Following on from our Young Brits Abroad series, we will now start to look at the best prospects in European football.
Put simply, a player must play for European country and club and be 23 or under to feature in the series.
First up in the series is Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović.
Name: Dušan Vlahović
Current Club: Fiorentina
Club Football: Partizan
Dušan Vlahović signed his first professional contract when he was 15 years old for Serbian club FK Partizan. In February 2016, Vlahović became the youngest debutant in the history of Partizan Belgrade when he played against OFK Beograd. He then went and followed that up by becoming the youngest player to feature in the Eternal derby, which is a local derby in Belgrade between Red Star and Partizan.
Vlahović broke another record in April 2016, when he became the youngest goal scorer in the club’s history by scoring his first goal against Radnik Surdulica. He scored in the Serbian cup semi-final and final to help guide Partizan to cup glory.
Vlahović won a Serbian Superliga and two Serbian cups in his time with Partizan.
Club Football: Fiorentina
In June 2017, Vlahović signed a five-year preliminary contract that would become official on his 18th birthday on the 28th January 2018. He was officially bought in February 2018, and would be eligible to play from the 1st July 2018.
In his first season, Vlahović only featured for a total of 160 minutes, and scored no goals.
In the 2019-20, his minutes played increased remarkably and by the end of the season he had featured for 1,783 minutes in the cup and league.
He scored his first goals for Fiorentina in a Coppa Italia win over Monza. He managed to score a brace in the game. The first goal of his Fiorentina career came when he latched onto a through ball and dispatched the ball low into the bottom corner of the Monza goal. His second of the game came when he found space on the edge of the box and found himself one on one with the goalkeeper and duly fired the ball low into the corner.
In the 2019-20 season Vlahović managed to score six goals, though it was below the xG of 7.9 he was expected to score.
It was to be the 2020-21 season where Vlahović’s Fiorentina career would come to life, as the Serbian managed to rack up 21 goals in Serie A, 3 assists and featured in all bar one Serie A game for Fiorentina. He finished fourth in Serie A’s goalscoring charts, with only Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Luis Muriel scoring more than the young Serbian forward. That goal scoring tally is quite impressive when you consider the side’s Ronaldo, Lukaku and Muriel were playing for finished in the top four and Vlahović’s Fiorentina finished in 13th.
His exploits in the latest Serie A season earned him the prestigious award of Serie A’s Best Young Player.
Vlahović has featured for Serbia at numerous age levels. In the U15’s he scored a hattrick against Czech Republic. He went on to feature for Serbia U16s and then featured for the U19s in August 2016 for a memorial tournament called Stevan Vilotić – Ćele. The performances that Vlahović delivered in that tournament led to him being nominated for the most talented player of the competition.
Vlahović went on to feature for the U21s then on the 11th October Vlahović made his international debut for the senior squad when he came on for Mijat Gaćinović in the 66th minute of the UEFA Nations League game against Hungary in October 2020.
Vlahović scored his first goal for the senior squad in a 5-0 win over Russia in the Nations League in November 2020 and his only other goal at international level came against Ireland in a World Cup Qualifying win back in March of this year.
At 6ft 3in Vlahović offers an aerial threat, but when the ball is on the ground his favoured foot is his left.
Vlahović has demonstrated his goal scoring ability and has shown he is comfortable in front of goal. Furthermore, Vlahović goals were crucial to his side as his 21 league goals meant he accounted for 45% of Fiorentina’s goals in Serie A this season. Vlahović managed to outperform an xG of 18.4 proving his goal scoring quality.
Vlahović has also proved his penalty taking proficiency. In his Fiorentina career he has taken 7 penalties and has converted them all.
As well as his finishing capability, Vlahović also possesses great aerial prowess, aided by his 6ft 3in stature. His quality in the air is demonstrated by his success in aerial duels as the Serbian averaged 3.1 successful aerial duels in Serie A this season, which was the eight best in Serie A. Additionally, he won the fifth most aerial duels in Serie A with 114 duels won, to establish himself as a player who is good in the air as well as on the ground.
Vlahović is still only 21, which means there are areas in his game that he can still improve.
One area for improvement is his ability to hold on the ball, as he was dispossessed an average of 2.4 times per game, with only one other player worse in the league. Further to this he was in the top six for unsecure touches, which highlights that he is not comfortable in his close ball control, and this is area he can improve on.
Vlahović also needs to improve his passing, which could lead to him contributing more with assists. His passing success rate in Serie A is poor with success rate of 66.3%.
Like every developing player Vlahović has areas he can improve, but if he can improve his close ball control and manage to increase his passing accuracy, he will turn out to be a sensational player. This is because he has shown his goal scoring ability is superb and will no doubt continue to score a frightening number of goals.
Vlahović’s season has seen him linked with a move away, so it will be interesting to see if he moves in the summer or stays for Gennaro Gattuso’s first season as Fiorentina manager.