On the Anderlecht radar: Luka Milivojevic and Aleksandar Mitrovic
Anderlecht, the champions of Belgium last season, lost three important players in the summer transfer window. Defending midfielder Lucas Biglia left the club for Italian side Lazio. Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokani moved to Dinamo Kiev and left winger Milan Jovanovic did not see his expensive contract extended. Anderlecht are taking their time to find good replacements. Sporting Director Herman Van Holsbeeck has confirmed that Anderlecht are looking after young players with huge potential. Until now Anderlecht their biggest incoming transfer was Mbark Boussoufa from KAA Gent. Anderlecht is now willing to break their transfer record of €3,5 million.
Three years after their traumatic penalty shoot-out exit of the Champions’ League play-off round against Partizan, the Belgian champions have set their sights on the Belgrade side to strengthen their team this summer. Anderlecht sporting director Herman Van Holsbeeck has confirmed his club’s priority to secure the services of highly-rated 18-year-old striker Aleksandar Mitrovic just days after reportedly signing his Serbia team-mate, Red Star midfielder Luka Milivojevic (22). Yesterday the Serbian midfielder signed a five-year contract with Anderlecht after writing this article.
There is more than just the two arch-rival clubs to distinguish both players. While Milivojevic has already gathered a lot of experience in the Serbian league, having made his professional debut for Rad Belgrade aged 16 in 2007, Mitrovic is an up-and-coming prospect who only really started confirming the high hopes placed on him this season, leading the Partizan attacking line to a league title.
The two have joined forces with the Serbian national team, both getting solid experiences in Mihajlovic’s side with Mitrovic making his debut in Belgium in June to reward a fruitful season. That Belgium away game incidentally caused quite a stir in Serbia as the striker, who spent more than an hour fighting off Van Buyten and Kompany to no avail, was featured the very next day with Serbia U19, barely getting any sleep on the plane back to Serbia.
This controversy had the merit to show how highly rated the forward is in Serbia, not just because the country suffered from a cruel shortage of top-draw strikers since the downfall of Mateja Kezman almost a decade ago, but because Mitrovic seems to have it all in his drawer.
Despite coming up short in his second consecutive international game in two days in June, the striker’s main feature is his physical impact. Measured at 189cm, the striker is a fearless poacher when approaching the opponent’s goal, his intimidating demeanour compounded by numerous tattoos and a spectacular haircut, which saw him vilified throughout the country, until he finally shaved it off at the end of the season.
It must be said the player is one for causing polemics. His outlandish behaviour off-the-pitch led to questions about his professionalism a few years ago. This side of his personality appears to have been tamed last season as he contributed 10 goals in 23 games with Partizan, getting the nod ahead of team-mate Marko Scepovic, thanks partly to his bigger hunger for tracking back and harassing opposition defenders.
In tandem with wonderkid Lazar Markovic, the forward led Partizan to another league title and started attracting interest from abroad. Arsenal were said to have contacted the player at the turn of the summer, but have since been aiming for more established strikers. Napoli has also scouted the player on several occasions, but it appears to be Anderlecht who may take the player home after his impressive international European championship campaign with Serbia U19, a side for which he scored 7 goals in 10 games.
The player is set to join his countryman Luka Milivojevic, a more refined type of player who has been distinguished as one of the country’s most talented central midfielders upon making his professional debut in 2007-2008 with Rad aged just 16.
Attracted to Red Star by club legend Robert Prosinecki, he increasingly saw his influence in the team grow thanks to a decent passing range and sense of positioning, to the extent of becoming an indispensable figure in the first eleven. His hard work with RS Belgrade allowed him to get a call-up with Mihajlovic’s Serbia this year, a sign of things to come. Though still a bit raw, he has the technical portfolio to make an impact in Belgian football if he works on his physicality and determination.
This article was a guest blog written by Igor Mladenovic, writer for French Football Weekly, Slavic Football Union and In Bed With Maradona among others. Igor is a keen follower of Serbian, French and English football, a talented writer and we feel lucky he was willing to take time out to contribute to our blog. He is also on the Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mladenovic_. (Introduction from Bjorn De Cock or https://twitter.com/TheBelgPatriot)