by Tom Lees - 26th March 2016
Dubbed the ‘Serbian Messi’, Andrija Zivkovic is a youngster that has already proven to be more than just a hyped prospect but rather an outstanding player with even more room for growth. For a nation that has struggled in football both on and off the pitch in recent years, Zivkovic is seen as the brightest light in a potential golden generation of Serbian talent breaking through into the professional game. Linked in the past with Benfica, Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, Zivkovic has remained in Serbia thus far in his career but is on the cusp of moving onto bigger things.
Zivkovic was born in Nis, the home town of former ‘Yugoslavian’ legend Dragan Stojkovic, and went onto join the successful youth academy of Partizan Belgrade aged 13 and such was his natural ability that within four years of joining the academy he was playing for both the Partizan first team and the Serbian senior national team. He made his professional debut for Partizan as a 16-year-old in April 2013, and four months later would sign his first professional contract at the club, which he celebrated by scoring his first goal for the club two days later. Zivkovic became a regular in the Partizan line up that season and was recognised for his performances by being called up to the Serbian senior national team in October 2013, he would make his debut for his Country and enter the record books as the youngest ever Serbian international as a 17-year-old. Later that season he also made club history for Partizan as he was named as captain for a fixture in March 2014, and in doing so became the youngest captain in the club’s history at only 17 years 10 months and 12 days.
Zivkovic has continued to represent his club on a regular basis since breaking into the team in 2013, helping them to the league Championship in the 2014/15 season. He has also added a couple of extra international appearances to his cv, but has split his duties by representing the youth national teams as they build a golden generation around him. He competed in the early stages of the 2014 UEFA European Under-19 Championships and in 2015 Zivkovic was part of the Serbian side that were victorious in the Under 20 World Cup. In that successful tournament his stunning free kick strike against Mexico was awarded ‘goal of the tournament’, for many observers Zivkovic was considered the star player for the Serbian side and one of the most noteworthy performers in the competition.
Speedy and skilful, Zivkovic is an explosive winger that can hurt the opposition with his high velocity dribbling, ability to beat a man, quality of pass and a final shot that has rewarded the youngster with many goals. He can deliver a fine set piece, whether it be in shooting or assisting and has the ability to create something out of nothing. Technically Zivkovic is gifted, and has shown great composure with the ball which helps with his decision making in high pressure situations. Without the ball he is tactically disciplined and performs a role for the team, but when in possession his game transforms into an explosive attacking force, wielding magic with his left foot. His stature can be seen as a weakness, but he has shown the ability to use it to his advantage. An area that could require improvement however is his consistency, but as a 19-year-old he has plenty of time to add this to his game.
An outstanding young talent that has the potential to be a superstar, Andrija Zivkovic is a player to keep a close eye on in the future. He is performing and progressing well with Partizan Belgrade but as time goes by more and more offers from overseas will come his way and he has the ability to be a star in any environment. Internationally it seems his immediate future is with the Serbian Under 21 side as they look to qualify for the 2017 Under 21 Championships but if needed he is more than ready to step back up to the full national team, where he will be a vital player in the years to come.