It’s a great national shame, but the talent pool of Hungarian football has provided very slim pickings for any top European club (especially outside of the tracksuited goalkeeper position) and has done so for a very long time.
A rare exception could be young center back Attila Szalai, who currently plays for Fenerbahce and who has been earning rave reviews for his performances over the past year or so. In fact, the 23-year-old has been heavily linked with a £20m exit this January, with Chelsea reportedly one of the teams vying for his signature — no doubt nudged along by the fact that one of Tuchel’s assistants, Zsolt Lőw, is a fellow Hungarian.
Those rumors seemed rather silly at the time (i.e. last month), but Hungary national team head coach Marco Rossi appears to have practically confirmed them while speaking to Italian media at a press event today.
“It’s hard to name just one player [who could be great in the Serie A], but right now I see very well Attila Szalai, who plays for Fenerbahce, but I think he is joining Chelsea. Clearly, he has been followed by important clubs in Spain, but apparently his move to Chelsea is a done deal. [He] would be a great player also for Italian football.”
Rossi may or may not actually know anything, but it’s perhaps telling that he slipped that factoid in there when asked which of his players in the national team would do well in Italian football.
(Incidentally, before taking the Hungary job, Rossi was the manager for one season at my hometown club, leading them to a then club-record third place finish in the league and a first ever Europa League spot. Hopefully his rumor mongering is as good as his coaching.)
If Szalai’s as good as advertised, he would be an excellent addition who could not only cover for Malang Sarr’s expected loan departure, but could be a safety option should contract negotiations with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger continue to not bear fruit — and he’s young enough that he could be a long-term solution as well considering the ages of Thiago Silva and César Azpilicueta.