There is no question of Liverpool lacking strength in depth in the striking department – Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Emile Heskey are already on their books, while rising Czech star Milan Baros is expected to arrive at Anfield from Banik Ostrava towards the end of this year.
Baros has not been short of suitors since exploding on the international stage last spring with a goal in each of his first two games for the Czech Republic. PSV Eindhoven, Milan, Internazionale andJuventus were among those reportedly enamoured by his sharpness in the box, pacy bursts down either flank and excellent touch, while at one point Borussia Dortmund looked on the verge of signing the 19-year-old.
But after the Germans opted to recruit another Czech striker, Anderlecht’s Jan Koller, and an offer from Serie A new boys Piacenza was deemed not sufficiently tempting, the field was clear for Liverpool. The UEFA Cup holders duly clinched a œ3.2million deal.
‘I’m glad a club as famous as Liverpool wanted me,’ says Baros, whose ball skills have prompted some Czech sports writers to call him the ‘Ostravan Maradona’. ‘I will continue playing for Banik until the end of the autumn, when my work permit should have been sorted out. I’ll be doing my best not to be distracted by thoughts of my transfer. My job is to concentrate on Czech League football and, if selected, do as well as I can in international matches.’
Not that there is any chance of Czech Republic coach Jozef Chovanec ignoring Baros at the moment. The youngster popped up with a late equaliser on his debut against Belgium last April; two months later he came up trumps again, scoring in the 3-1 World Cup qualifying win at home to Northern Ireland. ‘Milan helped turn the game in our favour,’ said Chovanec. ‘His skill, speed and directness stretched them and he got his reward with a goal.’ The youngster topped that by scoring the winner at home to Malta in the recent World Cup tie to revive the Czechs’ faltering campaign.
Baros has always found representative football to his liking, and enjoyed particular success with the Under-21s. He scored nine goals in 14 appearances, helping them finish second to Italy in the European Championship in Slovakia last year.
The irony is that the Czech League has not proved a happy hunting ground for Baros of late. He managed just four goals for Banik last season and the club only narrowly avoided relegation.
At trophy-hungry Liverpool, the young forward will be in quite another world.
Club Banik Ostrava (Liverpool from November/December)
Country Czech Republic
Born October 28, 1981, in Ostrava
International debut April 2001, v Belgium
International caps 5 (3 goals)