Salzburg striker Janko has been the star of the Austrian season
By Harry Miltner in Vienna
Two names have dominated Austrian football this season: striker Marc Janko, whose incredible goalscoring record took Salzburg to the domestic title, and new national coach Didi Constantini, who has led the country back to success in the World Cup qualifiers.
Following two seasons plagued by injury, Janko has finally been able to show his true skills. Going into the last game of the season, the 25-year-old had scored an unbelievable 39 times, leaving him just two short of Hans Krankl’s all-time Austrian league record and keeping him in the hunt for the ESM Golden Shoe along with Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o and Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid.
“It is an amazing feeling to be in a fight with such stars. Krankl and Eto’o are legends, while I am nobody in international football,” said the modest Janko.
However, his great scoring power, paired with his 6ft 5ins physical presence and technical skill, have quickly put him on the international scouts’ notepads, particularly those of the English Premier League.
“Yes, we have received offers from several clubs, and it’s always been my dream to play in England, so I will do everything to make this dream come true,” said Janko. Although he has extended his contract with Salzburg until 2013, he is more than likely to move if the right fee is offered to club owner, energy drink tycoon Didi Mateschitz.
While Mateschitz’s favourite player is being chased by the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn Rovers, Hoffenheim and Roma, Janko’s management team has not yet started negotiating.
“There is still enough time,” said his agent Georg Stangassinger. “Marc has been focusing on winning the league with Salzburg, breaking Krankl’s record and earning himself the Golden Shoe. He has a valid contract and we will have to see what concrete offers come in.”
Meanwhile, on the international front,Constantini has revived hopes of Austria’s qualification for the World Cup in South Africa.
Having learnt his trade as assistant to legendary Austria manager Ernst Happel back in the 1990s, Constantini made his name in his homeland as something of a “saviour” by avoiding relegation three times as caretaker coach with Austria Wien, Karnten and Pasching.
He was handed the national job after newly appointed Austrian FA president Leo Windtner fired Karel Bruckner and, despite suffering a long list of injured players, Constantini led his side to a 2-1 home win against Romania.
“I am not a messiah, but the players needed a change in style,” said Innsbruck-born Constantini. “I would never allow myself to criticise a colleague. However, it seemed time for a different approach and so far it has worked out quite well.”
Austria had started the campaign with a 3-1 home triumph over France, but lost in Lithuania and at home to Serbia to fall into crisis. The Euro 2008 co-hosts still have it all to do, lying fourth in their group after five games, three points adrift off France, who occupy the play-off spot.
“We are in a tough group and so our chances are slim – but giving up is not on my agenda,” said Constantini.