Speed is his forte

Milan Baros was outstanding at Euro 2004 and finished top-scorer in the tournament in Portugal, which sent his value soaring, writes Andy Hampson.

Milan Baros is a pacy striker who boasts a fine goal-scoring record for the Czech Republic. He is now playing club football with French champions Lyon after spells in the English Premier League with Liverpool and Aston Villa.

Baros was born in Vigantice, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. His father, also called Milan, and grandfather played football and he inherited their love of the game. He learned to kick a ball in the garden and neighbouring fields and was soon playing at FC Vigantice.

Such was his promise that by the age of 12 Baros was picked by Banik Ostrava, and it was here that he made his name, impressing everyone with his pace and ability to find the net. He played for the national youth teams and broke into the Ostrava side as a teenager. He played at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and made the senior national team the following year.

By this time, having earned the nickname ‘Ostravan Maradona’, Baros was regarded as one of the hottest properties in Europe. The likes of Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Juventus were interested in signing him, but it was Liverpool who won the race for his signature. Baros agreed to join the Reds in August 2001 but it was not until December that the deal was completed when he received his work permit.

It took Baros some time to establish himself at Anfield and he made only one appearance in 2001-02, as a substitute in a UEFA Champions League match in Barcelona.

In the following season, he began to find his feet with 12 goals and looked set to improve further the year after but suffered a setback when he broke his ankle.

He struggled to regain his Liverpool place after that but maintained his prolific scoring rate for the Czech Republic. Baros was outstanding at Euro 2004 and finished top-scorer in the tournament in Portugal which sent his value soaring.

Things changed at Liverpool in 2004-05 after Rafael Benitez replaced Gerard Houllier as manager. Benitez often rotated his squad and Baros was reportedly unhappy, even though he was often deployed in Champions League games.

There was a glorious ending as the Reds went on to win Europe’s elite competition that year but Baros decided to try his luck elsewhere. He moved on to Aston Villa for GBP6.5million and scored on his debut. He scored 12 goals in 29 appearances in 2005-06 but was still regarded as a mixed success.

In January 2007 he went to Lyon, a move that reunited him with Houllier, in a swap deal for John Carew.

Baros, a big star in his homeland, and his former girlfriend Eva Kilianova, a famous Czech model, were the nation’s glamour couple for a time. Their relationship ended in 2004 but Baros is now involved with another model, Edita Hortova.

Baros was forced to deny accusations of racism earlier this year after an incident on the field while playing for Lyon. After a long-running battle with Rennes’ Cameroon international Stephane M’Bia, Baros held his nose and pretended to waft away an unpleasant smell. The incident provoked huge controversy but Baros insisted it was not a racist gesture, merely one of frustration. The French authorities agreed with Baros but still handed him a suspension for ungentlemanly conduct.

FACTFILE Name: Milan Baros Position: Striker Club: Lyon D.O.B: 28/10/1981 Czech Republic caps: 59 Czech Republic goals: 31 Czech Republic debut: v Belgium, April 2001 Moment to remember

The Czech Republic were a highly impressive team at Euro 2004 and Baros has rarely looked a better player than he did during the tournament. He finished with five goals in all, two of them coming in a superb 3-0 quarterfinal demolition of Denmark in Opoto. Baros produced two clinical finishes, with either foot, in the space of three minutes.

Moment to forget

Baros’ Liverpool career was most definitely in the ascendancy when he broke his ankle in an EPL clash at Blackburn in September 2003. He fell awkwardly after an innocuous challenge from Markus Babbel and had to be carried off on a stretcher. He underwent immediate surgery and did not play again for five months.

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