For some fans, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing your club snap up one of Europe’s hottest prospects, and it looks like one group of supporters could soon be celebrating the acquisition of 18-year-old Lazar Samardži? from Hertha Berlin.
Bild recently revealed that Chelsea are among a host of sides pursuing the attacking midfielder, but they are by no means alone. Everyone who is anyone has expressed an interest in Samardži?, who bagged 14 goals and nine assists from midfield at youth level before being handed his senior debut towards the end of the season.
It’s a story worth keeping an eye on down the line, so it’s time to get clued up about Samardži?.
The German football dictionary includes the word ‘Käfigkicker’, which translates as a ‘cage footballer’. Basically, it’s the word used to describe the kind of player who is all about quick footwork and the use of silky skills to beat defenders which you’d usually see in local cages around the world.
Samardži? fits into that category perfectly. He’s all about weaving his way past defenders and has even been known to sit a goalkeeper or two down in his time.
It makes for exciting viewing every time, and that’s what fans are so excited about him.
Nike love trying to tie the world’s best players down to exclusive contracts, and they are even prepared to throw big money at young players who they are confident will become superstars. That’s what they did with Samardži?.
Still just 18 years old, the teenager is seen as one of German football’s brightest stars, and Nike did not need to see much to convince themselves that he was worth signing up.
Serbia hesitated to commit to Samardži? at youth level, and that gave Germany the advantage they needed to convince the youngster to commit to them internationally.
First brought in to the Under-16 setup, Samardži? has risen through the ranks and he has captained the Under-19 side, with Germany keen to show their faith in the midfielder.
The Serbian FA have long been in talks with Samardži?’s father to try and lure him back, but it looks to be too little, too late.
Most 18-year-old attacking midfielders tend to be lacking something on the physicality front, and Samardži? is no exception to that.
He’s fairly tall for his position (although not compared to the likes of Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt), but his skinny frame and slow sprint speed can work against him at times.
It’s why Samardži?’s puts so much focus on footwork. If he can’t out-muscle a defender, he’s going to out-skill one.
Hertha have never been scared of showing Samardži? some tough love when he needs it. In June’s 4-1 loss to Frankfurt, he was subbed on to the pitch and removed just 21 minutes later.
Granted, a red card forced his team to change shape, but Samardži?’s inability to help his side defend was quickly identified as a major burden by manager Bruno Labbadia.
“We know his strengths. They are certainly more offensive than defensive,” Labbadia said (via Berliner Kurier). “To be honest, we thought about taking him off the field at half time. It was an important test for him. You also have to do things on the defensive end. He still has to do it better. ”
In German youth football, the Fritz Walter Medal is the equivalent of the Ballon d’Or. A gold, a silver and a bronze medal are given out to players in Under-19, Under-17 and female academy football.
Samardži? managed to win himself a bronze medal at Under-17 level in 2019, with judges clearly believing he will become a star of the future somewhere down the line.
Those who vote definitely know what they are talking about, as the list of former winners includes Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer.
The idea of a player being wanted by ‘every European giant’ is usually a mass exaggeration, but for Samardži?, it’s exactly right.
A quick Google search of his name will produce links to Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Chelsea (among others), but it was AC Milan who really started the party.
Paolo Maldini met with Samardži? before the coronavirus outbreak paralysed football to try and get a deal over the line, but the delay has allowed the rest of the big boys to join in.
Samardži? is somewhat of a set-piece specialist. He’s known for his composure from free kicks and penalties, and he loves stealing the show from 12 yards out.
It’s not rare to see Samardži? pull out a Panenka penalty, and he’s so deceptive with his eyes that goalkeepers fall for it time and time again.
Hertha’s status as one of Germany’s top academies earned them an invitation to the Premier League Under-15 International Tournament in 2016.
Samardži?’s side were well and truly thumped by Arsenal, but that lit a fire under the German and he ended up tearing Blackburn and Sunderland’s youngsters apart.
It was his first chance to impress on a global stage, and Samardži? did not disappoint.
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