While Slovak superstar Marek Hamsik may still be in the early stages of his career, he already appears to be at the very peak of his powers. One of the first names on the team sheet for club and country, the Napoli midfield man and national captain is without doubt the premier asset of Vladimir Weiss’ Slovakia side, as they look to progress through the group stages at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Hamsik was only 17 when he took leave of Slovan Bratislava, the club whose youth academy he had attended, heading for the bright lights of Brescia, in Serie A briefly, then in Serie B. After a first year spent finding his feet and soaking up a new culture, the talented midfielder moved up a gear in the 2006/07 season, making 40 influential appearances and scoring 10 goals for Roberto Baggio’s former side. Subsequently, Hamsik’s eye-catching displays saw him secure a move back up to Italy’s top division, this time with newly-promoted Napoli.
‘Marieko’ was quick to win over the Naples’ club’s demanding fan base, proving himself to be a technically sound and committed performer. Adept at spreading the play as well as tracking back, he also showed he could roll his sleeves up when required. In addition, when his willingness to let fly from outside the box is taken into account, it is easy to see why he was soon being regarded as Napoli’s creative fulcrum. Any Slovak exerting influence in Serie A will inevitably come to the attention of the man holding the reins of the national team, and former coach Jan Kocian soon came calling.
Hamsik’s first of many caps came on 7 February, 2007, in a friendly draw with Poland. From that summer onwards, he became a regular fixture in the Slovakia team, scoring his first-ever goal for his country later that year against San Marino. Still young but already an excellent decision-maker, he was named captain for the crucial clash with Poland last October, the result of which paved the way to a first FIFA World Cup finals appearance in the youthful nation’s short history.
The captaincy appears to be a role that fits him like a glove, and one that he does not look like losing any time soon. “Clearly, there are older and more experienced men in the team than him,” pointed out Vladimir Weiss. “But Marek is a gifted, world-class player and a great lad to boot. He’s always performed brilliantly in all the positions I’ve asked him to play. That’s why I made him captain.” With eight goals in 29 games, Hamsik’s statistics already resemble those of a veteran international. “Marek is very mature for his age. He is without doubt one of my more versatile players. He is equally effective as an attacking midfielder or second striker,” continued Weiss.
Hamsik’s track record, allied to Napoli’s strong showing in the Italian league this season, have led to admiring glances being thrown in the Slovak's direction from major European clubs. There are rumours circulating about a possible move to Chelsea or Manchester City, but much will depend on how he performs at the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa.