Pavel Kaderabek: TSG's Czech locomotive
What happened in the 73rd minute on Matchday 34 of the 2017/18 season is a moment with which Pavel Kadeřábek will remain synonymous for the remainder of his career. TSG were leading 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund and needed one more goal to reach the Champions League proper for the first time. Suddenly, up popped the Czech wing-back with a volley that flew into the net and sparked wild celebrations among the home faithful. Hoffenheim had done it; it was a goal for eternity.
Kadeřábek seems to have a knack for scoring important goals. Only a few months later, the 26-year-old struck in stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw at Olympique Lyon in the Champions League. But there's more to the man than his goals. He's become one of the team's key performers and is now one of its longest-serving players. At the start, though, it took some time for the pieces to fall into place following his move from Czech record champions Sparta Prague in the summer of 2015. "We've taken a huge leap forward under Julian Nagelsmann. In footballing terms, the difference is big," Kadeřábek said.
The same applies to him personally. In the 2016/17 campaign Kadeřábek was spending a lot of time on the bench and goals were few and far between for the right-back, who had been playing for "Hoffe" for almost three years before first finding the net in a 5-2 victory over RB Leipzig on 21 April 2018. "I wasn't playing badly beforehand, but something was missing," said Kadeřábek. The subsequent improvement can be attributed to the extra training sessions that he put himself through. "I started training crosses and shots at goal more specifically." The goal in Leipzig was his personal "breakthrough"; the crucial goal against Borussia Dortmund followed barely a month later.
High expectations from the coach
By now, the Czech international is making his contribution to achieving the ambitious objectives his coach has set for the wide men in the squad. "The full-backs need to score eight goals between them in a season. Then you'll be more successful," explained Julian Nagelsmann. Kadeřábek has already scored four goals and racked up six assists in the first 30 competitive matches of the campaign, meaning he now has 10 scorer points − more than he amassed in the entirety of last season.
The tactical system that has been deployed − a back three that gives the team a more attack-minded approach − seems to suit Kadeřábek, who gets forward and has more space on the right flank. "I feel more comfortable with a back three. It's nice to be involved more going forward." But when necessary − as was the case in the second half against Bayern or Freiburg − he can drop back and slot in on the right of a back four. Composed but not inconspicuous. Full of dynamism and energetic going forward.
Kadeřábek has been featuring on the right wing since last season. "I'm very satisfied with my progress," said the 26-year-old, who has played all six Champions League matches and 19 of the 22 Bundesliga games this term. The Czech locomotive is in constant action. He has also racked up 339 minutes across four international appearances – and it has had an impact. "The first half-season was very strenuous. I was very tired by the end," said the Czech, who is not one for complaining.
"I need to keep working hard"
For Kadeřábek, there is a silver lining to the lack of Champions League matches in the second half of the season. "The absence of European games makes it easier to work on yourself and to train. That was tougher before as we had a game every three days." He has mixed feelings as he reflects on the results this term. "We had a good run at the end of the first half-season where we went 10 successive matches unbeaten. But there were too many draws along the way. It's nice that things have gone really well for me personally and I've managed to rack up some scorer points. But I need to keep working hard."
One reason things have been going so well for him is his family. The TSG first-teamer, who put pen to paper on a contract extension until 2023 in the autumn, lives with his wife Tereza and his daughter Emma in Sinsheim and is very happy there. "Family is always more important than football. If my wife or my daughter didn't feel happy, I probably wouldn't still be here. But we're happy that we're here."
Kadeřábek's performances have made a massive contribution to TSG qualifying for European competition in the last two seasons, and the 26-year-old wants to ensure that "Hoffe" are represented on the international stage next term too. "It won't be easy, but we believe in ourselves because we have a super team. If we play like we did in the second half of the 2017/18 season, if we can put a good run together, then we can play ourselves into contention." Perhaps Pavel Kadeřábek will once again be the hero by scoring another important goal – just as he did in the spring of 2018 against Borussia Dortmund – as TSG complete a catch-up in the second half of the season.
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