Impressive Europa League performances have made Andrija Zivkovic, the Serbian Messi as they call him, one of the hottest properties in European football this season.

It never is easy to be compared with one of the greatest football players alive, and we have often seen those name tags being nothing more than mere marketing tricks.

However, such is not the case with the Serbian starlet Andrija Zivkovic.

The 19-year-old Partizan winger has caught the attention of a great number of Europe’s top clubs over the past few months due to his stellar performances for Serbia and for his club in the UEFA Europa League.

Nine goals in just 12 games for Partizan this season, five of which came in the European competition and the latest one at AZ Alkmaar on Thursday have alerted the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan among others, who would love to see the young player in their ranks.

Partizan wunderkind has been voted Europa League player of the week earlier in the competition, following his impressive display in the 3-1 win over Augsburg in the UEFA Europa League group stage Matchday 2, thus once again announcing himself to the footballing world.

This boy has made a steady progress since he was 17 years old, but the 2015 has actually been the year of his true making.

Leading his Under 20 teammates at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, Andrija Zivkovic was the key man in Veljko Paunovic’s team which were crowned the world champions in the summer. He scored two goals, added four assists and played every minute on his team’s route to the title.

Leader on the pitch, Zivkovic missed out on the most valuable player award despite being the most outstanding performer in the final game against Brazil as well.

Undeterred in his rise to prominence, Zivkovic went from strength to strength as a Partizan regular, keeping his feet firmly on the ground. Humble and modest despite the hype surrounding him, Zivkovic wants to remain in Belgrade and help his team overcome the domestic struggles.

Andrija Zivkovic possesses great pace and stamina. Highly explosive player, he is one person with the ball and different one without it.

His off-ball movement rarely goes out of his position and tactical routine, but with ball at his feet Zivkovic uses his phenomenal dribbling ability to beat the defenders with his cut-ins, strong shot and precise final pass for his teammates.

Unpredictable with his finish, Andrija Zivkovic has a lot to offer as you never quite know what his next move will be.

The uncertainty and unpredictability, however, go far beyond his footballing qualities.

Coming through Partizan youth ranks and the renowned football academy, Andrija Zivkovic is the youngest player to make a senior appearance for the Serbian national team, but also the youngest Partizan captain ever.

He signed his first professional contract in 2013, having agreed on a three-year deal. His contract expires at the end of the season, but both Partizan and Zivkovic seem willing to sign a new deal. However, with certain issues and problems regarding his contract it will be interesting to see if Partizan will be able to hold on to him past January.

In a move that has been described as controversial, the former Partizan management structure had sold the majority of Zivkovic’s contract (75%) to Pini Zahavi’s investment fund for €1.25 million only a year ago.

Current structure headed by the chairman Zoran Popovic is actively looking for a legal solution to the problem, attempting to retrieve the part of Zivkovic’s contract with the mission to prevent Pini Zahavi from taking the player to his club Apollon Limasol before selling him further on to the interested parties.

Andrija could be forced to go to a club that is not of his own liking due to the legal complications which still remain unresolved and which prevent his current club from making any decision with an ownership claim of only 25% in his deal.

Such is the poor destiny of Serbian clubs, who are often forced to sell players in order to keep their books in the green.

Partizan and another bright Serbian pearl Andrija Zivkovic are, unfortunately, not an exception.

About the author – Miloš Markovic

Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

twitter: @milosemarkovicu


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“I think this is a key season for him. After two seasons at Tottenham, now is the moment for him. Not to put pressure, but it’s true. It’s a key moment for him to develop and to move on his game. It’s important,” were the words of Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, when speaking about what a crucial season 2015/16 would be for the enigmatic Erik Lamela.

“We believe we can develop his game and I think we need to be patient with him,” he added.

It must be said, so far, that Lamela’s exploits this campaign have been a major improvement on his underwhelming previous two. Spurs’ patience and persistence is now beginning to pay off handsomely.

One aspect that’s embodied Lamela’s fabulous upturn in form has unquestionably been his tireless, aggressive defensive output. That’s not to say he didn’t contribute here in the past, but he’s stepped up his level dramatically this term, something that obviously Pochettino, a Marcelo Bielsa disciple, deserves plenty of credit for.

Instilling a cohesive, effective pressing stratagem takes time, and while the signs were there last season, now into his second season with Spurs, the Argentine manager is getting his team firing in this regard.

They were particularly brilliant in their stirring win vs. Manchester City, but in their recent 1-1 draw with Arsenal, a game they dominated for 70 minutes and were unlucky not to win, their pressure was magnificent.

Lamela really led from the front in this fixture. Watching his exertions was like watching a man possessed, as he pressed relentlessly, hunting his opponents with unyielding intensity. Completing eight successful tackles accurately depicted how effectively he did so.

Pochettino’s decision to deploy his wingers in rather narrow positions allowed Tottenham, and in particular Lamela, to make life extremely difficult for Arsenal to pass out from the back. This meant whenever Arsenal’s central midfielders received possession, they had pressure from everywhere. By congesting the midfield and applying such heavy pressure Tottenham forced many turnovers, with Santi Cazorla often being the unfortunate victim.

Moreover, when the Gunners passed to their left-back, Nacho Monreal, Lamela would scream over to the Spaniard and get in his face. When combining this with his ferocity to track back as well, the former AS Roma sensation certainly put in a shift worthy of praise.

Michael Cox aptly wrote on his excellent contribution, penning: “Lamela was everywhere. He made 10 tackles, of which eight were successful – starting on the right, switching to the left, often making challenges in central positions because of Spurs’ compactness, and at one point nearly robbing Petr Cech on the edge of the Arsenal box.”

That Cech moment Michael referred to summed up Lamela’s approach beautifully. In this instance, after pressing the Arsenal keeper, his overzealousness saw him fall over and hit the deck in his attempt to win back possession. But Cech, unaware that Lamela had immediately sprung back to his feet, was soon dispossessed by the Argentine, who slid in with a mean challenge from behind. Although Lamela’s intervention didn’t fall to a teammate, his superhuman effort epitomised his team’s philosophy and what a key component of it Lamela now is.

Picking up a yellow for a rash tackle on Francis Coquelin showed the former River Plate prodigy’s tendency to get a touch agricultural in his challenges, but his manager surely wouldn’t be too upset by this, as the desire and commitment he exhibits is precisely what he’s after.

Amazingly, Lamela ranks third in the EPL for players who have won the ball back most times in their own half, on 12, only one behind Leicester City dynamo Jamie Vardy and Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho. A clear testament to his outpouring of effort and mentality towards winning back possession for his team.

When you factor in Lamela’s superlative attacking gifts, which see him able to beat opponents with ease, find space masterfully in the final third and supply intricate passes to his colleagues it’s obvious what a weapon he is for Pochettino, on both sides of the ball.

Pochettino’s trust and faith has been pivotal in getting his countryman firing on all cylinders.

“A player always needs time. Different players take different times. Zidane arrived at Real Madrid in his first season and the supporters blamed him. He found it difficult and he was Zidane,” said Pochettino.

“You always know that if the player wants it enough, and believes in himself, we only need to give him the opportunity and his quality will show. He has the potential, but the last two seasons were difficult for him.”

Judging from Lamela’s outstanding displays this season it’s easy to decipher just how much he wants to succeed at White Hart Lane.

Although Tottenham have been made to wait for their €30 milion investment to come good, he’s finally now proving why he was well and truly worth persisting with.

About the author – Edward Stratmann

Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.

twitter: @licencetoroam


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