If David Vanecek goes on to enjoy half the success of the last man to arrive at Tynecastle via FC Hradec Králové, then Hearts will be on to a winner.
Having launched the career of double Scottish Cup-winning Gorgie legend Rudi Skacel two decades ago, the second-tier club from the Bohemia region of Czech Republic also gave Vanecek a platform to elevate himself to prominence when they signed him five years ago as a 22-year-old, following a period of relative early-career obscurity. After two-and-a-half years with Skacel’s hometown club in which he scored 22 goals, Vanecek climbed the ladder once more as he joined top-flight mainstays FK Teplice in early 2016. The imposing 27-year-old has spent the past two seasons as the focal point of their attack, scoring 18 goals, establishing himself as one of the most effective strikers in the Czech Republic and, in the process, catching the eye of Hearts, who this week confirmed that he had agreed a pre-contract to join in January. The Edinburgh club are still working on a deal to secure Vanecek’s services this transfer window, but regardless of when he eventually arrives in Scotland, the highly-regarded hitman is expected to make a big impact while simultaneously leaving a significant void at Teplice.
“If he goes in this window it will be a problem for us because we play a system that is all suited to David,” said Jakub Divis, a former Hibs goalkeeper and current Teplice team-mate of Vanecek. “For Teplice, losing David is not a great situation. We would have to change our tactics, everything. For me, it is not good to lose David because I need him in my team. But for David, as my friend, it will be good for him if he can move in this transfer window because it has been his dream to move to a better league. Scotland will be perfect for him.”
Divis had a short spell on loan at Hibs in 2011 when Colin Calderwood was in charge, and saw enough in that time to be sure that his 6ft 4ins colleague and friend is perfectly suited to the demands of Scottish football.
“David is perfect for the Scottish league because he is very strong,” continued Divis. “He is a big guy, very physical and very strong in the box. I was only at Hibs for a short time but the Scottish league is a league that needs strong footballers because it is very important to show fight. David is the right man for this type of football. He likes to fight in the box with defenders. He is very strong in these situations. The Scottish league for him is perfect.
“He is a typical striker who likes to be in the box and, if you get the ball to him in a good position, he will usually score. He doesn’t run all over the pitch – he likes to wait in the central area for the good pass and after that, he will usually score a goal. At Teplice, our football is very simple: we have to pass to him in the box and then it is up to him.”
Although playing for a side who finished eighth in the Czech First League last season, Vanecek was the joint-fifth-highest scorer in the division with ten goals, one more than the iconic Czech striker Milan Baros. If all goes to plan at Hearts, Divis anticipates Vanecek being able to maintain his prolific form of recent years when he embarks on what will be his first venture out of his homeland either this summer or in January. “The Czech league is very different to Scotland because it is very tactical but David is, in my opinion, one of the top five strikers in the league, possibly even top three,” said Divis. “I expect him to score lots of goals in Scotland and I think Hearts will appreciate him.”
Divis has already briefed Vanecek about what he can expect to find in Edinburgh, and the former Hibs goalkeeper is confident his friend will take the move to Scotland’s capital in his stride. “David is a very good guy. He’s a clever guy and I think he is perfect for Scottish football,” said Divis. “He knew I had been in Edinburgh so we spoke about the city and the lifestyle in Scotland. I was only in Hibs for half a year and I was young but it was a perfect life for me. I was happy there, and I told David everything about the city. He knows everything about Edinburgh now!”