By Richard Cawley
Jiri Skalak was unveiled yesterday as Millwall’s third signing of the summer – with boss Neil Harris revealing they were so close to capturing the Brighton man in January.
Skalak’s move to SE16 does not break the club’s long-standing transfer record.
But the 26-year-old Czech Republic international has been a target for the previous two windows.
“This is the third transfer window we have chased him,” said Harris. “We tried to get him last summer. He started 30 games when Brighton won promotion.
We thought we might get him but it didn’t quite materialise because Brighton wanted to keep him for the Premier League, which was fine. Jiri wanted to have a crack at it.
“In January we were very close to doing it as well. It might have been Jiri instead of Ben [Marshall], or we could have done both. It fell through last minute because of an injury Jiri picked up in a game.
“The deal has been done now not just because of our patience and desire to get him, but also Jiri’s desire to want to come and play for Millwall. He sees our style as a great fit for him, our style of play to the Brighton team he was successful in.
“Bringing him in has been a long-term project and I’m delighted it has been done now.”
Skalak – whose crossing ability is a major strength – should be in the Lions squad for tomorrow’s Championship opener at home to Middlesbrough.
“He has done a whole pre-season there and at the end of last season he played some minutes for Brighton’s U23s,” said Harris. “He has not played the last 10 days but has had minutes in pre-season.
“We’ll have to assess his fitness in the training group in the next week or so but there is no reason he can’t be involved at the weekend.
“Jiri is a little bit of an old-fashioned Millwall-type winger, that attracted me to bringing him in.
“The fans will love seeing him play. He does the dirty side of the game which I demand from my players. Jiri gives us a different dimension – he loves to cross the ball and is excellent on dead-ball deliveries.
“It is important in a 50-55 game season to have competitiveness in the wide areas.
“He comes with a winning pedigree, he has won promotion from this division and represented his country over 20 times. He has got real potential to be a successful player for us.”
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