Hungarian Football Roundup – January in Focus

In a new monthly column, Tomasz Mortimer will guide us through the events that have taken place in Hungarian football throughout the month. With the transfer window reopening, and Hungarian league football currently in a winter break, transfers are at the forefront of this month’s issue.

Kleinheisler joins Werder

What a year it’s been for Laszlo Kleinheisler! Shipped out this time last year on loan to Puskas FC after struggling to break into the Videoton first team, Kleinheisler didn’t register a single goal from attacking midfield in his 11 games for his boyhood club and provided just 5 assists (3 of which came in a 5-4 loss to Ujpest in his final game). The 21 year old sauntered back to Videoton with his reputation arguably at an all-time low, and seemingly in a feisty mood. The summer of 2015 wouldn’t turn out to be a good one as Kleinheisler fell out of favour with the Videoton hierarchy after an apparent disagreement over a new contract, and was banished to train with the reserves.

In September, after not even featuring for Videoton’s second side two months into the season, Kleinheisler was called up to play for the Hungary U21’s, scoring in a 6-0 demolition of Liechtenstein, before playing two Under 21 games against Albania and Portugal the following month. His performances and dynamism in those matches may have not have caught the eye of many, but one man, thankfully to Kleinheisler, was watching – Hungary manager Bernd Storck.

In November of 2015, Hungary were drawn against Norway in the Euro 2016 playoffs. Kleinheisler – out of absolutely nowhere – was in the squad. The first game in Oslo was up first and Kleinheisler – out of absolutely nowhere – was in the starting eleven. Five games into Storck’s tenure, the German coach had made a huge call in Hungary’s biggest game of this millennium. 20 minutes into the match, Storck was vindicated; the young, ginger-haired lad – controlling the ball with his right foot, and smashing home with his weaker left, less than half an hour into his debut – put Hungary one to the good. He went on to put in a superbly disciplined, tidy performance to help Hungary to a 1-0 win before featuring heavily in Hungary’s return 2-1 win in Budapest 3 days later.

Just a few months after coming to something of a crossroads in his career, and potentially heading back to Puskas FC in the winter, Kleinheisler’s reputation was at an all-time high. Suitors across Europe were said to be interested with names like Arsenal and Besiktas being bandied around.

Earlier this month, after strong interest from Polish clubs Legia Warsaw and Podbeskidzie, Kleinheisler was offered a trial by Werder Bremen of the Bundesliga and caught the eye in a 1-0 friendly win over Inter Turku. The next week, Kleinheisler was signed on a 3 and a half year contract and made his debut on the 30th January, helping his new side recover from 3-1 down to claim a 3-3 draw. An amazing turnaround in less than a year.

Norbert Balogh joins Palermo

As soon as Norbert Balogh broke into the Debrecen first team in late 2014 he looked special. Standing at 6 ft 4, Balogh isn’t the most physically imposing striker, but at just 19 you expect that to develop with time. However what Balogh lacks in physicality, he more than makes up with in technique, with his long legs always somehow keeping the ball within his reach one way or another which has made him such an effective dribbler in NBI. Balogh also has real intelligence never more evidenced by his “almost” assist for Adamo Coulibaly when, back-to-goal, he deliciously backheeled the ball exquisitely into his strike partner’s path, who (unfortunately) put the ball past the post (top video below at 2 min 13). What is frustrating about the youngster is his reluctance to use his left foot which has resulted in him spawning chances for himself and teammates, after long, mazy runs. Hopefully that is something he can work on at Palermo.

Balogh missed out on the Under 20 World Cup last summer, which was a surprise at the time especially considering the lack of depth Hungary had in the forward positions, but he has kicked on in the 2015/16 season and despite only scoring 3 goals and providing 2 assists in 18 league games he has been a constant menace for NBI defences. Is he good enough for Serie A? Well we’re about to find out – Balogh made his debut for the Rosanero earlier this month.

Huszti’s Back

Szabolcs Huszti was relentless in his final two years at Hannover. Racking up 18 assists and 19 goals in 51 Bundesliga games, there didn’t seem to be a week that went by when Huszti wasn’t putting a cross perfectly onto the head of a teammate or smashing a free kick into the top corner. Top clubs were circling, and even at 31 a big move looked to be heading Huszti’s way even after an unsteady stay at Zenit a few years previous.

What most didn’t expect was what happened next. The moneybags came calling from China and Huszti went a-following. Huszti had already retired from the international scene so there was no loss there yet Hungarian fans despaired nonetheless after seeing one of their best talents leave the European scene. There weren’t many left.

But less than two years later, Huszti is back in the Bundesliga with a much healthier bank balance, and a chance to play in one of Europe’s top leagues again with Eintracht Frankfurt. How well Huszti will adapt back to German football after two seasons playing at a much less intense level is anyone’s guess, but the 32 year old’s set pieces will be sure to frighten Bundesliga defences for a third separate time.

Nemeth moves to Qatar

And in the most bizarre move of the month, former Liverpool youngster Krisztian Nemeth has moved to Qatar from MLS side Sporting Kansas City for $3m. After showing bags of promise in the Liverpool youth and reserve sides back towards the end of the last decade, Nemeth’s career hasn’t exactly panned out as many expected.

The move from Liverpool to Olympiakos – after failing to make a senior appearance for the English club – didn’t go well at all as Nemeth found himself failing to break into the first team before an unsuccessful loan spell at Volos followed. In 2011 Olympiakos released Nemeth from his contract after less than two years at the club and the former wonderkind – who was tipped to become a Liverpool first team regular by pundits and ex-players alike when he came of age – found refuge at his former club MTK Budapest in Hungary’s second tier. A few months back playing regular football gave Nemeth a bit of his confidence back and he was picked up on a free from Eredivisie side RKC Waalwijk where he showed potential rather than any real goalscoring form. But again at the end of the 11/12 season Nemeth was on the move following his RKC boss Ruud Brood to Roda JC where Nemeth went on to score 10 goals in 52 games before Roda were condemned to relegation to Holland’s 2nd tier at the end of the 2013/14 season, and Nemeth again, was released from his contract.

Nemeth once more spent time out of the game, heading back to his home MTK to train with the club before he was picked up by Peter Vermes (of Hungarian heritage) at Sporting KC. Nemeth refound his confidence in America in 2015, and was instrumental in the club’s MLS Open Cup success scoring a superb goal in the final, as well as helping the side to the playoffs scoring 16 goals in his 33 games and contributing 7 assists from the left wing, a position Nemeth was unaccustomed with before his move to the MLS. Nemeth finally looked like he was back to something like his best after being plagued with injuries throughout his time in Europe, but at the end of January after strong rumours Nemeth wasn’t happy with his contract in Kansas, Nemeth surprised all by moving to Qatar and Al-Gharafa for $3m.

Further Talking Points

  • Gabor Kiraly won Hungarian Football of the Year, Nemanja Nikolics came 2nd and Daniel Bode 3rd.
  • Hungary remain at number 20 in the FIFA World Rankings – their highest ever ranking.
  • Hungary confirmed a friendly with Croatia in March in the build up to Euro 2016. A friendly with Germany is also heavily rumoured.
  • Zoltan Stieber has joined Nurnberg in the Bundesliga 2 after struggling for game time with HSV in the Bundesliga. Stieber needs to find form ahead of the Euro’s in the summer.
  • Adam Szalai joined Hannover on loan from fellow Bundesliga side Hoffenheim till the end of the season.
  • Zsolt Kalmar moved on loan from RB Leipzig to Bundesliga 2 side FSV Frankfurt.
  • Adam Gyurcso has left Videoton and joined Pogon Szczecin of the Polish Ekstraklasa after interest from Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan.
  • Andras Gosztonyi has also moved to the Ekstraklasa joining Slask Wroclaw from Haladas.
  • Daniel Salloi of Ujpest joined Sporting KC in the American MLS on a professional contract.
  • In NBI there has been a lot of movement – the highlights being Patrik Tischler’s move to Videoton from Puskas FC, Zsolt Haraszti also joining Videoton from Ferencvaros and Debrecen’s signing of David Holman, previously at Lech Poznan, from Ferencvaros


Follow me on Twitter for daily updates – @TMortimerFtbl