When Patrik Schick stepped out of the lift that took him 62 metres up to the panoramic platform of the EVL tower, he went straight up to the big window. He calmly looked down at Leverkusen around him with his eyes first caught by the Chempark before moving on to his new sporting home, the BayArena. "The view is interesting and it's really impressive to see the works and the stadium from above," he said. But he can't suppress a sardonic smile as he is slightly disappointed. But that is not due to the Leverkusen panorama. Schick misses the sun. "It's rained nearly all the time since I got here. I was hoping to see blue sky and have a perfect view from up here. It is pretty with the fog but you can't really see that much."
It may be a consolation for the 24-year-old that his life has been so bright in the past months. Married to Hana in July, the move to Leverkusen in September and in October the birth of his daughter Victoria – the complicated year of 2020 has at least bestowed domestic bliss on the Czech. "It's not easy for any of us with all the restrictions due to the pandemic. But I'm incredibly happy as far as my family is concerned. Family comes first, even ahead of football. And I'm grateful for what's happened in the past months and, above all, that everybody is healthy."
While Schick talks about the new chapter in his life with a smile on his face, the clouds gather behind him. Undeterred by that, the striker, in the best of moods, talks about the move to Leverkusen, his first goal for Bayer 04 and the only phase of recent months that has affected his well-being: An injury to his left thigh, sustained in the 1-1 draw at Stuttgart, after he scored his first Bundesliga goal for Bayer 04, forced him onto the sidelines for several weeks. Not an easy situation for a player who has just joined a new club when he is looking to win the hearts and minds of the city and the fans. But Schick remained relaxed, drew strength from his private happiness and recalled mistakes from the past.
When he was signed by AS Roma from Sampdoria in 2017 for €15 million after an impressive first season with 13 goals scored, he also suffered a setback through injury. A muscle problem developed into an extended tale of suffering, where Schick was not completely blameless as he admits: "It's all about decisions in football. I came to Rome for a big transfer fee and I wanted to show what I could do. Then came the injury and, instead of making a full recovery, I had months of pain and it only got worse. That was a mistake, I should have rested. I've learned from that. Injuries don't worry me any more and I'll only get back on the pitch when I'm 100% fit. That's better for everybody."
Schick is focused as he speaks quietly but with great conviction. Although he is only 24 years old, he already has a wealth of experience. Born in Prague, he moved to Genoa when he was 20 and then to Rome, a "wonderful city with beautiful buildings, a unique centre and way of life." However, he shows full appreciation for Leverkusen and Bayer 04 after his move on loan to Leipzig from Roma in 2019/20. "I hope I stay here for a long time after moving on nearly every season in recent years. But that’s sport, you only have a few years as a professional and football has to take priority. But that's what I want and I hope my family will be happy about it as well."
He was well prepared for everything except for the grey tones of autumn – thanks to insider knowledge from his friend Michal Kadlec. His fellow countryman and former Bayer 04 player is a close friend of Schick's. "Michal told me a lot and, as a football fan, I know about the huge tradition at Bayer 04. I used to watch a lot of games on television but never thought I would end up playing here. It's a great club with great fans and I'm sure I've made a very good decision."
Schick has never shrunk from taking decisive steps. Despite all the warnings, the then youth international moved to Italy in 2016 without having fully made his way in the Czech Republic. Sampdoria, Serie A, new country, new language. "A lot of people didn't believe I could be successful in Italy. But I believed in myself, knew that the system suited me and I became a better player at Sampdoria. There's more focus on tactics in Italy and the defenders are very well trained, which makes life difficult for strikers." His football ability paved the way to success for the 1.87 metre tall, slim player. In spite of his stature, he does not describe himself as a classic number nine – even though he does admit with a smile to having a slight aversion to defending: "I was also a playmaker but scoring goals always suited me more than defending. I also think it's important to have a position where you can be consistent. I can play as a number 10 and I like having the ball at my feet."
The ball has continued to constantly move between foot and goal but the shirt colours changed. Via Rome and Leipzig, the way led to Leverkusen after a stopover in the Champions League semi-final. After two months, he has acclimatised at Bayer 04, at least from a sporting perspective. One goal in three Bundesliga games, another in the DFB Cup. The strike rate is in order as is the relationship with his teammates. His constantly growing range of languages is definitely helpful. "I have most contact with Lukas Hradecky. He is a Finn but his parents come from Slovakia and we speak the same language. I can also communicate with the Spanish-speaking players in a sort of mixed language with my Italian. I also speak English and understand almost everything in German. But I need to learn it again and it’s not that easy." It's a case of déjà vu as he learned German for four years as a teenager having consciously made the decision in school "not to do French as the chances were greater of being able to use the language one day."
So Schick already had a premonition of which league he might end up in. It was clear early on that he would have a career in football as he explains: "It was always my dream to become a professional player and perform at the highest level. I staked everything on it."
Schick is pursuing his targets with appropriate motivation and focus. Next year's European Championships, of course. But, above all, the peripatetic Czech is yearning for a return to Europe's premier club competition. "We want to be successful in the Europa League but, above all, qualify for the Champions League via the Bundesliga. That's our main target. I want to score as many goals as possible and help to achieve that."
A slight wind was blowing as he went down in the lift. Schick shrugs slightly and looks forward. He is ready and knows exactly what is expected of him. The winter is coming – and Leverkusen face exciting times. Patrik Schick wants to make sure that happens.
This article is from the Werks11 Magazin #28. The new edition was sent out to Bayer 04 members by post last week and will appear online in the coming days.
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