First Look: Pavel Kadeřábek

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FACT BOX

Name: Pavel Kaderabek

Age: 23

Date of Birth: 25/04/1992

Nationality: Czech

Club: Hoffenheim

Position: Right back

Height: 6ft

Weight 12st 10lbs

Preferred Foot: Right

Controlling the cross field pass instantly, Pavel Kaderabek assessed his options with Terminator-like vision. He set his sights on the Danish goal. Target locked. A deep run from midfield had created space on the edge of the box. He drove into it with devastating force. Bayern Munich prospect Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was swatted away with minimal effort. A body feint, a touch inside…Bang! Drilled into the corner with his weaker left foot. Target neutralised.

The U21 European Championship might once have been a glance into the unknown, but that’s certainly not the case now. Scouting has improved, coverage has grown, technology has been embraced. Most of the key players at this tournament have been on the radar of Europe’s biggest clubs for several years. But while the Czech Republic boasted the likes of highly rated Vaclav Kadlec and Chelsea’s Tomas Kalas, it was Kaderabek who really caught the eye in their opening game against hotly tipped Denmark.

No teenage prodigy, Kaderabek had to work hard for his opportunities. Born and raised in Prague, he progressed through Sparta’s youth levels before finding himself in their reserve side Sparta B, who play in the second tier of Czech football. A regular there by the summer of 2011, he was sent on loan to Viktoria Zizkov for the start of the following season where he played eleven times in the league before returning that winter.

But he struggled to make an impact as a right winger upon his return and it seemed as though his time in the capital was coming to a close. By chance, his then-manager Vitezslav Lavicka was suddenly plagued by injury in defence and in desperate need of a right-back. With no obvious choices standing out, he gambled on Kaderabek, an average winger who was seriously short on confidence. Slowly, but surely, he began to grow into the role and went on to start every league game for Sparta that season.

Kaderabek became an extremely efficient right back with five goals and ten assists to his name in 2013/14, helping Sparta Prague to win the double. This was the chance that the young Czech had waited for his whole life and he took it with both hands.

Kaderabek is everything a top modern full back should be. Defensively astute, with the intelligence to cover his centre backs, and he is also strong in the air. However, he doesn’t just shine defensively, he also has the ability to gallop down the flanks and provide a real goalscoring threat, as Denmark discovered to their cost. He may be a right-back now, but he hasn’t forgotten what he learned as a winger.

Stockier than most full backs, he is able to handle himself well aerially, winning on average 5.6 aerial duels per 90 minutes last season. For the Czech Republic national sides, he is used as an outlet from goal kicks and is often asked to win flick-ons to retain possession for the team. Another area where Kaderabek excels is in anticipating danger and covering the space in behind the right centre back.

Against Denmark on June 17, Kaderabek sprinted 30 yards to dispossess Viktor Fischer as the Danish starlet broke clear. Another example of his ability to provide cover came against Iceland on November 16, 2014, when Kolbeinn Sigþórsson was one-on-one with the goalkeeper before Kaderabek tucked inside and made a brilliant block just as the Ajax striker pulled the trigger.

Other key defensive figures from last season include 2.1 clearances per 90 minutes, 1.3 recoveries per 90 minutes and 1.4 fouls committed per 90 minutes, all impressive in their own right. Kaderabek is also a brilliant recovery tackler. More examples were seen against Bohemians 1905 on May 30 when he looked to lose his man, but slid in well to put the ball out for a throw. Against Viktoria Plzen on May 9, he made a brilliant sliding tackle to launch a counter attack.

Going forward, Kaderabek is a huge threat in the final third. He completed a hat-trick of assists in a 4-0 win against Zbrojovka Brno on April 26. He set up two goals against Banik Ostrava on February 28 by peeling off at the back post and knocking the ball back into danger. The Czech international averages 0.7 key passes per 90 minutes, which is impressive for a right back, given that the world’s top playmakers average around two or three per game.

After impressing for Sparta Prague last season, Kaderabek earned a move to Germany’s top division with Hoffenheim. He now needs regular football and competition to keep him on his toes. Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol has a successful record with young players such as Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino, so the omens are good. However, he first has to displace Hoffenheim’s current first choice right back Andreas Beck. But if he can displace Theodor Gebre Selassie in the Czech Republic senior side, as he did last season, why not?

The Bundesliga will provide a tougher challenge for Kaderabek, but he’s brimming with confidence after the last 18 months and it’s a challenge that he will take in his stride. There may yet come a point when bigger clubs than Hoffenheim wonder quite how they managed to overlook him.

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First Look: Pavel Kadeřábek
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