Football News

Dusan Vlahovic wanted to be the “new Ibrahimovic”, says former Partizan teammate after dream Juventus debut

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:10, 7 February 2022

Dusan Vlahovic achieved a boyhood goal by signing for Juventus according to former Partizan Belgrade teammate and mentor Valeri Bojinov.

The 22-year-old is was one of the hottest strikers in 2021 and had the world at his feet, with Europe’s biggest clubs all interested in signing him in the January transfer window.

Juventus were the ones to win the race, signing Vlahovic on a four-and-a-half-year deal for an initial fee of £58.3m with the potential for that to rise to £66.6m with add-ons. The deal to sign Vlahovic was announced on January 29 and he was put straight into the first Juventus XI possible, starting against Verona on Sunday.

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Vlahovic didn’t take long to get up and running in the famous Bianconeri strip, scoring after just 13 minutes, running onto the end of a pass from Paulo Dybala and lifting the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. A dream debut for any new signing, but one that will have had a special meaning for Vlahovic’s who had aspirations emulating Zlatan Ibrahimovic and playing for Juventus a teenager – according to former Juventus, Fiorentina and Manchester City forward Bojinov.

“He said he would become the new Ibrahimovic and that one day he would play for Juve,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He was just 15, but he was already working to become one of the strongest.”

Vlahovic and Bojinov spent two years playing alongside each other at Partizan between 2015 and 2017, and while they only shared the pitch four times for a combined total of 52 minutes, the former Man City forward could tell there was something different about the youngster from the training pitch.

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“I met him before he was 16, yet he already had the head of a big name,” he added.

“Physically he was well structured, but he made the difference above all for grit, competitive nastiness and hunger for goals. During the matches he left us speechless, technically he was always one step ahead of the others, he scored crazy goals.

“He said that one day he would play at a very high level, he was sure of it. His ambitions, combined with the humility that distinguished him, made him stand out already at the age of 16. He only thought of the field.

“Especially at that age, it’s hard to stay focused.”

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Vlahovic’s goal against Verona, though his first for Juventus, was just a continuation of his excellent form since the start of last year. In 50 club appearances since the start of 2021, Vlahovic has scored 38 goals across all competitions including 35 in Serie A.

Across Europe’s top five divisions, only Robert Lewandowski (48) has scored more league goals than Vlahovic since the start of 2021, with the Serbian managing two more than Erling Haaland and sitting three ahead of Karim Benzema – though it must be noted that he has played more minutes.

Vlahovic is also outperforming his xG of 25.32 during that time at an exceptional level, scoring just under 10 goals more than he would be expected too. While that number will surely drop, unless Vlahovic is set to become the next Pele, all signs are pointing towards the Serbian making himself a star at Juventus.