It’s been a bleak week for Genk. Utterly outclassed by Chelsea in the Champions League, it’s time to focus on the positives – like last season’s importance of Genk’s Hungarian duo of Daniel Tőzsér and Laszlo Köteles. Tomasz Mortimer tells us more about the tandem.
After a title win last season and a Champions League qualification this, Racing Genk are enjoying one of their most successful periods since their merger with Winterslag back in 1988, and in that team sit two Hungarians who are loving life with the Belgian champions.
Last season Daniel Tőzsér was a vital cog in Genk’s machine grabbing important goals and providing endless assists. His dead ball ability is up there with the best in Europe, and it’s rare that he ever disappoints from a set piece, be it corner, indirect free kick or direct free kick. The amount of goals Tőzsér scores from free kicks is pretty scary and the crosses he delivers are always whipped in with frightening pace and into dangerous areas. Concede a set piece against Genk and you could be in trouble.
Tőzsér primarily plays as a defensive midfielder, sitting in front of the back four and attempting to dictate the play from deep with his superb long range passing which puts Charlie Adam’s “Hollywood balls” to shame. With time, Tőzsér can pick a pass out from anywhere on the pitch and that’s what makes him such a dangerous weapon in Genk’s armoury.
Unfortunately for Tőzsér, he has found it hard to gain entrance into the Hungarian national team and has been omitted from every single squad Sandor Egervári has picked since he took over as manager last July. Egervári has said even though he recognises Tozser is a really talented midfielder whose; set pieces are superb, passing is exquisite and shots are deadly, but his style just doesn’t fit the system. If you are to play in front of the defence for Hungary, you have to fight, get stuck in and work your socks off. Three things that Tőzsér doesn’t like to do. He may be a magnificent player, but I personally can understand Egervari’s reasoning for leaving Tőzsér out of the squad, even though I believe he’d be a great wildcard to bring on as an impact sub.
Despite interest from a few major European clubs in the summer, including Fiorentina, and Fulham in 2010, Tőzsér said recently “I’m happy at the moment in Genk and I still have one year left on my contract.” His main ambition is to play in England and at the age of 26 he still may have the opportunity to do that, but for now Daniel Tőzsér remains a significant part of Racing Genk’s side, and when he performs, so do Genk.
The other Magyar in the Genk side is Laszlo Köteles. Köteles initially made the move to Genk in 2009 on loan from DVTK where he became first choice. However the following season, after signing permanently, Köteles found himself on the bench behind the young and impressive Thibaut Courtois, which lead to a frustrating year for the Hungarian. But since Courtois’s departure to Atletico Madrid (via Chelsea) Köteles has now regained the number one spot.
Köteles has been a solid figure in the Genk goal this season, and has become a bit of a cult hero with his eccentricity, important stops and crowd interaction. The former Videoton man was the hero in Champions League qualifying when he saved two penalties in the shootout against Maccabi Haifa which resulted in Racing’s qualification to this year’s group stages. He also made some impressive stops against Valencia in their 0-0 draw at home, but has on occasion, made the odd error in the league which has lead to his number one spot coming under close scrutiny.
Köteles is a terrific shot stopper, but he does seem to have a poor concentration and that is often seen when dealing with crosses or failing to catch something that should be easy for a top keeper. It’s up for debate how long Köteles will remain number one in Belgium as Genk have snapped up the highly-rated Grzegorz Sandomierski from Polish side Jagiellonia Białystok. Sandomierski is only 22 and was bought as a long-term replacement for Courtiois so, unfortunately, I don’t think it will be long before Köteles is back on the bench once more.
Like Daniel Tőzsér, Laszlo Köteles’s has never been called up by Sandor Egervári for international duty, nor has he ever been capped by the Hungarian national team – which does seem very bizarre. Hungary’s current third choice is Norbert Csernyanszkyi who, as well as being 9 years older than Köteles at 35, has had a torrid start to the new campaign with Paks making error after error and costing his team important games. The continued decision to call up the Paks keeper is a complete mystery to me. For one, he isn’t even the best Hungarian goalkeeper in NBI. Two, he’s never been capped by Hungary so he’s not in the squad to provide experience to the other players. Three, he’s 35 and at the end of his career. And with Köteles playing regularly for a Champions League side, and performing fairly admirably, some would believe Egervári has a problem with Genk and their two Hungarians.