Miloš Marković –
Partizan entered the spring portion of the Serbian Super Liga season without Andrija Živković, who was banned and suspended during the winter, after he refused to sign a new deal with his club.
Once they realised that Partizan would not be able to convince their player to extend his contract, the club officials have agreed to renounce their prised possession and Andrija Živković will be free to choose his next destination at the end of the current season.
In many ways Živković’s case has become a veritable soap opera; all of the elements of the story have been amusing the Serbian football-loving community since the turn of the year.
The tearful rip
Amidst contract speculation, Andrija Živković was initially included in the squad that the new coach, Ivan Tomić, took to Cyprus for a winter camp at the beginning of February.
The saga commenced a couple of days later after it was reported that Živković had been subjected to mental torture by the coach and other members of the team in order to pressure him to sign a new deal.
When the 19-year-old was forced to pack his bags and leave for Belgrade, he refused to comment on the duress he had endured from his teammates—his roommate and teammate Saša Lukić was the only one to accompany him to the airport in Larnaca.
The Serbian prodigy arrived in Belgrade hours later, when he posted a tearful photo on Instagram and proclaimed his love for the club.
“No matter what, Partizan is always in my heart”, wrote Andrija Živković using the photo from the Europa League match against the German outfit Augsburg for his post.
Both sides in the Živković story have played the emotion card in their attempt to gain the support of the general public.
The Serbian talent was forced to train with the reserve team and has not played a minute in the first team since his suspension from the squad.
Partizan attempted to portray themselves as the victims in this case, but the manner in which they have handled Živković’s young career has been far from professional.
With their decision to alienate the young star whose contract was initially sold to an investment fund by the former club management, Partizan Football Club have disappointed a fair share of their fans, who believe that such behaviour toward a player is unworthy of a professional football organization.
The general impression is that if Partizan wants to become a major European club, they should not let their emotions cloud their judgement or get in the way of achieving the common good.
Upon his announcement that he would be leaving Manchester United toward the end of the season, Nemanja Vidić was respected by the Premier League giant for starting every game he had left in his contract and for his effort to get the best possible results for the club.
Of course there are differences between the Živković and the Vidić case, but there are also similarities. Unfortunately, Partizan’s decisions have been motivated by a desire to achieve personal gain without regard to a young player’s career.
There are many examples of positive and professional behaviour by the club, but in this case, Partizan’s hierarchy behaved badly toward the Živković family when they felt that the young player—and his father— had been disloyal.
Živković – Bitter Betrayal
The feeling of betrayal—the second most important ingredient in any good soap opera—was mutual, however, and it overwhelmed the Živković family as well—who shared some of the blame in the entire process.
Jovica Živković—Andrija’s father—was criticised by the fans for exposing details of the contract negotiations with Partizan.
Also, Jovica’s open letters to the public, and his frequent interviews with the Serbian media have had a negative impact on the young player’s brand, and were also interpreted as weak attempts to use the situation to secure private gain for the Živković family.
In addition, Jovica Živković has claimed that his family has been threatened, and that Partizan’s current management tried to blackmail his son into staying with the Serbian champions.
Furthermore, he stated that the entire family is considering leaving Serbia and following their son to wherever he may go. “We plan to move out of Serbia, we want to live somewhere far away from here. We are prepared take the citizenship of that country. We are sick of both Partizan and Red Star [Belgrade] and the Serbian FA, we are sick of everyone. I don’t want to talk anymore, I just have a message to all of those who are making threats to me: I am not afraid of you and if you go after me I will strike back!” an emotional Jovica Živković told Kurir.
After being banned from the first team at Partizan, Andrija Živković was hoping that he could find comfort and redemption in the warm embrace of the Serbian national team.
But with Serbia having failed to qualify for the UEFA Euro 2016 final showpiece in France, the Serbian head coach Radovan Ćurčić was expected to choose Andrija as one of his young guns for the international friendlies against Poland and Estonia.
Apparently unwilling to step inside the vortex and in an effort to avoid taking sides in the ongoing saga, Ćurčić decided to pass up the opportunity to call-up Živković—much to the disappointment of Serbia’s football fans.
Without much explanation regarding his squad list, Ćurčić simply stated that he had called the best that Serbia had at the moment.
A compromise has been found, though, as Andrija Živković was surprisingly included in the Serbia U-21 team for the European Championship qualifiers.
In this return from exile, Partizan’s star was motivated to prove a point and show his employers, and his nation what they are missing. By managing two assists in a 4-0 win over Andorra, Andrija Živković showed the class and form worthy of a first-team call-up—both for Partizan and Serbia.
When he realised that his son would never play for Partizan again, Andrija’s father, Jovica Živković, and his agent—former Olympiacos Piraeus player, Predrag Đorđević,—started touring Europe in an attempt to find a club for the 19-year-old winger.
Toward the end of February, Jovica Živković visited Spain and talked to Villarreal’s officials in a bid to arrange a deal that would see his son become a Yellow Submarine player in the next season.
The Spaniards were delighted to open negotiations with one of Europe’s hottest prospects, and U-20 World Cup winner Andrija Živković, but were quickly put off by the emotionally clouded Jovica Živković—Andrija’s father demanded an €8 million sign-on fee and a yearly wage in excess of €1 million for a five-year deal.
The proposal was laughed off. Jovica Živković had already been rejected when he had attempted to close a similar deal with Atlético Madrid just weeks prior to the talks with Villarreal.
Andrija and his father will be forced to lower their demands if the Serbian is to find a club that will allow him to fulfil his potential.
Rumours from Serbia have also suggested that Borussia Dortmund had all but signed the player for the coming season, but the complicated contract situation at the club, and the fact that his father has become more involved in Živković’s career choices have caused Dortmund to hesitate to sign the player. The yellow and black have apparently switched their focus to Mario Götze from Bayern Munich.
Perhaps an Italian giant?
According to reports from Italy, Andrija Živković’s representatives, his father Jovica and agent Predrag Đorđević, have most recently contacted AC Milan and have offered the Rossoneri a chance to sign Andrija Živković in the summer.
Živković’s entourage are hoping that a Serbian link with AC Milan manager Siniša Mihajlović would be enough to convince the Italian giants to sign the “Serbian Messi” when his contract expires.
There is no indication as to whether AC Milan are considering the offer, but one thing is sure—with the summer just around the corner, the list of clubs connected to Andrija Živković is likely to grow on a daily basis.
A holder of Master’s degree in English language and literature, Miloš Marković is an Editor-in-Chief at Sportske.net. Passionate about English language and football, Miloš Marković is also a huge Premier League fan. You can find him on Twitter under @milosemarkovicu.