Stefan Savic 21 Defender Fiorentina
Stefan Savic’s rise from BSK Borca centre-half to being Manchester City’s latest new thing perhaps went too quickly for the defender to fully adjust. Just 12 months before he made the move to the Etihad Stadium, he was still a very rough around the edges defender in the Serbian SuperLiga.
Amidst apparent interest from Arsenal (only ever talked about by the player himself rather than the London club), Savic decided on Partizan Belgrade as his destination in the summer of 2010. He moved from mid-table to the odds-on favourites for the title.
During his one and only season with Partizan, Savic helped the club to the league and cup double as well as some positive showings in the Champions League. With each glowing performance, his growing reputation across Europe was enhanced.
It set up a scramble for his signature amongst a host of Europe’s bigger clubs and he packed his bags for the second summer in a row. Looking back, we’d have preferred to have seen Savic enjoy a second season with Partizan.
The constant first-team football would have left him in much better health than the misfiring, struggles that he endured during 13 months in Manchester. Ultimately, the Serbian league provides neither the same lucrative wages nor level of competition as the English Premier League. Stefan was never likely to shun Roberto Mancini’s advances.
When he was unveiled, City were rather pleased with themselves to have captured one of Europe’s rising defensive talents. Physically strong, Savic is also blessed with a decent turn of pace that means he is rarely out-run in a straight sprint. His understanding and reading of the game is very good. His performance at right-back for Montenegro against England in October 2011 also helped showcase his versatility.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan at City. He didn’t look entirely confident when introduced into the team and a number of mistakes, usually born from a lapse in concentration, meant he was unable to put a string of solid performances together. His time with City saw his weaknesses magnified and then exploited by opposition teams. Savic was rarely used in the team alongside captain Vincent Kompany and instead deployed as his understudy. With Kompany, who was inspirational for the Citizens last season, out of the team, it encouraged opposition sides to attack the “soft” centre of the City defence.
Rather than having a year or two to shoulder the expectation of playing in one of Europe’s top leagues and for a team chasing trophies at every opportunity, Savic was left exposed in the games that he did play. Instead of being used sparingly to help him accommodate to the speed and style of the Premier League, Stefan found himself elevated beyond the rapidly declining Kolo Toure and into the role of third-choice centre-back.
Despite being strong, agile, comfortable on the ball and capable of getting on the score-sheet responsibly regularly, his first season will be remembered more for the errors than any age-defining performances. That said, we do have sympathy for him being packed off to Fiorentina on August 31st.
Perhaps he will be remembered as a victim of Manchester City’s wealth. Maybe there just wasn’t enough shown by him in training to suggest he could consistently perform in a title-contending side. We won’t quite know about either.
What we are happy to say is that Italy is a league perfectly suited for Savic to get his development and growth as a player back on track. Serie A will be a more forgiving place than the Premier League as he works out the kinks in his game. If he can improve his concentration levels and grow in self-confidence so that he comes to realise he can play at the very highest of the game, Savic can go on to make Manchester City regret their decision to part with him so quickly.
In recent weeks, he has started to get his chance in the Fiorentina side. The early signs have been good and he’s looked happy on the left side of a three-man defence. As long as he learns from the mistakes of 2012 and works hard on his weaknesses, he can put his troubles quickly behind him and be the well-rounded, ball playing, instinctive defender he threatens to be.
“A move to Manchester City might be a golden chance for many youngsters, but one suspects Savic will view his time at Eastlands as a lost year. Still, it's better to have that lost year when you're 21, when there's time to recover. To be frank, Savic looked like a walking calamity on the few occasions he played for City, and they weren't exactly shy about shoving him the way of Fiorentina in the summer.” – Nick Miller (Football365)
D It was always going to be hit or miss at Manchester City. 2012 can be quickly put right in Florence