We continue our Stars of the Past series with Slovakian genius Lubomir Moravcik.
Moravcik is a player of which there is practically no awareness of outside of the leagues he played in, but those that did see him play still remember his talent with great fondness.
Thw two clubs that Moravcik left his biggest marks on were French side Saint-Etienne and Scottish giants Celtic. Lubo arrived in France from FC Nitra, playing at the time as a deep lying playmaker. The player’s strengths were soon utilised further forward though as an advanced playmaker playing just off the centre-forward, or on occasion out wide. The Saint-Etienne support quickly grew to adore Moravcik and the club looked to build their ambitions around the talent of the Slovakian. Guy Roux, famous for being head coach at Auxerre for nearly 40 years, once described Moravcik as an artist on the pitch. Despite strong interest from Marseille, Moravcik proved loyal to Saint-Etienne. The supporters of the club even begged him not to go when numerous bids for the player arrived at his third season in France. Signings such as Laurent Blanc and Roland Wohlfarth were used to strengthen the team around Moravcik but it wasn’t enough and in 1996, under financial distress and internal conflicts haunting the club from the inside, Saint-Etienne were relegated to Ligue 2. Moravcik soon made his departure from the club after six seasons there. Recalling his time in France, Zinedine Zidane famously called Moravcik one of the best players he had played against in Ligue 1.
Two years later, after spells at Bastia and German side Duisburg, Moravcik arrived in Glasgow to play for Celtic. His signing was met with ridicule from the Scottish media. Former Czechoslavkian coach Jozef Venglos had managed Moravcik in the 1990 World Cup and had now brought the player to Glasgow with him. The media saw the signing of a 33 year old unheard of Slovakian for £300,000 as a sign of desperation from Celtic. Venglos would have the last laugh though as Moravcik proved to be a massive hit with the Celtic fans. This was the time of Moravcik’s career in which he experienced most glory, winning various trophies with Celtic and playing in Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He quickly adorned himself to the Celtic faithful two weeks after his debut when he scored two goals and ran amok in Celtic’s 5-1 victory over fierce city rivals Rangers, this also proved to be the beginning of a telepathic understanding with Celtic legend Henrik Larsson. Moravcik would later repeat his feat of scoring a brace in an Old Firm match by scoring two against Rangers a couple of seasons later at Ibrox.
Moravcik arrived at Celtic during a time when Rangers were throwing money at international calibre players. Although Venglos and, after him, John Barnes, ultimately turned out to be disappointing managerial appointments, Moravcik remained one of the few consistent bright spots in this dark spell. The arrival of Martin O’Neil conflicted Moravcik’s Celtic career for a while. O’Neil viewed the ageing Moravcik as a wing-back in his 3-5-2 but Lubo struggled with the physical demands of such a role. O’Neil however did eventually see the error of his ways once the true talent of Moravcik became obvious to him and started using the player as a playmaker behind the forward two, although his playing time started to decrease.
One of Moravcik’s most memorable performances in the green and white hoops came against Juventus at Celtic Park in the Champions League. Moravcik famously nutmegged Juventus legend Pavel Nedved in this match. Nedved recently spoke about the match and Moravcik:
“I was lucky to play at Celtic Park at the same time as Lubo – but I wasn’t fortunate with the way he played against us that night.”
Moravcik’s Celtic career came to an end in 2002. To this day he is still hugely appreciated by Celtic fans as one of the most gifted players to play at Celtic Park in recent times. They loved him for his style and flair, he symbolised the way Celtic prided themself on playing – attacking without fear.
Lubomir Moravcik was a special player, one whose technical ability was exceeded only by his intelligence. A rare breed that possessed the natural ability to play at as high a level as he had ever played up until his mid-thirties. Those who watched Lubo will tell you they never knew which foot of his was strongest. He was equally lethal with left and right and he often alternated between the two when hitting set pieces. Moravcik was most of all an entertainer. He lit it up the pitch, brought showmanship wherever he went and gave the fans moments to remember. Moravcik isn’t a player that everyone will be aware of but for those that did see him, he is impossible to forget.
Check out the footage of Moravcik below.
A general compilation of Moravcik’s goals throughout his career:
There is a beatiful example of Moravcik’s ability to entertain in this video. At 01:56 in this video, you will see Lubo controlling the ball perfectly with his bottom.