We’ve featured dozens of different players in our U23 countdowns over the years, but I’m not sure there’s ever been who excites me quite as much as the next young man on our list, Patrik Schick. And really, when you reach this point in the top ten, the line between one and two is about as fine as it gets, so the fact that Schick is number two on our list is in no way a slight to the young Czech—the sight of Schick with the ball on the edge of the box is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of being a Roma fan nowadays.
Number Two: Patrik Schick
Current Club: AS Roma
Future Comparison: Marco Van Basten with a splash of Dennis Bergkamp
Who is He?
Schick stands nearly 6’2” and hails from one of the world’s greatest cities, Prague. Raised in the Sparta Prague system, Schick never really had the chance to break through with his hometown club, as he was loaned to Bohemians before being sold to Sampdoria during the summer of 2016 for €4 million. And if you’re a Roma fan, you’re no doubt familiar with what happened next...
With his move to Juventus down to the details, all that remained was the medical examination. This run of the mill test is almost always a formality, but thanks to a temporary coronary issue, Juve pulled out of the deal, leaving the door wide open for Roma to scoop him up, Iturbe-style.
While Schick was a bit player for Roma last season, there were enough flashes of brilliance to leave your jaw on the floor and keep you aching in anticipation for what the future might hold.
What Can He Do?
Well, we know what he doesn’t like to do, that’s for sure. With Edin Dzeko firmly entrenched at center forward, what little playing time Shick garnered came out wide, and while he’s certainly agile and crafty enough to work out there, by his own admission he’s a center forward through and through, but with minutes at his preferred position hard to come by, Schick had to make do with nary a meaningful minute.
While Schick won’t blow you away with a series of step overs, he is so incredibly adept at working around defenders, particularly in tight spaces, that he’s able to carve out attacking space at will. Due to his gait, hesitation dribbles, and absurd close control, Schick is a threat from virtually anywhere on the pitch. What’s more, his understanding of space enables him to work vicious one-twos with wide attackers, or to slip through space to get on the end of a through ball.
Even as I write this, I’m afraid I’m selling this kid short. He’s not flashy in the Brazilian sense of the word, but every time he’s on the ball, it’s must-see TV. He can drift parallel to the goal line to shake defenders, he can use his long legs and frame to shield the ball while simultaneously weaving his way out of trouble, or he can simply juke and shimmy his way past you, and, as we mentioned, he’s equally skilled at being part of a larger attacking unit rather than a talisman. Creator and contributor, actor and director, receiver and quarterback, he’s as versatile as they come.
I tend to make a lot of calcio and basketball comparisons, but imagine if Kevin Durant was, like, a foot shorter and grew up in Prague; that’s Patrik Schick—the effect of his skills, his unique stature and his understanding of the game are Durant like in their ability to make him virtually unguardable.
Which leads us to...
What Can He Become?
To this point in his career, Schick has gotten by largely on pure skill, but one look at his newly toned physique shows you all you need to know about Schick this season: he came to play. So ten years from now when we look back on Schick’s maturation, 2018 may very well be the jumping off point.
Throughout the preseason we’ve seen flashes of that same brilliance that tantalized both Roma and Juventus last summer; the deceptive speed, the close control and the sublime finishing in the area. Pure and simple, this kid is going to be a goal scorer, equal parts shot taker and shot maker.
Schick will never likely be a household name on the order of Messi or Ronaldo, or even Mbappe or Neymar, but he has as much preternatural talent as any player on the planet. He’s so smooth, so composed and so fucking skilled that once he pulls it together, he could be as much a throwback to the old Dutch strikers as he could be a paradigm shifter for the next decade.
It won’t be long before Schick makes us all forget about Edin Dzeko, a succession that may begin before the calendar flips to 2019.