Ondrej Duda still does not own an expensive watch, although he would have deserved one long ago.

Three years ago, his then teammate Salomon Kalou offered him a bet.

If Duda managed to score eight goals in the course of a season, Kalou would send him a luxury model.

Duda then scored eleven times for Hertha BSC, garnished with six assists.

He donated the watch to charity.

She wouldn't have suited him anyway.

The 25-year-old midfielder is an introvert who barely shows what he is inside. His facial features rarely reveal whether he is happy or sad. Most of the time he looks constantly serious, which is also due to a latent uncertainty. It took him a long time to arrive in Germany. New country, new language, new players, new mentality. Since last year there has been a new city. After a loan to Norwich City in England, Duda is now playing for 1. FC Cologne, with whom he only held the class with great effort and in relegation. He made his contribution with seven goals and six assists. No one from Cologne was better.

The season has also demanded a lot from Duda mentally, which makes him all the more looking forward to the European Championship. In the circle of the Slovak national team, with which he will start the tournament against Poland on Monday, the young man is more relaxed. In a group with Sweden and Spain, the Slovaks are only outsiders, but they were also in France in 2016 and still made it to the round of 16, where they were eliminated against Germany (0: 3). It was the tournament in which Duda played himself in the foreground for the first time in front of a wider audience. In this respect, things come full circle for him. The EM was and is his stage. Hertha's coach Pal Dardai sat in the stadium in 2016 and was surprised that this apparently so talented young man was still earning his money in the Polish league at Legia Warsaw.

Hertha secured his services, but the Berliners soon discovered that this artist was far from the one they had seen in France. The daily work with him was demanding because he closed himself off at the beginning. Just the fact that he was new and didn't speak the language inhibited him. In addition, there was the high intensity that he was not used to from Poland. His body began to strike, Duda repeatedly injured himself. Soon the bad word about wrong shopping made the rounds, and his talent was evident. It took two years and many one-on-one conversations before he finally achieved his breakthrough. “For Ondrej it is very important how you address him. He has to gain self-confidence and not have the feeling that every mistake is made, ”says Rainer Widmayer,who trained Duda in Berlin as an assistant coach under Dardai.

Stefan Tarkovic, the national coach of Slovakia, knows how to deal with Duda. The Serb was already assistant coach under Jan Kozak in 2016, he became boss in October after the play-off semi-final against Ireland, after which the then coach Pavel Hapal resigned. Hapal had used Duda regularly, but not always in his favorite position. Often the slender Duda had to help out in the center of the storm because the Slovaks lacked dangerous attackers. Too much still rests on the shoulders of Marek Hamsik, who will turn 34 next month.

The weak attack was one of the reasons why the Slovaks only qualified through the play-offs at the last moment. A 2-1 after extra time against Northern Ireland secured the second participation in a row. Duda only scored once during qualifying. “From my point of view, he's not in good hands that far ahead. It's a ten, of course, ”says Widmayer. “Ondrej can always play a pass that dismantles a complete defense. But for that he needs space and the feeling of being allowed to play these balls. ”If Tarkovic succeeds in conveying this belief to Duda, the Slovaks could again come up with surprises.