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 Sportske.net and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.