Miralem Pjanić 22 Midfielder AS Roma
We reckon the Roma first team would be a pretty exciting place to be at the minute. Not only have you got Zdeněk Zeman as a manger, you’re also sharing turf with Erik Lamela (playing the best football of his career at the time of writing), Daniele De Rossi (admittedly not all the time and God only knows for how much longer once the transfer window opens), Pablo Osvaldo (building a career one overhead kick at a time) and of course Francesco Totti (please play forever Golden Boy, please). All in all you’d have to be happy with that, wouldn’t you?
Joining that now we think about it disgustingly handsome list is Miralem Pjanić, brilliant Bosnian playmaker in the old-fashioned sense of the word and scorer of a C- in last year’s IBWM 100 review. We felt he needed to get off the roller-coaster his career had been up to that point, too many highs and lows, not enough consistency. We stressed just how much we loved him (an alarming amount actually) but he needed to take his chance at Roma having never really grasped it at Lyon. The closing comment was simply ‘Step it up’, so how’s he done?
Well the first point I want to make is that it’s incredibly difficult not to judge Pjanić more harshly then some others on this list. It’s because this is an immensely talented player right now, comfortable on the ball, great vision, calm finisher and to be frank, a class above most of the same age in his position anywhere in the world.
Knowing that makes it difficult not to judge him on potential and where you think he should be, rather than actual performance in relation to his competition. You see at his best he is a magnificent player, a truly wonderful creative talent, when he’s progressing along okay and playing well is it wrong to mark him down as he’s not absolutely exceptional week in week out as he has the potential to be? Can you honestly criticize someone in good form and improving consistency wise as you feel they should be doing more than just ‘very good’? How many times in analyzing players on the 100 would we have killed for a ‘very good’ and yet here we are with Pjanić wondering if that’s enough.
It’s not just us who think he’s the real deal either, it’s not an irrational man-love thing like we have Franny Jeffers (he could still come good in the Maltese league he was last seen in trust us). If you believe all you read Pjanić is being actively scouted by Manchester City, Real Madrid and Arsenal to name but three who all feel he’s ready right now to add something to their side. Google ‘Pjanić transfer’ and besides some God awful ‘Panic/ Pjanić Buy’ puns, you’ll see basically every major club in European football with a pedigree in attacking football linked at some point with the player. It may be that he happens to have the most active agent in world football, but we think in this instance that there’s some smoke and some fire.
So we come back to the point – is ‘very good’ enough?
For the moment, it has to be. He came through Luis Enrique’s attempts to Barcelonarise Roma well, something the majority of his team-mates can’t boast. You may think Zeman would have fallen in love with his attacking instincts, however the two have a somewhat frosty relationship with the manager moving him around continually trying to accommodate rather than maximize Pjanić’s potential. He has played in all positions across the midfield three, often changing from game to game, and watching him now he seems a man with a chip on his shoulder.
Nothing encapsulated the frustration more than the angry tirade towards the Roma bench after his quite brilliant free-kick in the Rome derby in November. Having just caught an entire team off guard from at least forty yards out and with Roma now just a goal behind with five minutes to play in one of their biggest games of the season, there was no rallying call, no charge for the ball, just a series of annoyed looks towards the bench and a stream of consciousness verbalized before a trudge back to get ready for kick off. Zeman turned to his assistant and asked ‘was that for me?’ but in truth, there was never any doubt.
He is still playing okay despite his obvious problems with the current approach being taken to handling him on the pitch. If they can get the best from him over a longer term, we genuinely think Roma will have one of the best playmakers in world football in two to three years time, but he needs to find the consistency and the belief in himself within and from others to do it. It is not enough to have the talent, you have to know how to motivate yourself to keep pushing.
So a ‘very good’ for last season and a ‘good in trying circumstances’ so far for this. The mark needs to be an improvement from last year’s to represent the form but the natural talent dictates it can’t be more than a C as there’s a lot more to come consistently. This is a fascinating player who stands on the edge of a greatness he might never find. If Zeman is in Rome for the longer term it may be that Pjanić isn’t and perhaps his next club will be the ones to really benefit from his talent.
We will enjoy him either way but there will be a very real sense of depression if he never takes it on the next level available to so few players globally. The talent is immense, marry it with the right system and a club that loves him and you’ll have a hell of a time, trust us.
“Three goals & nine assists last term saw him shine brightly enough to convince the Giallorossi not to spend money to hold on to Fernando Gago, he has now cemented his place alongside Daniele De Rossi under Zdenek Zeman despite constantly being shifted around to accommodate others.”– Adam Digby (ESPN, Sports Illustrated)
C From a C- to a straight C should feel like progress, but in reality this could/should be a B, possibly more…