The Udinese owners (the Pozzos) have always been eager to invest in young talent (see my article on how they operate over at By Far The Greatest Team) and Eastern Europe has long been a source of talent for them, purchasing such players as Matej Vydra (bought for around £800,000 and sold for £8m), Piotr Zielinski (bought for £90,000, sold for over £12m), Dusan Basta (bought for £630,00 and sold for £9.45m) and Samir Handanovic (bought on a free transfer and sold for £13.5m) so people sat up and took notice when in the summer of 2014, Udinese purchased an 18-year-old Czech midfielder from Slavia Prague named Jakub Jankto for an estimated £600,000 – despite him not even making his debut for Slavia Prague.
Jankto then spent his first season in Italy playing for the Udinese U19 side before spending the 15/16 season on loan at Ascoli in Serie B, where he scored 5 goals in 34 appearances. Obviously impressed with how he fared on loan, Udinese decided that he was ready, and would spend the 16/17 season with the first team. He made his Serie A debut on the 21st September 2016, coming on for the last 5 minutes against Fiorentina, making his first start just 4 days later against Sassuolo as Udinese lost 1-0. His first Serie A goal came against Juventus in just his 2nd ever Serie A start.
His league form earnt him a call-up to the senior Czech Republic team for the games against Lithuania and San Marino in March 2017, where he scored on his debut after coming off the bench against Lithuania.
Jankto ended up starting 24 Serie A games (and coming off the bench a further 5 times) ending the season with an impressive 5 goals and 4 assists in his debut Serie A season, and was instantly linked with moves to Arsenal and Liverpool, however he signed a new contract and has started every game for Udinese so far this season, scoring once and getting an assist in the 4 games played so far.
Style Of Play
Jankto is primarily an attacking midfielder, who looks to bomb forward whenever possible – unlike most attacking midfielders however, he doesn’t look to find space around the box to help create chances, instead he looks to support the striker by getting forward in and around the penalty area, using his quick feet to create shooting opportunities for himself. This is something he excels at, with a distinct pattern to most of his goals last season as you can see below.
These quick feet, pace and his attacking instincts also make him adept at playing as a winger, further boosted by his superb ability at crossing the ball, which has also seen him be appointed as a regular set-piece taker for both free kicks and corners.
Despite often pushing on so high up the pitch, Jankto still has a fair amount of creativity, racking up an impressive 1.9 key passes per game over his time with the Udinese first team so far and has an impressive range of passing, having an 80% pass completion rate during his time in Serie A.
One aspect of his game that does need work is the defensive side of the game with just 1.1 tackles won per game during last season with 1.7 tackles per game attempted in comparison, his team-mate Rodrigo de Paul who has a similar play style and position won 1.5 tackles per game and 2.5 tackles attempted per-game.
If he improves on this then he’ll almost certainly be attracting some serious attention from some top sides, and may even find his way to the Premier League sooner rather than later with Udinese’s sister team Watford.