The experience of 30-year-old Martin Petras, gained across five different European leagues, has always been of enormous benefit to the Slovak national team. A committed, no-nonsense central defender, he has amassed 36 caps for his country during a varied career, the pinnacle of which will undoubtedly be this year’s FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa.
A loyal servant to his country down the years, Petras only spent his first two seasons as a professional in his native land, before joining Czech outfit FK Jablonek in 2000. After 56 solid appearances – interspersed by three goals – over two seasons, he attracted the interest of Sparta Prague, who snapped him up in 2002. His stay in the capital was a successful one, as he won two league titles, gained his first Slovakia cap and played in the UEFA Champions League. It was in the 2005/06 edition of the latter competition that he scored his only European goal to date, sweeping home a late consolation strike in a 2-1 defeat to Ajax.
Petras felt it was time for a change of scenery and signed for FBK Kaunas, whose links with Heart of Midlothian in Scotland saw the centre-back immediately sent out on loan to the Edinburgh club. But his arrival in the Scottish Premier League coincided with a period of upheaval at Tynecastle, and he decided to cut his losses after just five first-team appearances.
Putting that difficult experience behind him, the footballing nomad was on his travels again, this time with Italy as his destination. He would go on to bring much-needed toughness and composure to the defences of four different Serie B clubs in as many seasons. As Slovakia prepare for a FIFA World Cup tussle with the Italians in Group F, Petras’ insider knowledge will be invaluable to his national coach, Vladimir Weiss.