Young Nurnberg striker Robert Vittek has been in the vanguard of Slovakia’s fine start to their World Cup campaign, bagging five goals to date, including a hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein and the late equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Russia.

“Robert is on a scoring streak, and long may it continue,” says Slovakia boss Dusan Galis. “His confidence is high and his instincts are taking him to the right places in and around the box.”

The 22-year-old, who offers speed, robustness and technical prowess, has always been something of a golden boy. He was labelled the Great White Hope of Slovak football as soon as he broke into the Slovan Bratislava first team as a 16-year-old, and a total of 39 League goals for Slovan between 2001 and 2003 had representatives from the likes of Celtic, Fenerbahce and Stuttgart reportedly making a beeline for the Slovak capital.

However, nothing came of the speculation and Vittek had to set his sights lower, moving to German Second Division side Nurnberg in August 2003 on a one-season loan.

The £200,000 the club stumped up for his services last season proved money well
spent as his goals played a big part in bringing them the Second Division title. So there was no chance of Nurnberg ignoring their option to sign him permanently last summer, especially with cash-starved Slovan ready to lower their asking price from £1.4million to £900,000.

And how pleased his new employers were.

“Robert is a raw diamond,” gushed Nurnberg coach Wolfgang Wolf.

This profile originally apppeared in the December 2004 issue of World Soccer