Blog Written by Nicholas Dobbin (@1958MUFC_Calcio):
The talk of the summer so far has been that Manchester United are readying a world record bid of £100 million for the 23 year old Frenchman Paul Pogba. The very same man they let leave their football club four years earlier for free. Pogba became frustrated at the lack of first team opportunities at Manchester United, recording only three first team appearances being on the field for only sixty-three minutes of football during his tenure. The Frenchman in his early years was seen as ‘the new Patrick Viera’ for his tall, gangly, energetic style. However, in recent years he has been used as more of an attacking midfielder which has brought comparisons to Real Madrid manager and French legend Zinedine Zidane, who also left for a world record transfer fee of £47million from Juventus in 2001.
Paul Pogba arrived in Turin as a relatively unknown entity in 2012. However, the former World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo said “We saw in his first training session with Juventus that he was special. There was a disbelief among the senior players that Manchester United had allowed him to leave.” Paul Pogba immediately was placed alongside Pirlo in the middle of midfield forming a formidable threesome in the middle of the park with Arturo Vidal. A three that combined goals, assists, creativity, energy, power and bite. Something that Serie A sides struggled to live with as Juventus recorded their second Scudetto in successive seasons. Pogba himself in an interview with French magazine L’Equipe indicated that he was not in the same league as Messi and Ronaldo yet, while mentioning that he needs to add more goals to his game in order to reach his dream of winning a Ballon d’Or. What stems from this interview is his determination to win everything, “I want to be the best, I don’t want to be like everyone else. When I do something, I like to differentiate myself from the rest and I don’t like to lose… I don’t like to come second”. This is a mentality that is ingrained in you from a very young age at Manchester United and Juventus that you must win at all costs.
Nobody doubts the Frenchman’s talent. The question that remains is Paul Pogba worth a world record £100 million transfer fee? Since arriving at Juventus, Pogba has consistently scored and assisted goals from the middle of midfield. His statistics in the past three seasons have been similar in Serie A:
Pogba Stats at Juventus (ESPNFC.co.uk)
2015/2016 Italian Serie A- 35 Games, 8 Goals, 12 Assists, 124 shots
UCL- 8 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists
2014/2015 Italian Serie A- 26 Games, 8 Goals, 3 Assists, 56 shots
UCL- 10 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists
2013/2014 Italian Serie A- 36 Games, 7 goals, 7 assists, 73 shots
UCL- 6 Games, 0 goals, 1 assist
The issue with Paul Pogba is whether he impacts the biggest games at the highest level enough to be seen as ‘the most expensive man in world football history’. A question that has yet to be answered. His UEFA Champions League statistics are relatively average only scoring twice in the Champions League for Juventus. Also, now the European Championships are over, another opportunity has gone for Pogba to stand up and be counted at the highest level. By no means did Pogba play poor during Euro 2016 but he did nothing to convince anyone that he is worthy of the £100 million price tag. On the other hand Pogba’s rise has been very similar to that of Zidane. They were both the poster boys for the French National team, they both moved to Juventus relatively unknown, Zidane also left Juventus for a world record transfer fee and Zidane was also seen has a ‘big game bottler’ in his early career. This nickname came from three average performances in three successive European finals in 1996 with Bordeaux and 1997 & 1998 with Juventus. A nickname that he put to bed in the greatest possible way during the World Cup 1998 in his home country when he scored twice in the final against Brazil which secured France their first World Cup and another European Title two years later in Euro 2000, where Zidane played a huge part. Zidane’s greatest moment in his club career was when he scored arguably the greatest goal in Champions League final history as he scored a volley against Bayer Leverkusen securing Real Madrid’s ninth UEFA Champions League crown. These are the moments that separate where Paul Pogba is now and where Zidane was when he was winning Ballon d’Or titles.
To conclude, it is relatively obvious to all that Paul Pogba has huge potential that could rule the footballing world for the next decade. However, he needs to find that next level like Zidane, at World Cup ‘98 and many other legends of the game have before him. This is what stands in the way of him being considered as a genuine world-class footballer who could seriously compete with Messi and Ronaldo for individual honours in the future. To answer the question is he worth £100 million? Right now, the answer is no. Although, if he adds that last match-winning characteristic to his game at the highest level on a consistent basis there is no doubt that Paul Pogba will be a name edged in to footballing folklore for years to come.
Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott):
It wouldn’t be the same summer transfer window that we have come to know and love, without rumoured moves for at least a dozen Brazilian ‘wonderkids’. Thankfully, this summer has been no different with a host of Brazilians, young and old, looking to make the move from South America to Europe. In the past five to ten years, these moves have been hit and miss - players such as Neymar and Douglas Costa have flourished, whilst others such as Keirrison and Kerlon have seen their careers stagnate enormously. Let’s take a look at the chances of success for the four high-profile players who will be making the move, this year.
Paulo Henrique Ganso
The 26-year-old deep-lying playmaker became Sevilla’s sixth summer signing since Jorge Sampaoli took over, completing a move from Sao Paolo for an undisclosed fee. His name may ring a bell for many readers, as he was once talked about in the same breath as Neymar, whilst they played at Santos together. Both were widely regarded as the next big things to come out of Brazil, and whilst Neymar is certainly on the way to fulfilling his potential, Ganso never really kicked on since leaving Santos. He finally leaves Brazil having made 140 appearances for Sao Paolo, with the hope of becoming the player the world was once so desperate to see. Ganso is likely to be the replacement for the recently departed, Ever Banega, who left Sevilla to join Inter Milan on a free transfer earlier this summer. His lack of pace and dynamism are a big concern however, as Sampaoli is known for his exhausting pressing tactics.
Chance of success: 5/10
Alexandre Pato is another Brazilian who has already sealed his move to Europe this summer, as Villarreal have snapped up the striker, striking a deal with Corinthians. Pato, who is also 26, has of course already played in Europe before, having had a successful spell at A.C. Milan between 2007 and 2012. The striker scored 51 goals in 117 games for the Rossoneri, a very impressive return for a young player in a tough league. Unfortunately, Pato’s career has regressed significantly since leaving Milan, with disappointing spells at Corinthians and Chelsea in the past few years. It is now surely make or break for Pato in Europe, and I am not convinced he has what it takes to succeed.
Chance of success: 3/10
The highly rated 19-year-old forward, nicknamed ‘Gabigol’ has been linked with a whole host of clubs around Europe since he broke onto the scene for club and country.
Since 2013, he has scored 24 goals in 82 games, whilst also scoring twice in four appearances for his country. Modesto Roma, the president of Santos F.C confirmed on Tuesday that that the club had accepted a €20 million bid for Gabigol from Juventus but that the player and his family will need to make a decision. It is widely rumoured however, that Barcelona have first refusal on the youngster and may be tempted into moving for the youngster, with Luis Enrique desperate to boost his squad depth. Gabigol has consistently impressed for both club and country and in my opinion, stands a very good chance of being a success, if he makes the move to Europe.
Chance of success: 7/10
Despite playing fifty games less than Gabriel Barbosa, Jesus is seen by many who watch Brazilian football as the better talent. The 19-year-old forward looks to be heading to England, with both Manchester City and Manchester United interested in the youngster. Jesus appears to be closer to City however, with his agent claiming that talks with The Blues are at a ‘very advanced’ stage. It is said that Pep Guardiola played a huge part in swaying Jesus away from the clutches of Real Madrid, with MARCA claiming that Madrid are furious with Guardiola’s ‘tapping up’ of the forward. Manchester United are supposedly willing to outbid City, but according to numerous reports, the youngster is desperate to work with Guardiola. Having scored 10 goals in his first 14 games this season, Jesus wants to finish what he started with Palmeiras, and then move to Manchester when the Brazilian league is concluded in December. Under the fantastic guidance of Pep Guardiola, a man who is known for his youth development skills, it seems unlikely that Gabriel Jesus would fail.
Chance of success: 8/10
History suggests that there is little chance of the four Brazilians mentioned, all succeeding. In my opinion, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa are by far the most likely to do well in Europe. Whilst Pato has been a hit previously, he is at least four years past his peak and will struggle to reach the levels shown during his time in Milan. Ganso could go either way, he has undeniable quality but there are question marks over how well he will adapt to La Liga and Sampaoli’s tactics. Both Jesus and Barbosa have unlimited potential and under the right guidance, they could flourish in Europe. The duo are set to star for Brazil in the forthcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with clubs around the world undoubtedly watching on eagerly.
Blog Written by Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial):
Earlier this month the inevitable was announced -- Vicente Del Bosque was resigning.
The man at the head of the golden era of Spanish football is gone. What Luis Aragones started, Del Bosque finished, winning a World Cup and European Championship, while leaving the world as it’s admirers in the process.
Unfortunately, he failed to evolve the team beyond mere sterile possession in his final four years as coach. Loyal to a fault, Del Bosque blindly held on to the glory years gone by, calling up players whose form, or attitude, didn’t warrant it. The world caught-up to tiki taka, and the engines that made it go -- Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso -- were retired from international football.
Perhaps four years too late, Spain have made their change. Many options were considered but not many were good ones. The surly Joaquin Caparros was seen as the front-runner, while the uninspiring Roberto Martinez was mentioned, but in the end, the RFEF went with someone they know well.
In steps Julen Lopetegui, a 49 year-old manager with promise and ambition. Born in the Basque Country, Lopetegui grew up to become a part of La Liga. As a player he was a goalkeeper, starting over 100 La Liga games for both Logroñés and Rayo Vallecano. In-between those spells he was even a back-up for Real Madrid (winning La Liga in 1990) and Barcelona (winning the Copa del Rey and Cup Winners Cup in 1997).
He first foray into coaching came back in 2003, and to say it didn’t go very well would be an understatement. He lasted just 10 matches at Rayo Vallecano before being sacked effectively into a brief retirement. Lopetegui began sports commentating, including for laSexta in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, before he returned to coaching with Real Madrid Castilla in 2008.
This experience eventually led to Lopetegui being handed the keys to perhaps the best youth system in the world. With the Spanish U19s, he built a side with the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Jesé, Óliver Torres and Paco Alcácer starring, as well as Denis Suárez and Juan Bernat in lesser roles. They won the U19 European Championships in 2011, and again in 2012, extending the domination exhibited by the senior side.
As a result, He was promoted to the U-21 side the following year and the domination continued. While Del Bosque’s side were being embarrassed in the Confederations Cup, Lopetegui side won every game with an aggregate tournament score of 12-2. It wasn’t until the final until the defense conceded, but still, it wasn’t enough to deny the Spanish another title.
More so than just the end result was the players he accomplished it with. The starting XI was stacked with talent that now lights up the pitch at some of the world’s biggest clubs. But for all of their accolades on the club level, many have found the senior national side a tougher nut to crack. Del Bosque rode with his horses and the ponies were left behind. Lopetegui was obviously primed to take over from Del Bosque in 2013. One could say that 2012 would have been an even better time to make a switch, but nothing happened, even after the unmitigated disaster that was the 2014 World Cup.
This year's European Championship saw Alvaro Morata and David De Gea finally get their long awaited opportunity but others barely featured, or even worse, didn’t receive a call-up. Chief among the omissions was Isco. A polarizing talent, Isco has shown the potential to be one of the world's very best midfielders, but at times has let outside factors interfere with his form. With Lopetegui, he has a coach who instilled a consistent confidence in him and became a champion with. Players of his caliber hold the keys to future Spanish success and need to be treated accordingly.
La Furia Roja are dying for a refreshment of young legs and revitalized commitment, and nobody recognizes this more than their new manager.
"Everything we've achieved before no longer matters. Internally, we can be happy with what we did then but we are fully focused on the job we have to do now," Lopetegui said.
"Some of them have been the best in Spanish footballing history, winning honours that no one could before them. But they must also understand that they have to live in the present and what they bring to the squad now. We will focus on that.”
Instead of abandoning their established style and mentality in order to function with a new coach, Spain have appointed a young manager who knows and has worked with a large percentage of the young players that need to make up the majority of the squad going forward. His understanding of the systems and style of play will provide a smooth transition that is imbedded into this golden generation of talent.
For 44 years, an entire country was dying for the taste of victory. Finally, they were satiated, even more so than their wildest dreams could have imagined. Somewhere along the line that hunger and passion devolved into complacency. Lopetegui is now back and his puppies are with him. It’s time to eat.
Blog Written by Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial):
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona / April 23, 2017 / Santiago Bernabéu
Let’s face it: each and every Clásico is a must-watch affair. A rivalry full of hatred, politics, and some of the best players to ever grace the pitch, is enough to pique the interest of even the most neutral of futbol fans. This match takes even greater importance due to its timing, as Madrid face a murderer's row of opponents in April including Atletico, Valencia and at Sporting. This doesn’t even factor in any possible Champions League matches, provided they advance that far. Barcelona’s month doesn’t get much easier with matches against Sevilla, Malaga and the always tricky Catalan derby, against Espanyol. This month will go a long way towards deciding the champion of Spain, and no match will carry more weight than El Clásico.
Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid / September 21, 2016 / Camp Nou
The first truly titanic match of the season. The league’s most aesthetically pleasing and efficient attack (Barcelona) takes on the most impenetrable and disciplined defense (Atletico Madrid). Atletico have more than proved their worth over the past few years but remain without a win at Barcelona since 2006. Diego Simeone’s men would love nothing more than to make an early season statement against the current title holders, while making more history for the Rojiblancos in the process. Barcelona will have something to say about that, as it was this same Atleti side that killed any dreams of back-to-back trebles, knocking Barca out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion. The match may not mean a ton relative to league standing, but it will go a long way in shaping the psyche of the clubs going forward in the season.
Sevilla vs. Real Betis / September 21, 2016 / Sanchez-Pizjuan
When Real Betis got promoted back to first division football last season most fans were ecstatic, while the select few that weren’t resided in the north end of the same city. The derby of Seville has been going on since 1915 and remains one of the fiercest and most passion-filled rivalries La Liga has to offer. Both sides will come into this season with new managers in Gus Poyet, and Jorge Sampaoli, respectively. Personnel has been vastly changed during the transfer window for both clubs -- with a combined 12 new players -- signaling a change in philosophy towards more of an offensive mindset that should make this matchup lively from the start. Hopes are high this upcoming season for both clubs, and this will be an early measuring stick of what to expect.
Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid / November 20, 2016 / Vicente Calderón
For years, the Derby madrileño was dormant. Real Madrid went 22 straight league games (11 years) without tasting defeat to their cross town rivals. But that all changed in the 2013 Copa Del Rey final, when Atleti finally broke through by a score of 2-1 to lift the silverware. Since that point, the sides have met 14 times (Liga, Copa, UCL) and have each won 5, while drawing 4. Unfortunately for Atlético, two of those losses came in absolutely gut wrenching fashion in the Champions League Final to further cement Los Blancos as the kings of Europe. League play has been a different story, as Real Madrid have not won a single match in the series in nearly four years, which just so happens to be the last time they were Spanish champions. Simeone has played the stepchild card to perfection, galvanizing a club and it’s fans to heights many believed didn't exist. Now, Zinedine Zidane must do the same for a club almost always fancied as favorites. Their chance at a league title may depend on it.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Málaga / March 5, 2017 / San Mames
No, you aren't drunk and this isn’t a mistake. It may not be a rivalry, but this matchup will be one to keep an eye on next season. You would be hard pressed to find a more even series anywhere in the world, as these clubs have met 26 times, each winning 8, while drawing 10. Athletic hold a 0.1 advantage in goals per match, making each encounter nail biting stuff. Málaga have been extremely active during the transfer window bringing in 9 new faces, including the criminally underrated Jony from Sporting, and Sandro Ramirez from Barcelona. After a slow start last year -- including a catastrophic ouster in the Copa Del Rey at the hands of Mirandes -- Málaga played well in the second half to finish a respectable 8th in the table. Athletic finished in 5th led by Mr. Benjamin Button himself, Aritz Aduriz, and his 20 goals. Both sides will challenge for the Europa League, and maybe even the Champions League with a bit of luck.
Blog Written by Sebastian Fazio (@CalcioASRoma):
"This is the worst Italian team ever"
"Antonio Conte is ruining Italian football!"
"From Totti, Del Piero and Vieri to Pelle, Eder and Giaccherini"
"This team won't make it out of the group stages"
These are just some of the things people said about Italy going into Euro 2016. Never had there been so much negativity towards an Italian team in terms of what they could achieve. It's safe to say no one expected the Italians to do anything. Boy, were many wrong.
The tournament started against Belgium. Italy were looked at as the underdogs since Belgium had all these stars like Eden Hazard, Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bryune, Romelu Lukaku and the list goes on. Italy outside of BBC was also playing Giaccherini, Parolo, Eder and Candreva. Four guys who not too long ago were playing for Serie B side Cesena. At the 33rd minute of the match, Giaccherini popped one in to put Italy in front and from then, the dream began. Giaccherini became Giaccherinho. That goal stands out because it was the beginning of 23 men proving so many wrong.
Italy would go on to dominate the match and shut down Belgium's superstars while Graziano Pelle scored a second goal in the 90th minute to top off a great victory. Daniele De Rossi after the match said he had friends in Rome who said they'd bet their house Italy would lose versus Belgium, showing you what people thought of Italy going into the Euro. Still though many didn't want to bat an eye at Antonio Conte and Italy, still considering Spain, Belgium and heck even Croatia were better threats then the Italians.
But credit to Conte's squad, they knew this team was not what many thought it was. Next came Sweden, a tough match where Italy struggled to find a breakthrough. Many complained over Conte's trust in Eder throughout the match, calling him useless, saying Italy were playing with 10 men because of him. Cometh the hour, cometh Eder. 88th minute a beautiful Eder goal to send Italy into the next round topping the group of death, which many said Italy would 'struggle' in. 1st place with a game to spare.
Then came Ireland with Italy playing with no real meaning, losing 1-0. But there was a bigger fish to fry, as Spain was next up. And once again Italy were looked at as underdogs and were not favored, but ONCE AGAIN they proved many wrong. Completely taking the game to Spain. Disrupting the Spanish attack. At the 32nd minute Cheillini put Italy ahead and Gli Azzurri never looked back. Once again in the 90th it was Pelle smashing the ball home making it 2-0 to knock out Spain.
Antonio Conte put on a tactical master class that ended the Spanish Era and got sweet revenge for the Euro 2012 final loss. Beat Spain? Okay, here's Germany, probably the best national team on the planet. From the first minute to the last penalty kick, Italy-Germany was a very tactical and intense match. When Mesut Özil put Germany ahead it seemed Italy was done, not being able to create anything going forward for an equalizer. Then came the 78th minute, Italy wins a penalty that Bonucci puts home, every Italian erupts, the players on the field and on the bench completely lose it. Italy was back in it and not ready to quit. Unfortunately it was penalties that decided who went on and the Germans came out on top, ending a dream.
This Italian team would have died before giving up and the way they were eliminated shows that. Stefano Sturaro himself said he played Italy-Germany injured from 2nd half on. Pelle, Eder, Giaccherini and Parolo gave everything they had even if they ran out of steam after 120 minutes, they were still running at 100% even before the final whistle was blown. Though he missed his penalty and later apologized for it, Graziano Pelle deserves so much credit for his performances at the Euro. Many doubted him but he delivered and was a reason Italy went as far as they did. He was one of the best strikers at the Euro. Same with guys like Giaccherini, Parolo, Eder and De Sciglio. This game showed the belief and enthusiasm that these players and Antonio Conte brought back to a nation that really was dead following the 2014 World Cup. A bunch of 'nobodies' and the 'worst Italian team ever' proved the world wrong and in that that made their nation proud. Football is cruel and weird; Italy gave everything and deserved a lot more. Conte was always hit with the hardest obstacles. Italy topped their qualifying group yet still wasn't seeded in Pot 1 for the draw because of a stupid loss in a friendly, guaranteeing a hard group at the Euro but they overcame that with a first place finish. What are they rewarded with? The hardest route to the finals with Spain, Germany and then what would've been France. Meanwhile, Portugal finished 3rd place in the easiest group and have yet to win a game in 90 minutes yet are in the semifinals.
Conte always had to play with a disadvantage, whether it was the draw, injuries, lack of talent or the trust of fans and the media, yet he and his 23 players proved everyone wrong. And for that, I salute Conte and every player on this team for bringing joy back into Italian football. Italy's run at the Euro 2016 will always be memorable and it was a joy to watch, if you're Italian or not.
Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott)
Having joined Manchester City from Partizan Belgrade at the young age of 20, Stefan Savic was not expected to set the world alight in his first season at the club. He wasn’t signed to start in the big games straight away, the plan was that he would be eased in gently, first appearing in cup games and then a few of the less challenging league games. For a while, this plan looked to be running smoothly, making his debut as a substitute during a 4-0 home win over Swansea, in August 2011. He then scored his first goal for the club against Blackburn Rovers, once again appearing in a 4-0 victory as a substitute. Savic made his first start for the club in a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with the Montenegrin putting in a confident performance from right-back. So where did it all go wrong for Savic in Manchester?
As mentioned earlier, great things were not expected of Savic to begin with, but almost single-handedly costing City the league was certainly not on the agenda. The City fans are a fairly forgiving fan base; if a player looks to be putting in 100% effort, they are generally forgiven for a poor game every now and then. Therefore it is a measure of just how terribly Savic performed, that he quickly became the most maligned name on the City squad sheet during his first season with the club.
There are two particularly poor performances which epitomize Savic’s time in England, the first being the 3-2 win over Spurs at the Etihad in December 2011. After sitting in a comfortable position mid-way through the second half, Savic helped City to squander a two goal lead, as his dreadful attempt at a clearance allowed Jermaine Defoe to pull one back for Spurs, before Gareth Bale equalised. In what was a clash of title challengers at the time, Savic nearly lost the game for City, with his shockingly poor pass leading to a two-on-one chance for Spurs. Had Jermaine Defoe’s legs been a couple of inches longer, Savic may well have had to hire private bodyguards to ensure his safety.
Things went from bad to worse for Savic, as his worst performance in a City shirt came in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at Anfield. City, already trailing 1-0 from the first leg, needed a brave and confident performance in order to win at one of England’s toughest grounds. Unfortunately, Savic turned in a performance of the exact opposite of what was needed. After giving away a penalty in the first leg, he endured a torrid 45 minutes at the hands of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt, before being substituted in what Phil McNulty described as a ‘merciful release’. It was the final nail in the coffin of a very short City career for Savic; there was to be no coming back from this, in the mind of the manager, and the minds of the fans. After a confident start in England, it does beg the question: What went wrong?
Savic may have been excused for a disappointing first season, purely on the basis that the transition into English football is an incredibly tough one. It should not be expected for a 20 year old, playing in the relatively easy Serbian League, to adapt well to the relentless and unforgiving nature of the English Premier League. Savic however, had a much deeper problem affecting his game. What many people don’t know, City fans included, is that Savic had suffered a personal tragedy just before his move to Manchester. His father, Dragan, who was the president of the municipal assembly in Mojkovac, committed suicide in April of 2011. This would have been heartbreaking for a person of any age, never mind a 20 year old who was attempting to adjust to life in a strange, new country. A friend told The Sun back in 2011 that Savic ‘will never get over it (the death of his father)’. Factor this into his already exceptionally tough transition and all of a sudden, the explanation for Savic’s dreadful first season becomes abundantly clear. Savic was never a bad footballer, he was just a victim of devastating circumstance, and his form suffered as a result.
Savic clearly needed a change of scenery, a fresh start, before his career was irreversibly damaged. Fiorentina came to his rescue, with La Viola completing the Montenegrin’s transfer as part of a deal which saw fellow Balkan, Matija Nastasic, join Manchester City. It would have been easy for Savic to never recover from his time in England, but the way in which he has revived his career since 2012 shows that he possesses a brave and strong character. During his three seasons at Fiorentina, Savic averaged a very respectable WhoScored rating of 7.26, with the football stats site featuring him in their 2012/2013 ‘Under 21 Team of the Season’ XI, alongside current stars of the game such as Kevin De Bruyne, Mario Götze and David Alaba. It was a fantastic revival by Savic, becoming a player unrecognizable to the nervy and error prone centre-half who departed Manchester in 2012.
Savic’s great spell in Italy brought him to the attention of Atletico Madrid manager, Diego Simeone. Had Savic only been linked with Simeone’s Atletí once, it still would have been a great validation of his fantastic defensive ability, as Simeone certainly knows a great defender when he sees one. So for Atletico to sign him in the summer of 2015 showed just how far he had come since he left Manchester. Despite arriving as one of the most promising defenders in Europe, Savic was not a regular in his first season in La Liga. After spending most of the season as understudy to Jose Maria Gimenez, he was thrown in at the deep end against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final and managed to make his mark. Savic, who could not take his opportunity at City when thrown into the deep end after Vincent Kompany got injured, did not let his new manager down. Savic performed excellently, making the most blocks out of any player on the pitch, with no mainstream media journalist rating him less than 7/10 in their final player ratings. Despite losing the game on penalties, it was a coming of age for Savic, making the transition from an erratic youngster with potential, into an experienced, calm head – something which was inconceivable four years ago.
So where does Savic go from here? The next step is to become a regular in the Atletico starting eleven, and he will have done his chances no harm with his performances towards the end of the season. Perhaps the Montenegro captaincy could also be on the cards, if compatriot, Stevan Jovetic continues to falter at Inter. Jovetic should really be taking a leaf out of Savic’s book on how to get his career back on track. Regardless of what happens with Jovetic, if Savic continues to apply himself in the way in which he has over the past four years, the future is certainly bright for both him, and Atletí.