Slovakian Robert Mak struggles during second PAOK spell
When Slovakian midfielder Robert Mak returned to PAOK during the summer, it was expected that he would once again become a dominant figure for the Thessaloniki club. However, things haven’t quite gone to plan.
The 26-year old international first joined PAOK in 2014, signing on a three-year deal from German club Nurnberg. Mak became a popular figure in Thessaloniki, going on to score 28 goals during two seasons with the Greeks and contributing with some wonderful assists. The 2015/2016 campaign was Mak’s finest in a PAOK shirt, as he netted an impressive nine goals in twelve European matches. Such fine form alerted the attention of Zenit Saint Petersburg, Russia’s richest club. In July 2016, Mak signed for the Russian outfit, citing his excitement to start a new chapter of his growing career.
Nevertheless, he failed to settle in Saint Petersburg. According to quotes from his wife, Mak was initially happy with his Russian move, but after he failed to make Zenit’s first team on a regular basis, he began to miss PAOK. Mak’s dream was slowly turning into a nightmare. As time went on, Mak found himself becoming a real benchwarmer for Zenit, only making the odd substitute appearance. He never showed his real potential in the Russian championship, putting in underwhelming performances and scoring a mere four league goals.
Before the 2017/2018 campaign began, Zenit and PAOK struck a deal which allowed Mak to play in Greece on a season’s loan. Mak had been focused on returning to his beloved PAOK, indicating to Zenit’s board that Thessaloniki was his prefered destination. He was gleefully welcomed back, and it’s not surprising given that chairman Ivan Savvidis had previously revealed that PAOK’s doors would always remain open for the Slovak.
Big things were expected of Mak this season, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype which surrounded his signing. To be honest, Mak has looked a shadow of the player which lit up Greece ahead of his Zenit transfer. Back in his first spell at PAOK, he was one of the first names on the team sheet, but current head coach Razvan Lucescu doesn’t always have Mak in his plans.
At the moment, Mak boasts just the two goals in thirteen Super League matches without registering any assists. In those games, he has only played the full 90 minutes on one occasion. Mak hasn’t settled into Lucescu’s new system, and when he is given a chance on the pitch, Mak doesn’t play with the spark which he used to possess.
When Mak scored his second goal of the Super League season against Xanthi, it looked as though he was going to gain momentum and get back to his best. Unfortunately for PAOK fans, the exact opposite happened. He picked up a late red card in the derby victory over Panathinaikos, meaning that he missed PAOK’s final match of 2017 against Platanias.
A fine dribbler of the ball, Mak has shown glimpses of his talent, but he hasn’t made an impression. If PAOK are going to push for a first league title since 1985, Mak needs to make a huge improvement.