique skillset of Patrik Schick – a combination that could see him become a key player for the Giallorossi over the next few seasons…
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Patrik Schick may ask himself this question every day. The opening line to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (coincidentally, the Czech’s career took off at Bohemians 1905) encapsulates his rapid rise from the Czech First League to the Serie A: he has progressed up the football ladder quickly, very quickly, but there has never been the sense each new step has come anything other than at the right time.
Schick has quickly become one of Serie A’s best talents – the race for his signature after just one season in Italy showed that – but, for all that he’s achieved, there’s a lot more left to come.
Discounting the general inflation in the transfer market, the fact that Schick’s overall transfer fee could overtake the club record spent on Argentinian icon Gabriel Batistuta is a sign of how highly Roma rate him. This is AS Roma, a club that are used to shrewd bargains, a strategy enhanced by Monchi since his arrival. The Spanish sporting director is used to spotting talent where others aren’t looking, making shrewd investments that are invariably spectacularly justified in the future. Monchi stuck true to his values in crafting a complex payment structure for this deal but landing his player on a potential record deal at the same time.
The starlet nearly signed for Juventus earlier in the summer, until medical issues caused a hesitation that would eventually scupper the deal. But for Roma, it is clear that their outlay is justified.
It was the Bergkamp-esque goal versus Crotone that truly put Schick’s name in the limelight. At that time the casual football fan would not have heard of the young Czech striker from Sampdoria, and unsurprisingly so, but one spectacular goal later had social media bristling in delight with the new sensation. The goal itself was a work of art even after that sumptuous flick with his back to goal: the careful yet casual placement with his left foot into the bottom corner an illustration of his composure inside the box. The opposition defence had no chance.
Schick strikes you as the type of youngster who isn’t fazed by a challenge, a player who believes in himself. Czech football icon Pavel Nedved remarked that Schick reminded him of a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic because of how light-weight they were at the start of their careers. Sampdoria coach Mario Giampaolo carefully used Schick in a Solksjaer-esque super-sub role for much of his debut campaign, but as the season went his hand was played by Schick’s unerring self-confidence.
As Giampaolo granted more game-time, Schick continued to express himself in his own unhurried way. His free role allowed him to drift out wide and then cut in towards goal with his exquisite movement. He truly is incredibly gifted with the ability to skip past defences using his low centre of gravity and excellent close control.
He is a striker, yes, but one who likes to be involved in the build-up of the game too – a double threat for defences to worry about.
Roma saved their best business - and their most elaborate video announcement - for last. In Schick, the club is getting a well-rounded and highly instinctive striker, who at only 20 has already come a long way and seems to have much further still to go.
Stability has not been a necessity in his career so far, as he’s had strong seasons at every level before moving up to the next challenge. With Roma he will be competing for playing time with world-class talents, but he will get his chances - and with the side bustling with creative and attacking players should benefit both from the chance to partner with them and learn from a finished article like Edin Dzeko.
Just like his effortless finishing, it’s a perfect fit.
Schick has come a long way in his fleeting spell at the Blucerchiati. Now it’s time for the Giallorossi to enjoy the full repertoire of the Czech. His career has been one of rapid progress so far – the Stadio Olimpico will be eager to see how that rise continues this term.