x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ljajic now packs a punch at Fiorentina

The Serbian is at last showing his potential and rewarding the faith shown by the club with goals.

An observant Muslim, Adem Ljajic wished everyone Eid Mubarak through a message on a T-shirt after scoring against Lazio.
An observant Muslim, Adem Ljajic wished everyone Eid Mubarak through a message on a T-shirt after scoring against Lazio.

Florence appreciates imagination. The global reputation of the place centres on art and architecture. No Italian city offers so concentrated a celebration of human invention, fantasy and daring.

The city's principal football club, Fiorentina, has always seemed in thrall to the maverick creative genius, too.

This is the club where Roberto Baggio came to prominence and where men of independent spirit, from Socrates to Steffen Effenberg to Adrian Mutu, have made themselves at home.

Adem Ljajic, the 21-year-old playmaker, has not achieved what any of those did, at least not yet, and it would be fair to report that his notoriety probably outweighs whatever fame his skills have brought to him.

Above all, Ljajic is best known beyond Serie A and his native Serbia for the incident towards the end of last season which led to Delio Rossi's dismissal as the Fiorentina head coach.

A recap: Fiorentina, fending off possible relegation, played Novara. Rossi had substituted Ljajic after just over half an hour.

The player then sarcastically applauded the decision as he entered the dugout, at which point Rossi darted towards Ljajic with the apparent intention of punching him.

The men were pulled apart by Rossi's assistants. Television cameras caught the whole commotion. Rossi lost his job that evening.

Indeed, the Serbia international has a history of displeasing his coaches.

Sinisa Mihaijlovic, a former Fiorentina coach, once accused him of spending too much time "on his PlayStation" and having a bad diet.

Mihaijlovic, now in charge of Serbia, has since excluded Ljajic from the national team because he did not sing the national anthem, even though Ljajic explained that, as an observant Muslim, he was unwilling to join in a song with Christian connotations.

Of his potential, there has been little doubt since his teens. He once had a trial at Manchester United, and the club were keen on his transfer, as a 17 year old, from Partizan Belgrade.

Work permit problems then arose and the word from the club was that sufficient doubts about the player had arisen that United eased up in their efforts to solve the administrative issues.

Fiorentina took advantage, recruiting him in 2010.

Under Vicenzo Montella's enterprising watch, he is now thriving. Ljajic scored a fine goal in the 2-0 win over Lazio, a long-range missile that spoke of self-assurance.

He talks of his new-found maturity. Montella would appreciate a little more consistency in his form, but is certainly more inclined to throw plaudits Ljajic's way than punches.

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