Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic had an incredible calendar year in 2021, scoring goals for fun with Fiorentina and drawing the attention of some of the biggest clubs across Europe, including Arsenal.
While the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid chase Erling Haaland, only one (very rich) club will be able to snag the prolific Borussia Dortmund youngster, leaving competitors searching for alternatives.
Vlahovic certainly fits the bill in that regard, as one of the top young striking options out there at the moment.
Here’s everything you need to know about a goalscorer you’re going to hear even more about in the coming weeks and months.
The story so far
The 21-year-old was born in Belgrade and spent a lot of his time at playing football with the older kids at school, before spending time in the youth teams of OFK Beograd, Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade.
It was the last of those three with whom he progressed the most, signing professional terms with The Steamroller in 2014 after just one year in the set-up. In 2016, he became part of the first-team set-up under Ivan Tomic, even being handed the No.9 shirt.
In February of the same year, he made his debut against former club Beograd, becoming Partizan’s youngest ever player in the process. When he scored his first goal in April, he became their youngest goalscorer as well.
Later that year he scored in the national cup final against Javor Ivanjica and lifted his first piece of silverware.
In June 2017, he signed a pre-contract agreement with Fiorentina, moving to Italy in February 2018. Due to the nature of the deal, however, he was unable to play until July.
The following season saw the then 18-year-old make 10 first-team appearances, but he ultimately failed to find the net.
He persisted, however, and found the net six times in the 2019-20 campaign, notably scoring a brace against Monza and a hat-trick against Benevento. Even testing positive for Covid couldn’t slow him down.
The 2020-21 season saw his trajectory curve even more steeply upwards and he whacked in 21 goals in 40 games, despite playing in a Fiorentina team that was only good enough to finish 13th.
And by the end of the 2021 calendar year, Vlahovic had well and truly stepped up into the echelons of the elite. He finished the year with 33 Serie A goals, more than Haaland and only behind Robert Lewandowski in Europe’s big five leagues.
2020 also saw Vlahovic make his senior debut for the Serbian national team. He’s scored seven in 14 caps so far and will play for Serbia at the 2022 World Cup, fitness and form permitting, after they won their qualifying group.
Dušan Vlahović is at it again with this absolute banger to complete his FIRST HALF HAT-TRICK 💜
Touch, turn, finish 🔥
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) March 13, 2021
Standing at 6’2″ it would be easy to dismiss Vlahovic as a typical target man, but he is so much more than that.
Just like Haaland, he is capable of dominating near enough any centre-back he comes up against, but he is more than capable of picking up a pass in midfield, dribbling 20-yards before finishing clinically (as seen above).
In December 2020, he demonstrated intelligence way beyond his years when the Viola clashed with Juventus, drifting between Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci before scooping the ball expertly over an onrushing Wojciech Szczesny.
Only Paolo Dybala and Ciro Immobile have had more shots per game on average than Vlahovic in Serie this season and he is pretty useful in the air, too, winning 1.9 aerial duels per match. For comparison, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been winning 2.3 per game on average.
What’s been said
– “He’s certainly motivated, I practically have to push him off the pitch, as he would like to stay there for hours. I think it’s the kind of pressure he can deal with,” his former manager Cesare Prandelli said after the striker scored a hat-trick against Benevento in March.
– “He is only 21 years old and he behaves as if he were 30, which is very positive, it opens the way for him to have a phenomenal career, of which I am convinced and which will be very important in the game of our national team,” Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic said.
– “He said he was the new Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I told Corvino to sign Vlahovic when he was 15 or 16. Vlahovic was crazy, really crazy. He used to tell me: ‘I am a Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Belgrade, I will play for the strongest clubs.’ I liked his arrogance. I thought he would become a strong player, while Milenkovic was calmer,” said Vlahovic’s ex-Partizan Belgrade team-mate Valeri Bojinov.
What he’s said
– “He is a great coach, a master. When you have a coach like that, it’s normal to give your all on the pitch,” Vlahovic told the Gazzetta dello Sport about former manager Giuseppe Iachini.
– “When I was down, he spoke to me and told me to never give up. That’s how I understood what it means to be a champion on the pitch and in life,” the Serb said of Franck Ribery after the Frenchman gave him some advice during a bad spell of form.
– “I’ve said many times that I cannot describe with words what I owe to Prandelli. He arrived when I was in a bad period of form, he gave me confidence and I must repay his faith in me,” he said about former manager Cesare Prandelli after a 3-0 win against Spezia.