Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 10: Milos Kerkez

It is rare that Hungary produces top-level footballers these days, with only a smattering of players across the continent reaching the highest level. But a 19-year-old in a quiet corner of one of Europe’s most-renown development centers may change all that.

In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wunderkind; a youngster who has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age remains embedded in the minds of millions of fans around the world.

With this in mind, 101 Great Goals continues its weekly series surveying U21 players across the globe during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.

Fact File & Data Picture

  • Name: Milos Kerkez
  • Age: 19
  • Position: Left-Back
  • Place of Birth: Vrbas, (former) Serbia & Montenegro
  • Citizenship: Hungary, Serbia
  • National team caps: 4 (Hungary)
  • Current club: AZ Alkmaar
  • Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €7m (£6.2m)
  • Potential suitor(s): Borussia Dortmund, Leeds United, Leicester City, AFC Bournemouth

Background & Overall Assessment

It’s a rare occasion in recent decades that has seen Hungary produce crops of talent capable of taking the continent by storm. Not since the days of The Mighty Magyars (Hungary’s golden generation in the 1950′s) has the central European nation enjoyed a crop of gifted footballers that were capable of paying homage to the country’s political and cultural past as one of the dominant powers.

Indeed, the days of Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Lajos Tichy, József Bozsik, Gyula Grosics, Kálmán Mészöly, Lajos Baróti, Imre Schlosser, György Sárosi, Gyula Zsengellér, and Ferenc Szusza are but a distant memory, when Hungary finished runner-up at both the 1938 and 1954 World Cup respectively while producing a brand of football that has transcended generations while remaining a shining example of the beautiful game.

But recent results in the UEFA Nations League A, which saw Magyarok finish second behind Italy and ahead of European powerhouses England and old adversary Germany, have shown signs of promise that, just maybe, the national team is finally on an upward trend once more. There is a cadre of players that have been immensely successful in some of the top leagues in Europe, too, particularly in the Bundesliga where the likes of star midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, Willi Orbán, and Péter Gulácsi offer an influential Hungarian continent at RB Leipzig, while Rolland Sallai is a fan-favorite at the foot of the Black Forest at SC Freiburg.

Young players are beginning to receive recognition as well, with Attlia Mocsi (22), Callum Styles (22), Péter Bárath (20), Áron Csongvai (22), Szabolcs Schön (22), András Németh (20), and Palkó Dárdai (23) all being included in Marco Rossi’s latest squad in late November just before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But perhaps the most talked-about youngster in the Magyar’s ranks is also the youngest, with 19-year-old Milos Kerkez shaking the ground in the Netherlands.

Born in the small town of Vrbas in former Serbia & Montenegro, Kerkez had a whirlwind youth development track that took him from hometown side (and now defunct) OFK Vrbas, to stops in Rapid Wein, Hódmezővásárhelyi, and Győri ETO before making his professional debut with Győri in the second tier of Hungarian football in 2020. It was then that Kerkez decided to declare his international allegiances to Hungary on account of the attention and support he had received from the playing and coaching staff during his time with the former four-time Hungarian champion.

His spell with Győri was such that he was immediately brought into the youth international fold, making appearances for the U17 side the same year, but it was in 2021 when he moved to Italian giants AC Milan that would end up defining his career to date in an unexpected manner.

Kerkez would spend just a year in Lombardy before the club’s acquisition of Fode Ballo-Touré in the same summer stood in the way of his pathway to first-team minutes as Theo Hernández’s deputy in the senior squad. This prompted Kerkez to find greener pastures to continue his development track that same winter, which led him to Dutch specialists AZ Alkmaar and the player securing a €2m plus bonuses switch to the cheese capital of the Netherlands during the January transfer window. It was a decision that has since paid off in spades.

When recently speaking to Scouted Football, with quotes sourced by SempreMilan, Kerkez stated “I expected to have a chance because I was doing better than any Primavera full-back of any team. Milan is obviously a great club and it’s not easy as a young man to have a chance there. But I think with my performances and what I have done maybe I deserved a chance.” Chances at Alkmaar have not been hard to come by, with Kerkez garnering rave reviews on all fronts across a 2022-23 Eredivisie campaign that has seen De Kaasboeren right in the thick of the fight for league honors while currently sitting second in the table, ahead of both AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, and just two points adrift of Feyenoord Rotterdam.

The first-choice left-back for AZ boss Pascal Jansen, Kerkez has appeared 32 times across four competitions while logging 2,500 minutes of action. One of the top-three U21 full-backs in Europe this season according to the prestigious CEIS Football Observatory, Kerkez sits behind only Chelsea’s Malo Gusto and Nantes’ Quentin Merlin this season and is ahead of the likes of Nuno Mendes and Alejandro Balde.

Kerkez offers a fantastic attacking profile (seen above in his overall data set provided by FBRef), the 19-year-old full Hungarian international makes light work of beating his man to get into attacking spaces down the left channel to generate chances and has not taken long for wandering eyes in Germany and England to hone-in on his impressive performances at AFAS Stadion.

Given the manner in which he excels as an attacking full-back, questions may bubble to the surface surrounding how he will get on in a division more advanced than the Eredivisie, and in that light, its notable to suggests that his development remains a tiered one; moving to another league noted for development before possibly ending up in the Premier League. With Hungarian success in Germany, and Dortmund’s hunt for a left-back with Raphaël Guerreiro likely leaving the Ruhr valley in the summer, there is a real chance this could be a pathway that the youngster is genuinely presented with.

In addition, Kerkez is being linked with interest from Premier League trio AFC Bournemouth, Leeds United, and Leicester City, as all three clubs weighed up the possibility of making a January push for the player, but Alkmaar remained adamant that they wanted to retain his services for the remainder of the season at the very least.

There may be no better time for Hungary to be on the cusp of an international revival, and certainly, for Milos Kerkez, the opportunity to play a vital role in that revival may define his career for years to come.

Read below for more Ones to Watch

Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 9: Yassine Khalifi
Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 8: Ibrahima Bamba
Ones to Watch; 2022-23 | Number 7: Wilfried Gnonto

Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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