Dominik Szoboszlai is the greatest footballing prospect Hungary has seen this millennium. There is nothing controversial about that statement. While his team, the top English Premier League side Liverpool, has had some Hungarian players on their roster recently, with his three league starts and full games in the first three rounds, he already set himself apart from the likes of Ádám Bogdán, Krisztián Németh, or István Kozma. Not to mention his Hungarian record-breaking €70 million transfer fee.
Liverpool had a promising start this season, with a 1–1 tie away at Chelsea followed by a 3–1 victory against Bournemouth at home, then 2–1 win against Newcastle United on the road again. The latter is an especially impressive result given the fact that the Reds beat last year’s fourth-place finishers one man down, after Van Dijk was sent off in the 28th minute.
Szoboszlai played through all three games from start to finish.
This is especially noteworthy since in the post-Coronavirus era, coaches are allowed five substitutes per game instead of the ‘old’ three.
What is a little blemish on Szoboszlai’s Liverpool ‘resume’ so far is that he is yet to score his first goal or give his first assist. However, that latter statement is debatable, as against Bournemouth, Diogo Jota scored the third Liverpool goal after a rebound came off the opposing goalkeeper after Szoboszlai’s shot. In that game, he also won a penalty in the first half that Mohamed Salah converted, through a rebound after a save by Neto again.
Also, in those games, the young Hungary captain completed 93 out of his 105 attempted passes, giving him an 87 per cent completed pass percentage, which is very high in the Premier League.
Certainly, it’s been a long while a Hungarian player was such a dominant feature in a team’s line-up as prominent as Liverpool. Szoboszlai himself, with Wili Orbán, and Péter Gulácsi (coincidentally, a Liverpool youth team alumn) have been solid starters in RB Leipzig, a side constantly finishing high in the German Bundesliga. Krisztián Lisztes contributed a lot to Werder Bremen’s Bundesliga championship victory in 2004 as well. However, neither team can be compared to Liverpool in terms of history (six Champions League titles) and international fan base; nor can the English Premier League’s competitiveness and international appeal be compared to the German Bundesliga’s.
If we look for Hungarian players who were key players in league title winning, or league title challenger, popular, traditional clubs in top leagues, we do have to back to the 1950s and 1960s, with the likes of István Nyers playing for Inter Milan, László Kubala playing for FC Barcelona, and—the most famous of them all—Ferenc Puskás playing for Real Madrid.
Media Reaction to Szoboszlai’s Performance in England
There is one person who already has made the Puskás–Szoboszlai comparison in English media. It was Szoboszlai’s former coach at both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, Jesse Marsch.
He called the new Liverpool midfielder ‘the new Puskás’ while talking to The Telegraph, while also likening him to David Beckham in the same piece. The comparison with Puskás is certainly premature, as Puskás won the UCL-predecessor European Cup three times with Real Madrid, and scored four goals in the 1960 final against Eintracht Frankfurt, a unique feat achieved only by him.
There is no guarantee Szoboszlai would be able to repeat any of these historic achievements with his Liverpool side, having not even qualified for the UCL for this season. However, they last won Europe’s most prestigious club title fairly recently, in 2019, and made it to the final again since, in 2022, so it’s not far-fetched to imagine them taking home the trophy again—this time, with Szoboszlai on their squad.
Ian Doyle, a sports columnist for the Liverpool Echo, also wrote in a praising tone about Szoboszlai’s transfer in his article analysing the recent Newcastle game, writing ‘just three games in, Szoboszlai is already suggesting the Reds may have a bargain’. On top of all that, Szoboszlai has recently had a favourable profile piece written on him by one of the biggest publications in the UK, The Guardian.
While, as we wrote at the beginning of the article, Szoboszlai is undeniably the greatest footballing prospect Hungary has had in many decades, for context, we should point out that there have been players from other small Eastern European nations who have had similar stellar careers. Here are two examples: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Armenia had a decent run at both Manchester United and Arsenal in recent years. Meanwhile, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia from Georgia is considered one of the biggest football talents in Europe, and won the Italian league with Napoli last season while scoring 12 goals and making 13 assists in 34 games.