Tomas Kalas has been a mainstay for the Czech Republic as the Robins defender’s national team booked a place in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals after ousting the Netherlands from the tournament, writes Holly Hunt.
The 28-year-old hasn’t missed a minute of action since the tournament kicked off, lining up alongside Sparta Prague’s Ondrej Celustka at the heart of the defence.
In a week of shock exits, Kalas defended the Czech backline valiantly and even made a contribution at the other end of the pitch with a vital assist, heading the ball into the path of Tomas Holes for the opener to dash Dutch hopes in the eventual 2-0 win.
From Harry Kane to Memphis Depay, the centre-half has proved he can keep out the best of them, with some fans even comparing the EFL star to John Terry on social media.
And as the Czech Republic prepares to make their mark on Denmark in their quarter-final clash on Saturday, it’s important to remember where the Czech star began his journey. Olomouc-born Kalas made the move from his hometown club to Premier League giants Chelsea in 2010 but only clocked a handful of professional appearances for the Blues.
After a series of loan switches to Vitesse and FC Koln, the defender was shipped out to Championship side Middlesbrough in the 2014/15 January transfer window. It was there that Kalas made his mark in English football, making the right-back berth his own under former Boro boss Aitor Karanka.
Although he was unable to finish the season due to the short-term rules and regulations of his loan, Kalas played his part in getting the North Yorkshire team to the second-tier play-offs, before Boro fell to defeat at the final hurdle to Norwich City.
Kalas returned to Middlesbrough for a second season in July 2015 and despite there being talks of the centre-back extending his stay for a third season, he returned to Stamford Bridge and headed back out on loan to Championship rivals Fulham.
There, he helped the Cottagers qualify for the play-offs but it was heartbreak again for the defender, as he conceded the winning penalty that saw Reading progress from the semi-finals on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.
But Kalas and Fulham bounced back the following year when he returned to Craven Cottage on a temporary basis. Notching his second promotion in three campaigns, Kalas helped Fulham on their way to the Premier League, as the London club saw off Aston Villa in the final.
Despite his positive, promotion-winning performances, Kalas returned to the Championship the following season, with Bristol City becoming his sixth loan club and finally, a place he could call home.
He made 41 appearances in all competitions as then-boss Lee Johnson’s side placed eighth in the second-tier, just three points behind ex-employers Middlesbrough and four points shy of the play-offs.
And although City failed to reach the play-offs, boss Johnson had his sights set elsewhere: on his star Chelsea loanee.
The Championship side cashed out a record club fee of around £8million to make Kalas’ move to Ashton Gate a permanent one, inking a four-year deal for the defender’s services until 2024 and the rest is history to Robins fans.
You can follow Holly on Twitter @HollyHunt10