The last six months have been as good as any to date for striker Milan Baros. Since switching to Istanbul giants Galatasaray in the summer of 2008, the Czech marksman has convincingly recaptured the form that once brought him goals galore for club and country.
The 27-year-old started his career with Banik, an illustrious club in the east of the Czech Republic, earning a regular place in the team at the age of just 18 and scoring 23 goals in 76 appearances. After netting twice in his first two games at full international level, a host of major European clubs set out in pursuit of his signature.
Baros sealed a first move abroad when he signed for Premier League outfit Liverpool in the summer of 2001. After a delay obtaining a work permit, he finally joined the team then coached by Gerard Houllier in December of that year. However, his first season with the Reds was a disappointment.
Restrictions on the number of non-EU foreigners and the fierce competition provided by Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Nicolas Anelka and Emile Heskey meant the Czech starlet was restricted to one brief run-out in the UEFA Champions League.
The 1.84m goal-getter seized the initiative in pre-season ahead of the 2002/03 campaign, impressing with his fine form and starring role as the Czech U-21 side marched to European championship glory. Furthermore, Anelka and Fowler’s departure from Liverpool opened the door at club level for the talented Baros.
His maiden Premier League outing against Bolton Wanderers brought a match-winning brace in a 3-2 victory for the Reds. The striker would go on to score nine times in the course of the league campaign.
The player suffered a setback in 2003/04, sustaining a serious ankle injury in another meeting with Blackburn and missing almost half the season as a result. However, the Vigantice-born striker bounced back in even better form than before.
Baros oozed class for the Czech Republic at UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal, firing his team into the semi-finals with the five goals that also made him the tournament’s leading scorer. Ignoring lucrative offers from Real Madrid and Barcelona, he returned to the fray with Liverpool, finishing the following season with another nine-goal haul and a Champions League winners’ medal for his efforts.
Despite this, Baros never truly settled in Liverpool and switched to league rivals Aston Villa in 2005. He scored 13 goals in 46 appearances for the Birmingham club, before moving on in the 2006/07 January transfer window to Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyon, then coached by his former boss Houllier. However, the man who discovered Baros left the serial French champions at the end of the 2007 campaign, and the striker hardly featured in the sides sent out by Houllier’s successor Alain Perrin.
A return to the Premier League with Portsmouth failed to reignite Baros’ career, and the Czech opted for pastures new last summer with a move to Turkey and the might of leading Istanbul club Galatasaray. Events have shown it was a step in exactly the right direction.
A new dawn
The front-man has netted 14 goals in 14 league appearances to date, helping Gala to third spot in the table one match short of the halfway mark. Shortly before Christmas, Baros cemented his increasingly iconic status among the club’s passionate fans with a historic hat-trick in a city derby against bitter rivals Besiktas. He has also notched four goals in six UEFA Cup matches, a competition in which the Turks have reached the last 32 and now face French side Girondins Bordeaux.
"I’ve had no problems settling here. I’ve scored 18 goals in all up to now, and I hope there’s more where those came from. We have a very good squad, which obviously makes it easier for me. I know we’re not among the favourites, but I believe we have the quality to win the UEFA Cup," Baros confidently declared recently.
The Super Lig’s winter break ends on 25 January. The restart sees Baros and his team-mates travel to leaders Sivasspor, but if the Czech hitman can maintain his hot streak in the winter chill, there could soon be a change at the top of the standings.