Since the first moment he stepped under the spotlight in the Serbian Super liga, it was clear that Aleksandar Mitrovic was something special. It is not about his special and often scandalous hairstyles, or his incident-prone on-pitch behaviour, it is about the raw football talent exploding with every touch of the ball.
Another brilliant product of famous Partizan academy, Aleksandar Mitrovic came into prominence in 2012-2013 when he scored 13 goals in 28 league appearances.
Physically dominant even at the delicate age of 18, this young starlet used his impressive scoring abilities to propel himself in the Serbian footballing sky, catching the eye of Europe’s topclubs. Anderlecht set the new club record having paid €5 million in 2013 for the player who went on to score 44 goals in 90 games across all competitions for the Belgian giants.
Well-known for his scoring abilities, Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to leave his old habits at home before he moved to Belgium.
New hairstyle every couple of weeks, controversial celebrations, disputes with manager and fans alike, and weight problems marked his two-year stay in Brussels. Fans loved him and hated him at the same time. One thing is certain, he left no one indifferent.
He had the similar impact on Newcastle fans.
His £13 million transfer has raised a couple of eyebrows this summer, with many of the fans criticizing the Newcastle management for their transfer policy.
His footballing qualities have been overshadowed by the lack of Premier League experience and chronic absence of discipline, so the fans were suspicious. With their beloved club having struggled for years in the striking department, they had every right to feel that way.
Alan Shearer left the legacy so great that most of the players would be afraid to even think of replicating, but Mitrovic wasted no time by announcing upon his very arrival the desire and hope to become the club’s new legend and Shearer’s worthy successor.
His pronouncement to the Premier League world was rather extraordinary. Two yellow cards in his first two games for Newcastle, a booking after only 13 seconds in a 2-2 home draw against Southampton, and another one only three minutes past his introduction from the bench in 2-0 away defeat to Swansea were early warning signs.
Desire to succeed was exposed in the wrong way, Mitrovic’s greatest problem has always been discipline. Confrontational, provocative and easily picked on Mitrovic has been an easy target, and the red card against Arsenal took no one by surprise.
However, behind all the aggression there stood determination, will and courage Newcastle fans haven’t seen from their players in a while. Steve McClaren promised revolution, Mitrovic is the man to bring it to realization. Together, they form an unlikely partnership.
“Steve McClaren will keep me out of trouble”, says Newcastle striker who indeed looks revamped following his suspension after Arsenal game.
Newcastle boss has done wonders with the 21-year-old. Aleksandar Mitrovic looks mature, fully concentrated on his job on the field. McClaren succeeded in what most of the managers before him failed, he taught Mitrovic self-control.
Serbian fans remember it well, Mitrovic was proud to compare himself to Mario Balotelli in his early days at Partizan Belgrade, and he did it not because he was fascinated by the Italian’s football qualities, but because of his antics. More interested in goofing around the pitch than in making a real impact on his team’s play, Aleksandar Mitrovic received a lot of criticism at the beginning of his career under the coach Vladimir Vermezovic.
Fans and pundits were suspicious, doubting that he would be able to fulfill his huge potential.
He silenced the doubters in his first ever game for Partizan, in a Champions League qualifier against Valletta, bagging home nine minutes after coming on from the bench. His rampant scoring continued and by the end of his debut season, young Aleksandar Mitrovic was Partizan’s top scorer with 15 goals in all competitions.
Despite the displays of controversial behaviour, Serbia knew right from the start that a genuine striker was born, a forward which, similarly to Newcastle, Serbian national team has been lacking for years. With McClaren doing his part and with Mitrovic all tied up, both Serbia and Newcastle are fairly confident that Serbian striker will come good and prove his worth.
Mitrovic’s areal presence, raw strength and the ability to keep the ball to his feet are pretty impressive traits of a striker of his age.
His off-ball movement is another thing that stands out in array of his displays. Running away on the pitch with defenders on his tail, Serbian forward creates a lot of space for his teammates, affecting the game even without the ball at his feet. Dangerous, simply dangerous player. Having been introduced as a hothead in England, Aleksandar Mitrovic has now fully deserved the songs from the Newcastle faithful.
Still with more bookings than goals next to his name though, Mitrovic needs to be given time to shine. Goals against Manchester City and Norwich last weekend are signs of the things to come and Newcastle fans are optimistic about their future with Aleksandar Mitrovic on the forefront.
Will he ever be able to replicate Shearer’s records and earn the stature of the club’s greatest?