Loan spells tend to go one of two ways. More often than not they are merely anecdotal footnotes in a player’s career, such as David Beckham’s five-game stint at Preston North End in 1995 or Jermain Defoe’s record-breaking achievements at Bournemouth, but occasionally, as with Joe Hart’s time at Birmingham City this season, they can be the making of a player. Miroslav Stoch’s move to FC Twente unquestionably falls in the latter category.
Stoch, a small, incisive wide player, joined Steve McClaren’s side on loan from Chelsea last July. He went on to make 32 league appearances for the freshly crowned Dutch champions and scored 10 goals (12 in all competitions), including the strike that wrapped up last weekend’s title-sealing 2-0 defeat of NAC Breda.
A prodigiously talented youngster, Stoch made his debut for Slovakian hometown club FC Nitra at the age of 16 before joining Chelsea in 2006. He was the top scorer for the Blues’ youth team with nine goals in 20 starts in the 2006-07 campaign and made his first-team debut as a late substitute in Chelsea’s 2-1 Premier League defeat at home to Arsenal in November 2008.
His international bow followed in a friendly with Ukraine in Cyprus in February last year and he played in four of Slovakia’s World Cup qualifying matches, scoring in the 7-0 thrashing of San Marino in June, as Vladimír Weiss’s side secured a place at a major tournament for the first time since the country was granted independence following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Stoch has largely been deployed on the left wing for Twente this season and has become renowned for bursting infield and unleashing powerful, precise shots with his right foot. His style thus mirrors that of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben on the opposite flank, while his impressive goal tally owes much to his clear-headed finishing ability.
Stoch is contracted to Chelsea until 2011 but his agent, Milan Lednicky, revealed earlier this year that he is likely to be offered a “long-term contract” in the near future.
“It flatters me that Chelsea remain interested in my services,” said Stoch, modestly, in February. “Which player would not be flattered? Chelsea are a top club. We’ll definitely discuss the offer with my agent. My priority is to play regularly.”
At 20, Stoch will be one of the youngest member of Slovakia’s World Cup squad (he is a month older than fellow winger Vladimír Weiss, the coach’s son) and will travel to South Africa brimming with youthful optimism after his Eredivisie exploits. Weiss’s men have been drawn alongside Italy, Paraguay and New Zealand in Group F and face a potentially decisive game against the South Americans in Bloemfontein on June 20. With Stoch, the livewire Weiss and Napoli’s magnificent Marek Hamšík in their line-up, Slovakia will fancy their chances.