The thumbs-up from Edin Dzeko was all it took to convince Patrik Schick that the Bundesliga was the place for him to excel, and now the Bayer Leverkusen striker has hit the headlines on the international stage with the Czech Republic at UEFA Euro 2020.
bundesliga.com turns the spotlight on the rangy Czech striker who has found a goalscoring home in the Bundesliga…
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Country: Czech Republic (33 caps, 17 goals)
The Prague-born forward's talent was spotted by one of the Czech capital's premier teams, Sparta, when Schick was just 11. He made his top-flight debut in May 2014 at the tail-end of a season in which his club won the domestic double. But four appearances over two campaigns meant Schick crossed town to join Bohemians on loan for the 2015/16 season, a switch that changed his career. Eight goals in 27 top-flight outings convinced Sampdoria to sign him in summer 2016. "I have friends here so I'm a bit sad," Schick said as he waved goodbye to Sparta. "On the other hand, I'm looking forward to going to Italy. Playing abroad has always been my dream."
He happily lived that dream… for a season at least: Schick netted 11 in 32 Serie A matches, Juventus came calling in summer 2017, he was impressing for the Czech Republic at the U21 Euros in Poland, but his dream turned into a nightmare. Two failed medicals at Juve later, and Schick was 'damaged goods'.
Watch: Analysing power striker Schick
Concerns over a potential heart problem were soon dispelled though, and Roma signed him on loan for the 2017/18 campaign. The move was made permanent in a big-money deal the year later, but only eight goals in 58 appearances was hardly a return to shout about.
RB Leipzig came calling in 2019, though, and presented the 6’2’’ striker another chance. After an Achilles problem made his start to life at the Red Bull Arena difficult, the Czech Republic international quickly bounced into life. His superb spin and strike against Paderborn started a rash of three goals in four league appearances, including coming off the bench to complete the comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the Matchday 16 epic.
He hit double figures for the first time since his Sampdoria days, with 10 goals in 22 Bundesliga games, but his stay in Leipzig lasted only a year before Leverkusen snapped him up from Roma on a five-year deal. Schick was the preferred centre-forward for much of the 2020/21 campaign at the BayArena and finished with nine strikes across 29 league games before heading to Euro 2020 as the main man for the Czech Republic – and scoring the goal of the tournament from 49.7 yards - the furthest goal ever recorded at the European Championships - in the group game against Scotland - one of a five goals he netted at finals. That's as many as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and saw him nominated for the Puskas Award.
Plays a bit like: Jan Koller
The 6'6" Czech giant was a 2001/02 Bundesliga winner in a five-year spell at Dortmund during which he wreaked havoc, though not only with his nightclub bouncer physique. He started at Sparta too, but repeatedly showed that those who pigeonholed him as a one-dimensional target man were far wider of the mark than he often was. He was hugely adept with his feet - just like his young compatriot - and the 6'2" Schick shares the game intelligence that means he offers so much more than a physical presence in attack. Just ask the Scots after his brace with a header in the box and a lob from the middle of the pitch.
Watch: Schick's first 17 goals of 2021/22 with Leverkusen
Did you know?
"Edin Dzeko told me that going to Leipzig would be a good decision," Schick said of his former Roma teammate, who won the Bundesliga title as part of Wolfsburg's swashbuckling 2008/09 side. Dzeko was one of the reasons Schick's giallorossi experience was so disappointing, but though competition for places between them was fierce, their relationship off the pitch was anything but.
"Both of us want to play, so a certain rivalry exists between us because only one striker gets to play," explained Schick, who was delighted Dzeko had retained something from the early days of his career while at Czech club Teplice. "We're very good friends because he speaks my language."
What they're saying
“I think he had to fight a bit at the start, but he worked well, improved a lot in a number of areas and took a step forward. Patrik works a lot for the team and always played with very high intensity. He’s laid the physical foundations this season to really attack next season. There’s a lot more in him than he’s shown so far with us.” - Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes
“In Patrik, we have brought in an internationally known centre-forward who has very impressively and consistently demonstrated his goalscoring qualities both in Serie A and in the Bundesliga. Patrik's penetration and strength in finishing will be good for our attacking game.” - Leverkusen managing director Rudi Völler
"I remember a really great player. He has talent and knows how to play. At Samp, he did some really great things." - ex-Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo