The thumbs-up from Bundesliga title winner Edin Dzeko was all it took to convince Patrik Schick RB Leipzig were the team for him last summer, and the Bundesliga frontrunners are now cashing in on the Czech's decision to move to Germany.
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: Czech Republic (22 caps, 9 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 EURO in Poland, but his dream turned into a nightmare. Two failed medicals at Juve later, and Schick was 'damaged goods'.
Watch: Patrik Schick's sublime first Bundesliga goal
Concerns over a potential heart problem were soon dispelled though, and Roma signed him on loan. A story with a happy ending? After an Achilles problem made his start to life at Leipzig difficult, the Czech Republic international striker 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.
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 6'1" Schick shares the game intelligence that means he offers so much more than a physical presence in attack.
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
"He's shown a lot of good moments, especially with his back to the goal. He attacks very well and is eye for goal is clear to see" - Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann
"Patrik is a very athletic, technical and versatile player, who also brings with him international experience. He'll enrich our attacking play and — with his abilities — give us more variation." Leipzig sporting director Markus Krösche
"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