Blonde Bohemian Rhapsody

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Barak, an authentic ‘'tuttocampista', an all-rounder who can play in every area of the pitch.

Richard Hough

The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english.

He’s the highest scoring foreigner to play for Hellas Verona since a 20-year-old Juan Manuel Iturbe caused a sensation with eight goals in the 2013/14 season. That was a record that convinced Hellas to part with €15 million for the prodigal Argentine, who was then on loan from Porto. Just weeks later, Iturbe was on his way to an ill-fated spell at Rome in a €22 million deal. The 2013/14 season proved to be a high point for the misfiring youngster, who has never quite delivered on what were, with hindsight, ridiculously inflated expectations.

Goal scoring has been a significant problem for Hellas since the glory days of Toni and Iturbe, and finding a goalscorer who can reach double figures. Last season Samuel Di Carmine managed eight. The season before that Pazzini managed 12, but that was in Serie B. In the disastrous 2017/18 season Moise Kean and Pazzini were the club’s joint top goalscorers with just four goals each. In 2016/17, Pazzini managed 23, but once again that was in the second tier. In the 2015/16 season (another relegation season) Pazzini and Toni managed just 6 goals each in the league. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 2014/15 Season to find a Hellas goalscorer who reached double-figures in Serie A, and that was of course the legendary Luca Toni, who netted 22.

A towering 1.9 metres tall (6 ft 3 in), it’s fair to say that Baràk’s career (not to mention his market value) has soared since he signed on loan from Udinese last summer. With a right to buy clause set at €6 million, this would seem like a sound investment for a player with a current market value of at least double that.

Born in the historic region of Bohemia in present day Czech Republic, in the town of Příbram, about 60 km for the capital of Praque, he made his debut for the local side FK Příbram on 1 June 2013 at just 18 years of age. In 2014/15 he spent a season on loan with FC Vlašim, where he managed five goals in 27 appearances, but his breakthrough came in the 2015/16 season, when he scored four goals in 12 appearances in the Czech Fortuna Liga. He signed for Slavia Praga in December 2015 and managed a further four goals from nine appearances in the second half of that season. He established himself as a regular in the Slavia team the following season, managing 33 appearances in total, including five in the Europa League.

In January 2017, he signed for Udinese for a fee of €3 million and managed seven goals in 34 appearances in his first season in Serie A. He then struggled with injuries and managed just eight appearances in each of the following two seasons, before being shipped out on loan to Lecce. Hellas Sporting director Tony D’Amico sensed his unfulfilled potential and persuaded him to come to Verona last summer.

Such has been Baràk’s impact this season, he has even earned favourable comparisons in the local media with the legendary Hans Peter Briegel. Let’s not forget that Briegel won the scudetto with Hellas in the 1984-85 season, so such parallels are perhaps a tad premature.

Like Briegel, though, Barak is a formidable athlete, combining overwhelming physical strength with the ability to move across the pitch, from defence to attack. An authentic ‘'tuttocampista', an all-rounder who can play in every area of the pitch. His career, like so many under the leadership of Ivan Juric, is now back on track after a couple of seasons in the doldrums. His powerful headed equalizer against Juventus back in February, signified the culmination of that rebirth.

His low point in Gialloblù came back in December against Sampdoria, when his red card for a petulant kick at Antonino La Gumina was borne out of frustration rather than anger, a 94th minute moment of out-of-character madness for the otherwise placid Croat. He swiftly apologized, before being handed a three-match suspension for violent conduct.

With nine fixtures remaining, Barák has set himself the target of scoring ten goals this season. It would be a rare achievement for the Czech, his most prolific season came in 2017/18, when he managed seven goals in 34 appearances for Udinese. He has already surpassed that record this season, managing seven goals in 28 appearances, and he will be hoping that he can squeeze in another three or four before the season reaches its climax.

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