Bodymoor Exclusive: Smash hit Kozak reveals Klose encounter
Libor Kozak has revealed how the influence of a World Cup legend helped him mature into a top-flight big hitter.
The 6ft 4in forward became an instant smash with Villa supporters by netting the winner at Norwich ten days ago - just two minutes into his second appearance for the club.
Kozak landed in B6 on the back of a stellar European campaign, which saw him top the Europa League scoring charts with 10 goals in 11 games for Lazio.
His development during a five-year spell in Italy was boosted by the chance to work at close quarters with a world class predator in Miroslav Klose - a player Villa's newest recruit describes as his "inspiration".
But it wasn't just on the training pitch that Klose left a lasting impression.
He was an ace off it too, as Kozak discovered when challenging the 2006 World Cup Golden Boot winner on the tennis court.
"He is an inspiration to me and someone I look up to," said the Czech Republic international.
"He was one of the best strikers in the world - maybe not right now but a few years ago.
"I was able to play and train with him and see him up close.
"Off the pitch we played tennis together a lot as it is a sport we both enjoy. He always won - he was very strong!
"I wasn't so strong but I beat him maybe once! But off the pitch he is a quiet man and a very good person."
Only Brazil icon Ronaldo has scored more World Cup Finals goals than Klose, who is still plying his trade in Serie A at the age of 35.
Kozak admires the Germany marksman's professionalism and ability to read the game.
"Now he is 35-years-old but he plays like he is 25," he said.
"When he has an opportunity for a goal he scores. He is very, very intelligent on the pitch and he knows exactly what to do, but he is also very professional.
"I learned lots from the two-and-a-half years I played with him and I looked up to him a lot."
Kozak's experiences in the Italian capital have stood him in good stead for his move to the Barclays Premier League.
He has quickly been thrust into centre stage for Villa following a hip flexor injury to last season's top scorer Christian Benteke.
But the way in which the 24-year-old answered Paul Lambert's call at Carrow Road showed he was ready to step up to the plate.
His inaugural Premier League strike arrived moments after he replaced the injured Benteke.
For any striker, the first goal is always the hardest to come by so breaking his Villa duck early on made the settling in period that bit smoother.
"For a striker this is the most important thing," Kozak explains.
"I have a good rapport with the other players already which has helped me, but as a striker it is important that you're not waiting for a goal and that the first one comes quickly. It is a big help for me and I hope to get my next one very soon.
"I feel good and I want to help the team. I will work to my maximum and I hope the goals will come."
Having left behind the chess-like tactical duels of Serie A, Kozak is already thriving on the Premier League's high intensity.
He led the line impressively in Saturday's 3-2 win over Manchester City and already feels his style of play will suit the English top flight.
"It was a great victory because they are one of the best clubs in the Premier League," he added.
"It wasn't easy but we played together and it is important to play as a team. We played great and we scored some nice goals.
"I think Saturday's game was beautiful because of its intensity. It is not so intense in Italy. It is a bit slower and there are a lot more tactical battles in defence.
"It is very different but I want to adapt quickly here because I like the style of play here. After two victories I am already feeling good."
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