Having made nearly 50 appearances in European competition, the Premier League holds no fear for Vladimír Coufal.
The 28-year-old may have spent his entire playing career in his homeland, but that has not restricted his opportunity to take on the continent’s biggest and best.
During his early career at Slovan Liberec, Coufal tackled the likes of Sevilla, Marseille, Fiorentina and Braga in the UEFA Europa League, featuring in all 12 group-stage matches the club played in 2015 and 2016.
After moving to Slavia Prague in 2018, the right-back starred in a memorable run to the semi-finals of the same competition, defeating Bordeaux, FC Copenhagan, Zenit St Petersburg and Genk before pushing Chelsea all the way over two legs in the last four.
I have enough experience from the Europa League and last year the Champions League, which are a similar level to the Premier League, so I am not afraid of this level
Last season, he started all six group games as Slavia held their own in a nightmarish UEFA Champions League group containing Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan.
In all, the Czech Republic international has played 49 times in Europe’s two club competitions, and with that vast experience under his belt, Coufal is relishing the opportunity to play in the continent’s most-intense domestic league.
“I have enough experience from the Europa League and last year the Champions League, which are a similar level to the Premier League, so I am not afraid of this level,” he told West Ham TV.
Like so many children all over the world, Coufal watched the Premier League on television as a youngster, revealing that West Ham’s 2006 FA Cup final nemesis Steven Gerrard and Liverpool were his heroes.
Now, though, the 28-year-old is a West Ham player and will undoubtedly be looking forward to the Irons’ upcoming trip to Anfield to tackle the Reds on 31 October.
“As a boy, it was a dream of mine to play in the Premier League,” he confirmed. “When I was in Slavia Prague, I saw every Premier League match on the TV and it’s unbelievable now I’m here. When I was a small boy, I was always a fan of Liverpool and I liked Steven Gerrard, but now I am a Hammer!”
Coufal follows a long line of Czech players to east London, following Luděk Mikloško (1990-98), Tomáš Řepka (2001-06), Pavel Srníček (2004), Marek Štěch (2006-12), Jan Laštůvka (2008-09), Radoslav Kováč (2008-11) and his close friend and former Slovan Liberec and Slavia Prague teammate Tomáš Souček, who joined the Irons earlier this year and has made a huge impact.
And the new No5 would love to emulate the likes of goalkeeper and Hammer of the Year Mikloško and cult hero Řepka by becoming a favourite of the Claret and Blue Army.
“I know Luděk Mikloško is a big legend here and I know Tomáš Řepka is too,” he confirmed. “I played with Radoslav Kováč in Slovan Liberec and now he trains Opava, where I played when I was 18 years old.
“Now the Club has Tomáš, another big player from Czech Republic, and I hope I will be similarly successful like these four players.”