IN PROFILE: Ondrej Duda - the ‘little artist’ joining Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 16:43 12 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:43 12 January 2020
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Norwich City have confirmed the loan signing of Hertha Berlin midfielder Ondrej Duda. Our Canaries’ correspondent Connor Southwell takes a look at the Slovakian’s career.
1) A 'little artist' with autonomy
Duda's talents have been clear to those operating within the footballing circles since his emergence at Legia Warsaw. Few have displayed a faith in the Slovakian akin to that of former Hertha Berlin coach Pal Dardai, who commented on his talents by describing the attacking midfielder as a 'little artist'.
Dardai was sacked as Hertha coach in the summer after a five-year association with the German top-flight side came to an end. The Hungarian was not only influential in signing Duda from Poland in 2016 but was also responsible for helping him to flourish despite an injury-plagued start to life in the German capital.
Speaking about Duda, Dardai told the Bundesliga's official site, "Duda can do things with the ball that very few here can."
Duda possesses autonomy, he governs himself and doesn't rely on words from his head coach for motivation. His period of stagnation prior to his emergence was caused by a lack of liberation due to the unfamiliarity of his surroundings in Berlin.
"He has it now. I have almost never replaced him this season, not even in training. He needs a slightly different treatment. He is a player who must be left alone. You do not have to kick him on the buttocks," said Dardai, when asked about what caused the response from Duda.
2) Injury problems and a slow start
Duda struggled to adapt to life in Berlin after a move from Legia Warsaw in 2016 due to a plethora of injury problems.
Duda was quickly side-lined following his arrival due to a knee injury which required surgery and it took seven months for the midfielder to make his competitive debut in the Bundesliga.
He completed merely 67 minutes in his opening season in Germany, provoking doubt about whether he possessed the physical capabilities required to thrive in the German top-flight.
Dardai set demanding standards for his squad, and in the summer of 2017, the Slovakian fell short of the grade set by Hertha's coach. Lacking match fitness, he was pushed into extra sessions as Dardai punished Duda for not meeting his expectations.
The Slovakian responded in emphatic fashion, forcing himself in the plans at Herta and thriving under the increased expectations. His ability to thread through a pass saw him become one of Herta's creators in chief.
3) A bet with Saloman Kalou
Dardai carved out a role for the attacking-midfielder which contained both defensive and offensive responsibilities, leading him to become one of the most lethal counter-attacking conduits in the Bundesliga.
That tough love imposed on him by Dardai was matched by ex-Chelsea forward Saloman Kalou, who, following Duda's impressive form, said, simply: "Number 10 is back".
Kalou placed a bet with him that would see Duda gifted a Rolex watch if he managed to score eight goals that season, Duda scored ten and was gifted the watch which he sold back to the Ivorian before donating the proceeds to charity.
Duda's on-pitch relationship with Kalou helped Hertha climb the table, and he admitted the wager with the Ivorian did help him push on.
"I don't need a Rolex, so I'll give it away as a present or donate the money," the attacking midfielder told German outlet Bild. "Salomon spurred me on with his bet. It's great that I've scored so many goals, and can help the team."
4) Award-winning Slovakian aged 17
Duda's career began in Slovakia, with his local side MFK Snina, before joining one-time Champions League group stage participants Kosice. Aged 17, he made his first-team debut under the manager who would be the first to recognise him on the international stage, Jan Kozak.
Duda impressed enough to win the Peter Dubovsky prize in 2014, an accolade awarded to the player considered the country's best young talent. He joined prestigious company in winning the award, with previous winners including former Napoli player Marek Hamsik and ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel.
In 2014, he moved to Poland and Legia, a move which could have fazed a young talent like Duda: "Ondrej is a clever lad," insisted his father and agent, Ondrej Sr. "Going from Kosice where 200,000 live to Warsaw with ten times as many people has not changed him at all. He can handle that pressure."
He played a pivotal role as Legia become the dominant force in Polish football, his two seasons there included helping them win a domestic double.
His performances reportedly impressed a host of European powerhouses, including AC Milan, Liverpool and Tottenham and saw Duda compared to his idol, Steven Gerrard.