Amongst the ongoing rumors that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is still determined to tempt Manchester United with a mammoth £80m offer for Wayne Rooney plus another £30m for Nemanja Vidic, the name which could be on everyone’s lips at the start of next season if Vidic leaves Old Trafford may be that of his Serbia central defensive partner Neven Subotic.
While either Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini or Denmark’s Simon Kjaer are most favoured to replace Vidic, the 6ft 4inch Subotic may well get the nod from Sir Alex Ferguson. At 21 years of age he fits perfectly into Manchester United’s favoured age group while the experience Subotic will pick up with Serbia at the World Cup could make him the ideal defender to bring in.
Subotic is tied to Borussia Dortmund with a recently signed long term contract but United refuses to be put off as Ferguson looks to replace his central defender. The young Serbian has become known as the “New Nemanja Vidic” having fast developed into a consistent performer in the Bundesliga with a string of mature displays for Borussia.
The giant defender was in the starting eleven in 34 league matches last season but with Bayern Munich dominating the competition in Germany, an opportunity to win trophies at Old Trafford may well be the deciding factor for him. Just like Vidic has often done, Subotic has been invaluable for Borussia at set pieces scoring 13 times during his three seasons in the Bundesliga.
Despite representing the USA at U/17 and U/20 level, Subotic was born in the former Yugoslavia but moved to Germany with his family in 1994 as a 5 year old. From there the family went to America in 1999, settled in Salt Lake City then relocated again to Florida where Subotic began playing for the University of South Florida.
It was during a kick about in a park that Subotic’s future as a budding footballer first took shape. The self assured teenager saw a team training, marched up to the coach and asked if he could join in. That coach just happened to be Keith Fulk, then assistant of the USA U/17 national team. He was so impressed with Subotic’s raw technique, size and enthusiasm that he snapped him up for the United States Soccer Federation
“I was invited for a trial and I was with the American U/17 team for a year and a half” said Subotic. He was briefly with the USA U/20s after playing in the 2005 FIFA Under 17 World Cup in Peru “It was a big step forward for me. I really learned to play football and tactics” While on tour with the U/17 USA team in Holland, the big defender was spotted by player agent Steve Kelly and was eventually signed by Bundesliga club FSV Mainz.
Subotic was by then eligible to play for the U.S, Serbia or Bosnia Herzegovina but opted to play for Serbia. “It is my home and the Serbs are my people” the youngster who speaks fluent English and German said “I didn’t decide against any other nation, I simply chose in favour of Serbia. It was a decision that came from my heart.”
He made his international debut as a substitute in a 3-2 win over Romania and has now made 14 appearances scoring once in a 2-0 win over the Faroe Islands. Subotic came on as a substitute for the last 15 minutes in the 1-0 defeat by Ghana in the opening World Cup group match in South Africa last weekend.
If Ferguson decides that Subotic is the man he wants to replace Vidic if he decides to go elsewhere, he may have a tough battle on his hands getting the young defender away from Dortmund. Club managing director Hans Joachim Watzke is reported to have told the German Bild newspaper that “If Manchester United want to have him, they have to sign over two oil fields to us. Or cart over at least two big lorries tightly packed full of English banknotes”
The defender is under contract with Dortmund until 2014 and has admitted that “It is not a secret that I feel happy with Borussia and I would still like to win something on the European stage with the team therefore, I am not even thinking about a transfer at the moment” His agent Steve Kelly also declared that “It would take something special for Dortmund to sell him as he is on a long term contract there.”
In the opinion of many football judges Subotic is tailor made for the Premier League and should prove to be a great signing by Ferguson. The crucial question then becomes whether Borussia maintains their determined stance to keep their star defender if United end up making a big cash offer for him.
Whatever the outcome, it has been one hell of a ride for a 21 year old who has experienced so much in his young life. As he recognizes so correctly “If I hadn’t been in the park that day, things could have turned out very differently for me. Maybe I would still be living in the USA, working in a fast food restaurant or something”
How difficult will it be for Sir Alex to replace Vidic if he leaves Old Trafford?