These are some of the most exciting talents in Eastern Europe at the moment.
Before Robert Lewandowski made his name at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, he plied his trade at Lech Poznan and Znicz Pruszków. Luka Modric played for Dinamo Zagreb and Zrinjski Mostar before winning the Ballon D’or at Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Ferenc Puskas began his career with Budapest Honved before becoming an icon in Madrid.
The latest young stars emerging from Eastern Europe have started out on similar paths. They grew up watching their fellow compatriots and dreamt to emulate their achievements.
Here are the five most exciting Easter European talents.
Current Club: Red Bull Salzburg
Strengths: Shooting, Dribbling, Pace and Set Pieces
Weakness: Positional Awareness
FTF Rating: 9/10
When Zsolt Szoboszlai left the famed Videoton academy in 2007 many people batted their eyes. But it would proved to be a pivotal decision.
In the same year, Zsolt formed his own team alongside two fellow parents. They would name the team Fonix Gold.
Fast forward a few years, with Zsolt’s son, Dominik, in the side Fonix Gold went onto win a prestigious youth tournament beating Bayern Munich and Premier League opposition in the process.
Red Bull Salzburg were among the teams swept aside in the tournament and the Austrian scouts were quick to spot Dominik’s talent.
The Hungarian has enjoyed a rapid rise since then.
He showed his leadership for his country at U17 level in 2017 scoring three goals in the qualification process for the European Championships and then netting twice in the finals.
Many heralded him as the country’s brightest hope since the millennium and so far he hasn’t disappointed.
He worked his way up in Salzburg’s academy, honing his skills as he went through the ranks.
He’s had a bright start to his senior career too. From scoring on his first start for Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga, he went onto hand out an assist on his first Europa League start and then he scored yet again on his Champions League debut.
Astute creatively with a deft shot, Dominik possess rapid pace and is adept at pressing his opponents. His recent form after the prolonged football break has ignited rife speculation about his future with 8 goals and 12 assists in his last 11 games. At international level he is already a clutch player for his country and has netted twice since making his debut last year, including an eye catching goal against Turkey.
Absolutely insane goal from Dominik Szoboszlai tonight. What a beauty. pic.twitter.com/I0e81SnV5Q— Bence (@BenBocsak) September 3, 2020
The sky is the limit. For now he is likely to stay put in Salzburg, but a move to a top European club beckons in the future.
Current Club: FCSB
Strengths: Pace, Dribbling, Finishing.
Weakness: Decision making.
FTF Rating: 8/10
Last summer, England went into the U21 European Championships with high hopes. The generation which lifted the U20 World Cup had its strongest chance for victory in the tournament for over a decade.
Those hopes were quickly dashed by Florinel Coman and Romania. Coman scored a stunning brace and handed out an assist in a 4-2 demolition against the Three Lions.
A 4-1 victory against Croatia and a 0-0 draw against France was enough to take Romania to the semi-finals of the tournament, they crushed out to Germany but Romania and especially Coman’s performance left an indelible mark.
Coman went back to FCSB and continued where he left off at international level. 15 goals and 11 assists last season was an impressive return.
Having started out in Gheorghe Hagi’s academy, Florinel was handed his senior debut by the Romanian legend all the way back in 2015.
He now has a plethora of experience behind him and has proven way too good for the Romanian league.
A flair player, with the pace and the physicality to torment his opponents, Coman has polished up his effectiveness in the final third during the last few seasons. He has a deft shot on him, but his vision is exemplary too and his flicks in the final third have been an impressive feature for FCSB this season.
It’s only a matter of time until the big guns come calling. Florinel Coman could be his country’s best promise for over a decade.
Current Club: Partizan Belgrade
Strengths: Dribbling, Pace, Shooting.
FTF Rating: 9/10
Filip Stevanovic has been dubbed as one of the best Partizan Belgrade candidates to come through the ranks in the past decade. With the likes of Nikola Milenkovic, Aleksandr Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic having hailed from the Serb outlet’s famed academy, Stevanovic is likely to follow suit and potentially surpass their achivements.
Growing up, Stevanovic dreamt of representing the Partizan outfit and he became only the third youngest debutant in the club’s history when he came on as a substitute against Rad at just 16 years of age.
He only made 3 more substitute appearances during the 18/19 season.
He impressed in pre-season during the summer of 2019 and his performances left a good impression on the Partizan coaching staff.
Undoubtedly, what really put Stevanovic on the scene was a nicely tucked away finish on his first start for the club against Macva and then a brace on his second full-start two weeks later putting two past the Rad goalkeeper, Dusan Markovic.
He ended the 19/20 campaign with 9 goals and 3 assists in 35 appearances and impressed in short cameos against Manchester United in the Europa League.
A pacey player with a low centre of gravity, Stevanovic is direct and he can dribble past a myriad of defenders in tight spaces. He resembles a raw Mohamed Salah in his style of play.
For his age he is already pretty consistent in the final third which is an impressive trait. He’s been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United but he will want to consider his options carefully.
At just 17, he may benefit from moving to a smaller club first to bridge the gap between Partizan and United.
The fate of players like Lazar Markovic, Zoran Tosic and Andrija Zivkovic will serve as a stark warning. Stevanovic will be determined to avoid his career going down a similar path.
Club: Lech Poznan
Strengths: Pace, Dribbling, Physicality.
Weakness: Decision Making and Finishing
FTF Rating: 8/10
Kamil Jozwiak is a seasoned professional by now with over 100 appearances in the Polish first division.
Lech Poznan have seen a resurgence of youth in recent years and at the pillar of the club’s new innovative rebuilding project has been Jozwiak.
Jozwiak first came to notoriety after impressing for Lech Poznan’s II team, who ply their trade in the Polish third division. Jowziak was only 16 at the time but he was voted player of the season for the 2014/15 campaign. It was a sign of things to come. However, he’s had to work hard to prove himself to the coaching staff ever since.
While he made his debut, still just 17, for Lech Poznan’s first team the following season he only featured sparsely making 6 appearances.
Jowziak went on-loan in search of more playing time to second division GKS Katowice mid-season after failing to make a mark in Lech’s first team during the 16/17 campaign.
He caught the eye with some impressive performances in the Polish second league and hasn’t looked back since.
Upon his return to Lech Poznan ahead of the 17/18 season Jowziak became a regular starter for the club and he has established himself as a key player for the Polish outfit over the past three seasons..
Blessed with a tremendous burst of pace and a low centre of gravity, Kamil Jozwiak’s rampant energy is a huge nuisance for opposition defenders. He’s effective in tracking back too and his pressing has been a great asset for Lech Poznan.
Jozwiak is impressive going forward too. He is effective at skipping past players with ease with clever feints and using his engine to leave them trailing.
He’s now a regular at international level and a has made a bold move to Derby County in the Championship.
If he polishes up his effectiveness in the final third, he could be the heir to Jakub Blaszczykowski’s throne for Poland.
Club: Dynamo Kyiv
Strengths: Pace, Dribbling, Shooting, Creativity.
FTF Rating: 9/10
Viktor might just be the most exciting player on the list. The Ukrainian was born in Israel to Vitaly Tsygankov, a former goalkeeper who plied his trade in the country at the time.
Upon his family’s return to Ukraine, Viktor already had the bug for football. He joined local club, Niva’s academy as just a young boy.
His development in the academy would be crucial for Viktor’s future. At Niva, the coaching staff quickly spotted his talent and they made Tsygankov undergo vigorous training.
Naturally left footed, Viktor was forced by the coaching staff to use his right foot in order to hone his skills. The remnants of that training can be seen in Viktor’s style of play today. He is equally potent with both feet.
In the end, Dynamo Kyiv spotted his talents and Viktor signed for the club’s academy at the age of 13.
He first caught the eye for Dynamo at the Spartak U17 Cup in 2013 where he was voted the Player of the Tournament, despite Dynamo performing poorly against opponents like Barcelona, Tottenham, Benfica and Celtic.
The senior coaches at the club started to take notice and they quickly promoted the youngster. Despite scoring in pre-season as a 16 year old, and during Dynamo’s winter camp as well as displaying his ability in the UEFA Youth League, Tysgankov had to wait until his 18th birthday to make his professional debut.
After an amicable 5 goals and 6 assists in 29 games during his debut season in the 16/17 campaign, Tsygankov has improved year after year.
He now has 156 games under his belt for Dynamo and 60 goals and 45 assists. For someone who has only recently turned 23 years of age, those are incredible figures.
He’s got pace to burn, but his full of flair too and his finishing is impeccable. Tsygankov has a knack for finding space inside the opposition’s box and for creating openings for his teammates.
It’s remarkable that no one has made an attempt to lure Viktor away from Ukraine. But Tsygankov will be desperate to avoid the fate of his fellow compatriots, Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka, who never reached the heights they were predicted after moving abroad.
Tsygankov is likely to bide his time and assess his options carefully but it’s a matter of when not if, whether he will make a move to the top five leagues in the future.