The last name Kadlec occupies a special place on the Czech football roll of honour. That's mainly due to Miroslav Kadlec, one of the best players ever to emerge from the former Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, accomplished libero Kadlec captained the Czech national team and led his men to the UEFA EURO 1996 final, still the relatively young nation’s greatest success.
A decade or so ago, Miroslav’s son Michal set out to follow in his father's footsteps. Kadlec junior long ago achieved regular status with German Bundesliga high-flyers Bayer Leverkusen, and also broke into his national team. “But my surname was actually more of a burden, because there are certain expectations when you're the son of a famous player," the 28-year-old confessed to FIFA.com a year or so ago.
It's a sentiment almost certainly shared by a third Kadlec, although Vaclav Kadlec is completely unrelated to Miroslav and Michal. Nevertheless, the 20-year-old has already managed to burnish the famous Czech footballing name by requiring just a single international appearance to carve himself a place in his country’s footballing annals.
Kadlec scored the second goal in a 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein on his debut in October 2010, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the nation's history. “I remember it well," he exclusively told FIFA.com. “Tomas Rosicky started the move by accelerating past two defenders and finding me with a magnificent ball.
"The pitch was soaking wet and the keeper had no chance when I got my shot on target. Obviously, I'm very proud. If you look back over who’s scored the goals for the teams of the past, it's amazing to be among their number. However, the critical thing is that it mustn't remain my only goal. I want to add plenty more."
The confident and effervescent striker clearly believes in his own ability. He also rates as one of Czech football’s best prospects since Rosicky, and was duly named Czech Young Player of the Year in 2010.
As a 16-year-old, Kadlec switched from the youth section of Bohemians Prague to cross-town rivals Sparta, where he made the first team in his debut season and immediately scored. He is now closing in on 100 appearances for the men in blue, yellow and red.
“I don't necessarily see myself as a must-pick player, although I probably rate as an important member of the team," he reflected. Nor has Kadlec’s rise through the ranks been smooth going all the way. “Six months ago, no-one really knew where I was headed due to my injuries, but I'm delighted with the way things are going for now," he observed.
Indeed, the talented youngster’s medical file is already bulky. The 20-year-old has just returned to action from a two-month lay-off following surgery to treat a fractured skull. “I prefer to set short-term goals at the moment. I'd like to score a few more goals, win the league, and go as far as we can in Europe," he said.
The step-by-step approach is aimed at taking Kadlec to the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ if humanly possible. However, the striker is nothing if not a realist: “It'll be hard for us because I guess the Italians will win the group," he mused. “The rest of us are fighting for second place. Let's see if we're good enough for that."
In European Zone qualifying Group B, the nation lying 29th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking are handily placed in third on five points from three matches, behind leaders Italy on ten points from four, and Bulgaria on six from four. The Czechs’ next qualifying opponents are Denmark and Armenia in late March, and Kadlec is hoping for a place in the national squad.
“We're doing what we love. I'm so lucky to be a footballer. My hobby has become my job, and that's magnificent," the player declared at the end of his exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
Vaclav bears a famous name and boasts talent in spades, but it remains to be seen whether the comparisons with captain and superstar Rosicky will stand the test of time. However, the 20-year-old's realistic ambitions and undoubted potential mean he must have a good chance of following in those famous footsteps.