Fresh from winning the Czech title
It’s been incredible to witness how rapidly Udinese’s silky-skilled midfielder, Antonin Barak, has settled into life in Serie A.
Joining for just €3 million from Slavia Prague in the summer, fresh from winning the Czech title, Barak has wasted little time on making his mark at his new club, as the powerful Czech international has bagged six goals and laid on two assists, in what’s been a magnificent start to his season.
Already having started 17 league games, the 23-year-old powerhouse, who stands at an imposing 190cm and weights 86kg, has been one of the division’s standout performers so far, with his technical gifts, power and intelligence shining especially brightly.
Wearing the number 72 shirt, in combination with his huge frame, unmistakable dribbling style, wicked shot, and pink and white boots, Barak’s brilliance hasn’t been hard to miss for the Little Zebras.
After a period of adaptation to his new surroundings and teammates, which wasn’t helped by his team’s struggles under former coach Luigi Del Neri, since scoring his debut Serie A goal vs. Sassuolo in October, Barak’s been a major force to be reckoned with. A mere four days after his opener, he then secured his team another vital win by scoring the winner against an excellent Atalanta outfit.
He’s really hit his straps since Massimo Oddo took over the managerial reigns from Del Neri, however, who left the team with just 12 points from their first 12 matches on November 21, as he’s been nigh on unstoppable thereafter.
With the Friuliani currently on a terrific stretch of form, that’s seen them win six of their last 10, he’s found the back of the net four times and assisted a further two during this stretch. Throughout this purple patch, Barak’s creativity, imagination and precision has been an essential element towards Udinese defeating Crotone, Benevento, Verona, Bologna and particularly so in their remarkable 3-1 win over Inter Milan at the San Siro.
As a result of his tremendous output, both at club level and on the international scene, where he’s scored five goals in his first seven outings for the Czech Republic, speculation is rife regarding a potential transfer. Courtesy of his consistently sparkling showings reports is suggesting that the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Inter are keen on snapping the 20 million rated hotshot, who’s the second highest scoring central midfielder in Serie A behind Lazio’s sensational Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
It’s unquestionably easy to see why he’s being linked with the aforementioned heavyweights, for his multifaceted skill set makes him a hugely unpredictable, potentially game-changing proposition for any defence to handle. Unique in the way he blends physicality and finesse, there’s not many players of his size that are so nimble, agile and technical with the ball feet at their feet. Upon amalgamating this with his wicked acceleration and the central midfielder is understandably a very desirable target for many clubs due to the significant threat he offers.
Whether using his ingenuitive passing ability to play line breaking balls, to unlock opposition defences or play fast, precise combinations in close proximity to his teammates, his aptitude in this regard only amplifies his worth.
Obviously the freedom afforded to him by Oddo gives him the perfect foundation to duly influence matches, thus enabling him to find space in between the opposition lines of pressure, make shifting movements to the ball far side to provide vital passing options, plus drift into the half spaces or even push onto the shoulder of the last man to embark on penetrating runs in behind.
The way he’s so comfortable under pressure and able to use his wide array of tricks, feints, shimmies and shoulder drops to wriggle away from markers to create opportunities for his teammates has been another big positive in terms of drawing markers towards him and freeing up others. In addition, the way he reads the game and ensured he’s in ideal body positions to receive possession plays a key role in allowing him to inherit passes while being able to look upfield to assess his options, as opposed to obtaining possession in unfavourable back to goal orientations.
Performing smooth positional rotations with his wing back or fellow attackers have only made him a more elusive menace for opposition managers to combat.
A master in isolation scenarios who usually makes sound decisions, the elegant, effortless midfielder has been a joy to watch in this resurgent Udinese outfit. While he’s formed a strong partnership alongside his countryman in Jakub Jankto, it’s also been encouraging to see how he’s dovetailed nicely with the likes of Rodrigo De Paul, Kevin Lasagna, Silvan Widmer and Stipe Perica when deployed together at various stages.
His agent, David Nehoda, gave a fascinating insight into his player’s outstanding start to life in Italy, and how, despite the interest, Barak is firmly focused on Udinese for now. “Antonin is living a dream. Nobody could expect a start of the season like this,” he explained.
“He always tells me that Serie A is difficult and every week he measures himself against high-level opponents, for him, this is the top. He wants to contribute as many goals as possible to the Udinese season by bringing many points to them. Not even six months have passed since his arrival in Serie A. Obviously the interest of great teams is pleasing, but there has not been any official offer yet and Barak’s mind is now projected only on Udinese.”
Although he’s already wowed many with his performances, the man who noted his idols as Andres Iniesta and that stated he’d one-day fancy playing for Barcelona or Arsenal knows he still has much improving to turn such ambitions into a reality.
Based on his incredible set of attributes and talent alone, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him one day fulfil his dreams.
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