Andrija Živković has already made a bit of a name for himself on the European football stage, with his most famous nickname being the ‘Serbian Messi’ – both players are left-footed right-wingers as well as being 170 centimetres tall and imperious accelerators with a surprisingly ferocious strike.
Arsenal are reportedly interested in enticing the mercurial talent of Živković to join the red side of North London, but it is not just the Gunners who have an eye on this potential superstar.
North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, who Arsenal recently shared a 1-1 draw with, are also looking at the 19-year-old, along with four clubs from the Iberian Peninsula: the Spanish sides of Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and Valencia, and Portuguese powerhouses Benfica.
Živković’s contract with Partizan Belgrade runs out at the end of this season so he is available for a cut-price fee in January, or potentially on a Bosman transfer in the summer, and Arsenal could certainly do with acquiring this prodigious talent, not just for the quality he will add to their ranks, but to upset the old enemy in Spurs who also seem to be especially keen on the winger.
Position and qualities
Živković primarily plays as a right-winger in the mould of an old-fashioned inside-forward; this particular winger gets the ball on the right, looks to cut inside on his talented left foot before either testing the keeper with a deceptively powerful strike or reversing an inch-perfect pass into a midfielder running from deep or striker looking to break the defensive line.
In that sense, Živković is similar to Alexis Sanchez but inverted. Whilst the Serbian is not level with Arsenal’s wonderful Chilean forward in terms of current quality, he is certainly showing as much potential as a young Alexis was showing at Udinese. He also matches the Chilean for work-ethic and appetite for pressing and tracking back; at Partizan Belgrade, despite playing as a winger in an orthodox 4-3-3, Živković can be seen regularly helping his full-back deal with rival wingers.
Like most modern attacking players, Živković possesses a versatility which enables him to play on the left flank, in the mould of a traditional winger who hugs the flank, or even as a support striker, as what is essentially a more attacking number 10. Hypothetically, Živković could also be transformed from winger to striker, much like Arsene Wenger did with Thierry Henry and is now doing with Theo Walcott, as the Serbian player has a unique composure of finish and unerring accuracy when in front of the goal.
Where would he fit in?
Arsenal are famous, or infamous depending on where your loyalties lie, for currently having an abundance of small, technical attacking midfielders but Wenger very rarely, almost never, has them all at his disposable. With that in mind, it would be worth having Živković in the squad, especially when it is considered he would come at a reasonably cheap price due to the short remaining time in his contract.
In the 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, Wenger started the match with the three attacking midfielders behind Olivier Giroud being Kieran Gibbs, Mesut Özil and Alexis. Here, only Özil is playing in his true preferred position; Gibbs is a left-back by trade despite being competent on the advance left position, as his equaliser against Spurs showed, and Alexis, although still excellent wide-right, is a left-winger.
Had Živković been an Arsenal player for the West Brom game, the result may have been somewhat different.
At his tender age of 19, what with the winger only being born in 1996, Živković has already broken a select few substantial records.
In his first full season with Paritzan Belgrade, Živković was made the youngest captain in the club’s history, being handed the armband at just 17 and seven months old.
He was also the youngest player to ever make his debut for the Serbian national football team as Sinisa Mihajlovic, the current AC Milan boss, substituted him on for Serbian legend Dejan Stankovic aged just 17 and three months. This shows just how highly rated the winger is, both by the club he currently plays for and the country he represents.
Often when players play in rather obscure leagues, like Živković who plies his trade in the highest division of Serbian football's pyramid, their performances internationally tend to be the best barometer of their potential ceiling as a football player, especially in youth national tournaments.
Players like Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Paul Pogba were the key players in national teams that won the under-20 World Cup, and Živković was the same, starring in Serbia’s successful 2015 tournament, playing all seven games and scoring twice - including a wonderful free-kick against Mali.
Also, despite being just 19, Živković is being touted as the player that the Serbian men’s team is going to be built around. He has also already opened his account for the men’s team, having scored a sole goal in his three appearances so far.
With his involvement with Partizan Belgrade this season, Živković has already began his fourth season in professional football. In 2012-2013, he made just one appearance; in 2013-2014, the winger played 25 times in all competitions and contributed with five goals; in 2014-2015, Živković’s performances again continued to rise as his game time rose, with 40 games in all competitions bringing back a return of seven goals and four assists.
It is in this season though that he has truly announced himself as a player to be taken note of. Along with his national exploits in the summer, Živković has scored five times and assisted twice in 11 Serbian SuperLiga games, along with three goals and two assists in three Europa League matches.
His value is only going to rise, and so it may be wise for Arsenal to purchase Živković as soon as they can.