Wednesday 12 January 2022
Dusan Vlahovic is the most sought-after striker in European football. Chloe Beresford was there to see him make his breakthrough.
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today… a super-striker is born.
Yesterday, we reached 100 episodes of the Playmaker. That’s 100 great stories that make sense of the world of football. If you have the time, do go back and have a listen to the ones you might have missed.
“The birthplace of the Renaissance, and a club in need of a restart itself against the wannabe champions…”Serie A
So I want to take you back to a moment that is seared into my mind.
That was Fiorentina versus Antonio Conte’s Inter on December 15th, 2019.
And it was the last time I set foot in Fiorentina’s stadium, the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Normally, I’d go there three or four times a season.
But just a few weeks after that match had ended, the pandemic hit, and I’ve not been able to go back since.
But this isn’t the time to feel sad…because in the final minutes of that match, something really special happened…
“Vlahovic from Boateng… now the break is on, the youngster with the pace…is he here to get past Skriniar…YES! Oh yes oh yes oh yes! What a finish! What a time to make your mark!”Serie A
Young striker Dusan Vlahovic had used his pace to run from halfway, then smashed a left-footed effort beyond the goalkeeper and into the top corner from a tight angle.
Not only was it an unlikely last minute equaliser against a team who had lost just once in their previous 15 games, but it was the kind of goal you could watch over and over on repeat.
It was the kind of moment that really meant something to Fiorentina’s fans. They’re a well-known Italian team, but they haven’t won a trophy since 2001.
So they live for those last-minute equalisers and stealing points from title-chasing teams.
Watching a young, previously unknown striker come good.
And it’s pretty likely that by now, you will have heard of Dusan Vlahovic. He’s currently being hunted by a number of high-profile teams in the transfer market.
He’s just equalled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for most Serie A goals in a calendar year – 33. Vlahovic is the most highly sought-after striker in world football.
“Don…Dusan Vlahovic…very good isn’t he?”
“Incredible. Incredible player. But he’s making noise because he keeps getting linked with Arsenal every other day. He keeps making noises that he’s not ready for that move yet, I think he’s been very smart, I think what he’s doing is keeping his options open. He’s probably looking around Serie A, I’d imagine Juve would come in in the summer, I think they’d be certainly favourites for him…”ESPN FC
But what some don’t realise is that he wasn’t always so highly regarded.
Fiorentina bought Vlahovic for around 1.5 million pounds from Partizan Belgrade in January 2018.
He’d only scored twice before he scored the last-minute winner versus Inter in December. And he was frustrating to watch.
He missed easy chances. He fell over too easily. He looked awkward on the ball.
“Excellent ball. Lirola… goes on the outside… gets a shot away! Right across the face of the goal. Vlahovic sliding in… couldn’t get the final touch.”
“Lirola. Into the near post, Ribery with a dummy! Vlahovic unable to get a clean connection.”
“Dalbert across the face of the goal…And a great opportunity… Vlahovic over the crossbar.”Serie A
Those misses were all in one match – a 1-0 home defeat to Lecce in November – a side who were relegated at the end of that season.
And it was only two weeks before the game against Inter which I went to.
On that cold, dark December night in Tuscany, we saw with our own eyes what Dusan Vlahovic was capable of.
At that moment, we knew that a special striker had been born.
Vlahovic didn’t explode into form straight after that goal. He only scored three more in the second half of that season.
Fiorentina hired former Italy boss Cesare Prandelli in November 2020, and he used his experience to tease out from Vlahovic more of what we’d seen against Inter.
Vlahovic finished that season with 21 goals, and the earlier frustration was replaced by moments like this…
“Vlahovic with a good touch up against Glik. Can he get a strike on goooooall? Oh! Dusan Vlahovic gets his first-half hat-trick! A clinical strike into the top corner! And this number nine is showing shades of the Batistuta days…”Serie A
As someone who watches live football, it’s so satisfying when you can say “I was there when…”
And I was there when Dusan Vlahovic first showed a glimpse of how talented he really is.
Today’s story was written by me, Chloe Beresford, and produced by Studio Klong.