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Filip Djuricic: Why Red Star Belgrade face backlash as Man Utd, Liverpool close in

It's sure to be a decision that will haunt Red Star Belgrade in the coming months.

With Heerenveen football director Johan Hansma announcing Filip Djuricic will be sold at the end of this season, amid interest from Manchester United and Liverpool, the decision from inside Red Star to dump the midfielder as a teen is sure to warrant a backlash.

Djuricic admits his time at Red Star as a junior ended after one disappointing game.

"In 2004. I went to the Marakana. The first year I played in the team, but after losing to Partizan 5:1, a whole generation was declared untalented, although there were great players like Kovacevic, Causic, Cosic and Stojkovic," he recalled.

"I was invited to continue to train with the Stars, but my father believed I'd be better off going to (Radnicki) Obrenovac."

Djuricic signed for Obrenovac via Olympiakos, where a registration row with Red Star and threats of legal action forced him and his family to return to Serbia. Red Star wanted the teen to sign new terms, but his family had had enough and chose to return home.

It was with Obrenovac where Djuricic began forging his reputation and drew comparisons with Real Madrid midfielder Kaka. Barely six months into his time at Obrenovac, Djuricic was invited to trial at Manchester United after being spotted by their East European scout Budimir Vujacic.

The attacking midfielder wowed the coaching staff at United and manager Sir Alex Ferguson was urged to sign the 17 year-old. But UK work permit problems made the prospect impossible.

Now at Heerenveen, playing under Marco van Basten, the 20 year-old Djuricic says he's playing the best football of his fledgling career.

"Last year and now is a world of difference. Then I had a lot of problems. At first I did not play, it was new to me. I became irritated and stressed out, people asked me all the time why I had ended up in that situation. I lost a year but learned a lot.

"Now I've turned the corner. I focus only on myself, on the football. And I will no longer be distracted by circumstances. That works, I'm comfortable in my skin and work well with everyone," he said of his stunning form this season.

Djuricic credits his form reversal to the influence of Van Basten.

"Under this trainer we play really attacking football, which was one of the reasons for me to stay at Heerenveen this season," he continued. "He has helped me settle and get along with everyone here."

A lucrative move to Russia beckons, where intermediaries claim Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg will all make offers in January.

However, Djuricic has confessed an ambition to play in Spain.

"For now I focus only on Heerenveen. I have agreed this with the trainer and the management. First I'll finish this season, then maybe look further. I have a clear goal: Spain. There, with my playing style, is the best for me. My contract runs until 2014, but next summer would be a good time for the next step."

But Djuricic warns he wants to join a club capable of winning titles. With Liverpool posting scouts to watch him in recent weeks and Ferguson's interest still strong, a move to a big Premier League club cannot be ruled out.

"Against teams like PEC Zwolle and NAC, we can play football, but against teams like PSV we're just too short. It's that simple," complained Djuricic this week.

"It also has to do with mentality, although I think today we wanted it, but could not make it happen. I will be 100 percent focused and committed. The probability of a winter departure is not so great. But I'm glad it's my last season at the club.

"I want a team that plays football, that can boss the field. Who that is, I'll see. I have not been in contact with any club."

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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