It’s been just over 650 days since Hungary’s Videoton FC were crowned 2014-15 champions of the Hungarian Nemzeti Bajnokság (National Championship) 1, the country’s highest division of professional soccer.
The title -- the second in the club’s history -- came in part due to 21 goals from then-27-year-old forward Nemanja Nikolic (a personal high at the time) as well as the steady link play of midfielder Arturo Alvarez, who also chipped in a pair of goals that season.
Fast-forward to last Saturday, almost 22 months later, and the pair found themselves yet again playing difference-maker together on a cold March afternoon in a stadium 4,800 miles to the west.
“It was a feeling of old times before,” Nikolic said. “Arturo played fantastically also at Videoton in Hungary, and he also scored goals there. We celebrated a lot of victories together and it was great to see that again we scored and we won.”
Nikolic -- a five-year veteran of Videoton and its second all-time leading scorer -- scored the opening goal in his newest club’s 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday just prior to current-and-former teammate Alvarez providing the insurance goal shortly thereafter. The past-to-present goal-scoring connection was not lost on the pair.
“I said to (Arturo) before the game that Toyota Park looks like our stadium in Székesfehérvár and that I had some good feelings before the game,” Nikolic said. “It was a great to feel these things after the game.”
“He did say that,” Alvarez said with a smile. “It’s funny because when I was in ‘Vidi’ and I first got to the stadium to look at the club, I was like, ‘This reminds me of an MLS team.’ The Videoton stadium is very similar.”
(Photo and video courtesy of Videoton FC)
Alvarez himself spent three seasons with Videoton before arriving back stateside for a trial with Chicago in the run-up to the 2016 season. Long story short, Alvarez quickly became a regular for Veljko Paunovic’s side on the way to putting up career highs in goals (5) assists (9) and appearances (30). He’s hoping the chemistry he and Nikolic established in Hungary continues to build in Chicago.
“For me it’s about trying to make something happen, create some goals, score some goals,” he said. “Niko being a forward, he’s always – back then and now – someone that’s always going to get you some goals. Obviously we know each other from when we played together, and now we’ve just got to hopefully do the same things.”
“He has good eyes, good vision on the pitch,” Nikolic said of Alvarez. “He sees very good. I like to be close to him because I played with him one-and-a-half years, so when somebody knows and understands football with him, it’s easy to play.”
With a Hungarian league championship on their respective resumes as well as victories in the country’s League Cup and Super Cup tournaments, the focus for the past and present teammates rests fully on bringing that same level of success to the city they both now call home.
“We ended up winning the championship and that’s the most important one,” Alvarez said. “With ‘Vidi’ we had a good team. I just want to keep playing well and do the same things we did over there here.”