20 Goalkeeper Maccabi Tel Aviv Serbia
Outstanding junior goalkeeper (kid gloves?), amongst the finest of his generation. Captain of Red Star Belgrade, a Serbian international while still a teenager, likened to Manuel Neuer and one of the outstanding players at the FIFA under 20 World Cup where he collected a winners medal.
Not a bad player, then.
2015 has been…
The *proverbial* game of two halves and quite the learning curve.
The early part of 2015 could barely have turned out any better for Predrag Rajković. Six clean sheets in twelve games for Red Star took his side to second place in the Superliga behind cross city rivals Partizan. During this period, the impressive young goalkeeper led his team out as captain, a glowing and worthy testimony to one of the best young custodians around.
Conceding only four goals in seven games and making a string of impressive stops, Rajković was the hero in a penalty shootout victory over Brazil at the Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand in June. Responsive, agile and aggressive, the young stopper was the subject of considerable interest from many of Europe’s biggest names. But if he landed, would they let him play?
Transfer stories came and went with several sides attempting to take advantage of Crvena Zvezda’s perilous financial position and pick up the young star on the cheap. With their captain in good form at the start of the season, the Belgrade club caved in right at the end of the August transfer window. Despite interest from Galatasaray and several others, it was the cold hard cash (to the tune of €3m) of Jordi Cruyff’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, the chance of first team football under Slaviša Jokanović and the potential for future profit that persuaded all parties.
Since the transfer Rajković certainly hasn’t had an easy run. Although Maccabi currently sit top of the Liga Ha'al and have enjoyed progress in the Champions League, their goalkeeper has seldom been the main reason for a positive result. Indeed, having witnessed the number one concede sixteen times in the group stages of UEFA’s finest, many Maccabi fans are wondering whether their club may have overpaid for their man.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Rajković is still only 20. His success at the Under 20 World Cup and his relative dominance in Serbia have perhaps created an artificial aura of invincibility around him. That aura may come to ring true, but it certainly isn’t present right now and may take several years to develop.
If we’re taking positives here, it’s that this is experience for Rajković and something to learn from. The standard he’s playing at in League terms hasn’t varied greatly but he is playing regularly and there is new kind of pressure upon him now, as opposed to the unbridled adulation he was receiving back home. In addition, a tough baptism in the Champions League will stand him in good stead in years to come, provided he can cope with everything that is going on right now.
In short, Predrag Rajković has had one hell of a year and certainly won’t forget 2015 in a hurry. The challenge going forward is to the get the basics right and build again.
C- A funny old game, this
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