Name: Zoran Tošić
Date of Birth: 28th April 1987
Place of Birth: Zrenjanin, Serbia
Height: 1.71m (5ft 7½ in)
Playing Position: Left-winger
Name: Adem Ljajić
Date of Birth: 29th September 1991
Place of Birth: Novi Pazar, Serbia
Height: 1.81m (5ft 11 in)
Playing Position: Attacking midfielder
A Pair of Partizans
With one eye firmly on the future, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson waded into the January transfer window on Friday to buy Partizan Belgrade youngsters Zoran Tošić and Adem Ljajić for a combined fee of £17 million.
The Serbian pair have already been burdened with the tags of the ‘new Kaká’ and the ‘new Ryan Giggs’ as the pressure cooker environment at Old Trafford kicks into action.
This billing raises expectations, but their promise is clear as the Reds had to swot away the attentions of heavyweight clubs Real Madrid, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Manchester City to seal their arrival at the club.
Flying winger Zoran Tošić’s potential will soon be realised after Ferguson handed him the no.14 shirt for the 2008/09 campaign, whilst scheming midfielder Adem Ljajić has been left on standby in Belgrade until January 2010 to continue his footballing education.
For Tošić, 21, the chance to rampage up and down the United flank is an opportunity he’ll be eager to grasp. Born in Zrenjanin, in the north of Serbia, on the 28th April 1987, his early days on the fields of local sides Proleter and Banat Zrenjanin will seem far removed from his glamorous new surroundings.
It was here in his home town that his ascent to a place in the squad of the Premier League and Champions League holders began after a youth coach shifted the precocious midfielder from a central role to a position on the wide left.
Before this, his star had only been a dim light. A move to the wing broke the shackles of the middle of the park and granted him the space to utilise his outstanding technique, intuitive vision and quick-fire speed to terrorise opposition full-backs. This ability preserved Banat’s position in the Serbian Superliga and won him a move to title-chasing Partizan Belgrade.
‘Bambi,’ the nickname given to him after he turned up to his first Banat training session with a packet of his favourite biscuits, also emerged on the radar of the Serbian U-21 outfit around this time and first caught the eye of the Red Devils’ elite scouting network.
His time in the capital has showcased an eye for the outrageous as a collection of long-range thunderbolts and rasping free-kicks will attest. This ability was also on show in the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 tournament where his thrilling skills helped the White Eagles through to a heartbreaking defeat by hosts Holland in the final.
Bambi has also added to his excellent pedigree by winning 12 caps for the full Serbian national set up, but United supporters expecting a repeat of Ryan Giggs’ exhilarating introduction into the first team in 1990 may be in for some disappointment.
This sentiment was echoed in a recent poll by Partizan Belgrade fans for their player of the season award, where Tošić only finished in a distant fourth place.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been quick to add a note of caution when discussing the player’s role, stating in a press conference on Friday that: "We'll give him time. He's not played since December 10 so he'll need time to adjust and get used to the tempo of our game and also the training.”
Such reticence to raise false hopes about the applicability of his new signings has seen the Scot entrust Adem Ljajić to Partizan Belgrade for another year. The prodigious youngster won’t be far from the mind of the manager he impressed tremendously during a trial spell at United’s Carrington training ground last October, though.
Ljajić, 17, was born on the 29th September 1991 in the east Serbian city of Novi Pazar, gaining his initial grounding in the local private school side of SF Jošanica. His poise and stirring aptitude for the game saw him emerge from the shadows at the age of just 12 when he caught the eye of Partizan coach Dusan Trbojević.
He finally moved to Belgrade in 2005 and began to play a starring role in the club’s junior organisation, as well as the Serbian U-16 and U-18 sides. Progression into the Partizan first-team was swift. Last August he broke into manager Slaviša Jokanović’s plans, notching 10 appearances and two goals in the championship winning 2007/08 season.
Whilst it will be at least a year before he can make a similar impact in Manchester, it’s hard to envisage the impressive Serb failing in Western Europe. Quite simply, with vision in excess of his meagre years, an ability to hit the back of the net and an effortless poise on the ball, a pivotal role in the future of the English champions for the ‘little Kaká’ is only a matter of time.
Club Careers – League Appearances (Goals)
2004 – 2006 - Proleter Zrenjanin – 16 (4)
2006 – 2007 - Banat Zrenjanin – 35 (2)
2007 – 2009 – Partizan Belgrade – 46 (14)
2008 – 2009 - Partizan Belgrade – 10 (2)
Zoran Tošić is an exciting, speedy winger, with an expressive range of dribbling tricks and flicks. His past in central midfield hasn’t been forgotten and he can cut in-field and surgically cut apart the opposition with his clinical passing. Cristiano Ronaldo’s position as United’s de facto free-kick taker will also come under threat due to his lethal exploitation of dead-ball situations.
Adem Ljajić is a cultured player, with the priceless ability to find time and space on the ball. His resemblance to Kaká is hard to deny, due to his tall physique and his propensity to dribble through opposition defences and bury the ball in the net.
Tošić’s has only recently emerged into the Serbian national team, winning 12 full caps since he was handed his debut against Finland by former manager Javier Clemente in August 2007. This upgrade came after he impressed for the U-21 team in the European Championship of that summer, having won his first cap for the outfit in the previous March.
Adem Ljajić’s youthfulness has seen the door to the senior national team closed. However, at U-16, U-18 and U-19 levels he’s amassed a record of 50 appearances and 13 goals, whilst his two appearances for the U-21’s have included a single strike.
It’s not yet known how Sir Alex Ferguson will react to the outrageous Pink Panther Nike football boots that Zoran Tošić wears. (Not that it does Franck Ribery any harm...)
Matt Monaghan, Goal.com