Tomas Soucek is about as far from a secret weapon for the Czech Republic as it is possible to be.
The 26-year-old West Ham midfielder has been one of the most-talked-about players in the UK in the past 18 months.
Jamie Carragher described him as the “Premier League signing of the season”, Jose Mourinho dubbed him “the new Marouane Fellaini”, while Thierry Henry settled for just one word – “brilliant”.
The Hammers supporters love him, and the list of clubs who would like to lure him away to become a favourite of their own fans reportedly includes Bayern Munich and Manchester United.
His own manager, David Moyes, who signed him for £19-million from Slavia Prague last summer, has joked they are welcome to try, but would need the Bank of England – plus the Bank of the Czech Republic – to succeed.
Moyes can be confident the Czechs certainly know his worth. He was voted the country’s Player of the Year.
They gave him his international debut back in 2016 and, although this will be his first participation in a major Finals, he has already won 33 caps.
So what exactly then, is so good about Soucek?
His clear will-to-win, energy and commitment to the cause make a good impression straight away.
More tangibly, the statistics point to his most-obvious asset being his aerial ability. Six foot, four inches tall, he won more duels in the air (450) in the Premier League campaign than any other player.
His individual high score of 17 in one game was better than many teams manage collectively.
Impressively, he is also a serious threat from an attacking point of view. With 10 goals to his credit over the season, he was the EPL’s third highest-scoring midfielder, behind only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes and Ilkay Gundogan of rivals, City.
At international level, too, Soucek has been finding the net, picking up his first-ever hat-trick for his country in the 6-2 win over Estonia in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
A glance at his Slavia Prague form shows that is not a new thing, either. Prior to joining West Ham on loan in January, 2020 – a move that led to his permanent switch six months later – he hit a dozen goals in 26 league appearances.
Significantly, he also scored in Champions League ties against Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund.
His former West Ham team-mate, midfielder, Robert Snodgrass, said: “He is a real threat at set-pieces, and we will need to keep a close eye on him. Lose sight of him for a split second, and he will punish you.”
Steve Clarke should not be short of intelligence on Soucek, with the patriotic Moyes another obvious port of call.
In terms of an actual secret weapon for the Czechs, he will doubtless want to cast an eye Sparta Prague’s, Adam Hložek.
This season, the 18-year-old became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Czech top flight.
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