PRETORIA (Reuters) - Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik clearly has big ambitions in life — he marked his country’s World Cup qualification with a new tattoo and says he has plenty of room for new body art.
“I have a tattoo with the date of our qualification, 14/10/2009,” he told Reuters in the courtyard of Slovakia’s tournament base in Pretoria before a late afternoon training session.
“Maybe if we get out of the group stages I’ll add another one. But I haven’t finished. There’s a lot of room for more.”
Playmaker Hamsik, who has enjoyed three good years at his Italian club Napoli, is Slovakia’s most influential player despite being only 22.
And he has also earnt the respect of his Czech “hero” Pavel Nedved who was quoted earlier this year as annointing Hamsik his natural heir, prompting speculation the young player could move to a larger club, such as Nedved’s former side Juventus.
After politely batting away numerous questions over what formation Slovakia would play or what he expected from the opposition, Hamsik’s face lit up when asked what he had learnt from Nedved, widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his era.
“Pavel Nedved is my friend,” he said, with a big grin. “He was my star when I was young, my favourite player and I loved to watch him play. We’re not in touch right now, we don’t telephone or text but he’s been good and I know he backs the Slovaks.
“I’ve told him how much I like him and now I have to focus on my game and my World Cup.”
Hamsik said that sharp focus would also mean he would not comment on whether a good performance in Slovakia could result in him catching the eye of a larger club.
“I’ve spent three years at Serie A and for me it’s been a perfect experience. There are so many fans and it’s very competitive. But for now it’s all about the team, not the individual players.
“We’re just hoping for a good tournament and being here, at our first World Cup is just fantastic.”
Slovakia face New Zealand, Paraguay and Italy in Group F.
Additional reporting by Sonia Oxley, Editing by Nigel Hunt