Sasha Gracanin


Nemanja Vidic, Dejan Stankovic, Marko Pantelic, and the list could go on and on; the amount of talented players originating from the relatively small country of Serbia is staggering. But unfortunately just as many other talented players have been overlooked or not sufficiently used and therefore remain widely unnoticed. Let us have a look at some of these talented individuals.

First of all, allow me to remind you of one particular player, Nikola Zigic, 28, currently wasting precious time at Valencia, very often not even on the bench. Sold in 2006 by Red Star Belgrade to Racing Santander, he did not have a very good start in the Spanish league. Spain is completely wrong for Nikola, the playing style is something he cannot relate to, his stamina not sufficiently built but nobody seems to care. Nikola needed either Germany or the UK, where he would be forced to build some muscle strength and endurance, where he could easily outplay Crouch with his height and be as dangerous in the attack as Steven Gerrard.

Nikola, with his six feet eight inches, towers above most players, but is also very good at dribbling and can hit a powerful shot. His assists were legendary while he was still at Red Star, the Belgrade champion was unbeatable, as long as he was in the squad. Whoever needs a high quality striker and does not mind a few months investing into the stamina buildup training necessary, can get a first class striker here for a bargain!

The second on my list is a less known player, Dusan Basta, also from the Serbian club Red Star, who is currently in oblivion with U.S. Lecce, the Italian Serie A club, and has not played one single match since being bought from Udinese, where he did not play either. What is happening with this talented player, who is just 24, is beyond comprehension. Basta is a midfielder, most of the time misplaced as a right back, when he should be used as a classic libero, or the sweeper. His talent is as big as that of a young Beckenbauer, if he is not put to play pretty soon, his will be another exceptional talent wasted.

One of the most notable defenders since Vidic has to be Branislav Ivanovic, who is currently in the Chelsea squad. Serious interest of AC Milan and Juventus attest that this exceptional player is someone to look out for. Also only 24, he came from the third club from Belgrade, OFK Beograd, and went to Lokomotiv Moscow, where he played for two seasons. Unfortunately, the Moscow club did not improve his physical ability as much as they should have, so he remained benched for a while upon his arrival at Chelsea. Scolari recognized the potential of this young man and refused to sell him to the aforementioned clubs, who did not give up on him that easily, together with AFC Ajax and Internazionale, who also made lucrative offers. The current season will be hard for Ivanovic, but the 2009/2010 season will be the one where he will truly start to shine.

Midfielder Milos Krasic, interestingly enough also 24, is a midfielder who is better than Dejan Stankovic. He seems to have an unstoppable energy propelling him all over the pitch, with a team oriented feel for the game and just enough individuality to remain unpredictable. From his gameplay he reminds one of Guti, Nedved, and just a little bit of Socrates, the Brazilian legend. Manchester United professed interest, I dare to state that, if properly employed and conditioned, Krasic could perform better than Nani or Ji Sung Park, whereby he can easily outperform Fletcher, O’Shea or Carrick and maybe bench Scholes for the time being as well. I certainly hope that if not Manchester United then someone else will rescue him as soon as possible from CSKA Moscow.

Milan Jovanovic unfortunately shares the same name with a couple of inferior players, like the defender from Montenegro, but this 27 year-old striker is another player to watch out for. Currently in the squad of the Belgian champions Standard Liege, he won the honour of being named the Belgian player of the year last season. Why this dangerous attacker is not being pursued by every single team under the sun is not explainable. His abilities have been recognized by Radomir Anitic, the current coach of the Serbian national team; he added him to the permanent squad soon after his appointment.

Zdravko Kuzmanovic (main picture) is a real young raw talent at the age of just 21. He grew up in Switzerland, started playing for Basel and was discovered by ACF Fiorentina in 2007, where he is currently in the starting lineup. Keep an eye out for this one, he will be big.

Bosko Jankovic is a 24 year-old attacking midfielder with a very aggressive attacking urge.  Making more goals than some attackers, he has proved to be invaluable for any team he’s played with, most notably, when he and Nikola Zigic played at Red Star as strikers, they ruled the league. Currently he is playing with Serie A side Genoa, to whom he was loaned by Palermo. I hope that Genoa will use this exceptional player properly, his time is still to come.

There are other really interesting youngsters, like the 20 year-old Ivan Obradovic, who is with FK Partizan and plays left back; the 21 year-old Milan Smiljanic,  currently playing for Espanyol, watch out, though, his jersey bears his nickname “Lola”; Dejan Milovanovic, the 24 year-old free kick specialist and playmaker from Lens in France, where his future is expected to be very bright indeed. Ranko Despotovic, 25, now at Real Murcia in Spain, in the current season he already scored four times, a good striker who was spotted by Javier Clemente when with Red Star and signed immediately after Clemente became Real Murcia coach; Aleksandar Kolarov, a 22 year-old defender, is nicknamed Roberto Carlos, because he is a rock in defence and a killer free-kick executor, currently with S.S. Lazio.

It seems like Serbia is never going to be short of talented players. We can only hope that the Serbian league improves their standards and the players get the chance to shine in international competitions before they move out to clubs outside of Serbia. Perhaps in this way so many of them can avoid the substitutes bench and realise their potential.