An Insight into Filip Stevanović
Filip Stevanović has had a breakthrough season in Serbia. Sacha Pisani spoke exclusively to Partizan head coach, Savo Milosević, to gain an insight on what makes the teenager such an exciting young attacker.
"Filip Stevanović is one of the most talented players I've ever seen in my life."
So said iconic FK Partizan head coach Savo Milosević, a man who played alongside the likes of the iconic Dejan Savićević, Internazionale legend Dejan Stanković, free-kick specialist Sinisa Mihajlović, and former Real Madrid forward Predrag Mijatović, during a storied career.
But Filip Stevanović has enjoyed a meteoric rise; the 17-year-old winger is already a key member of Milosević's Partizan side in the Serbian capital. While unknown to many, the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Bayern München, Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Borussia Dortmund are all believed to be scrapping to sign the latest starlet from the impressive Balkan production line.
So, what is all the fuss about? An electrifying and skillful wide player with an eye for goal, Stevanović has shown maturity beyond his years since making his Partizan debut as a 16-year-old in 2018 – becoming the club's third-youngest league debutant in the process. In this past season, he scored seven goals in 25 top-flight appearances, and also contributed a goal during Partizan's Europa League campaign, pitting himself against prospective suitors United prior to the COVID–19 lockdown.
"If you let him turn towards you one-on-one, you're dead," former Serbia striker Milosević, in charge of Partizan since 2019, told Scouted Football. "He is a winger, but his ability to score goals is incredible. Shooting with his right foot is deadly from any position – inside the box or outside. If you let him turn and dribble or turn and shoot, he is going to kill you."
"His technique is perfect. That is another thing that is very special about him."
"When I came to the club, he was already with the first team and he was like 16 years and three months old," Milosević said. "But, his ability and his game, when he was on the pitch, it was not going according to his age. You could see that from the start because he looks mature on the pitch, his football intelligence is extremely high.
"His ability is very explosive and fast but his technique is following his physical virtues, which isn't always the case. It's always missing something. But his technique is perfect. That is another thing that is very special about him.
"Maybe the most important thing also is he is an excellent and well-educated boy," Milosević emphasised. "We've all seen many players waste their talents because psychologically they couldn't handle the pressure and all kinds of things. But this boy is very professional, very good, and listens to everyone – ready to learn every day without questioning anything. Simply ready to work. He knows he's talented but knows he needs to learn much more too. He is still young and he is ready to do it, which is probably the most important thing about him."
Born in Užice in the west of Serbia, Stevanović made his first steps in football with local club Vranić before he was discovered by Partizan in 2011. He has continued to hone his skills at the Serbian powerhouse ever since.
Stevanović is relatively small in stature – standing at around 5'10" – but he packs a punch, possessing quick feet in tight spaces and a lethal right foot. Whether it is cutting inside from the left or right, operating through the middle, switching the play with a diagonal pass, or just his awareness, the teenager has it all. His technical and tactical ability have always been profound, though getting his teenage body ready for the rigours of senior football has been at the forefront for Milosević. Now Stevanović and Partizan are reaping the rewards.
"The first thing we had to do was to prepare him well physically," Milosević continued. "That's why I brought – I think one of the best fitness coaches in Europe – Marko Stojanović in. His physical development in the past year was enormous because he is not huge, he is still a boy. His muscles need to handle the demands if he wants to play in the first team in professional football. You have to be prepared physically before anything."
"He is a winger, but his ability to score goals is incredible. Shooting with his right foot is deadly from any position – inside the box or outside. If you let him turn and dribble or turn and shoot, he is going to kill you."
Partizan's coach was very clear in his belief that preparing him physically would maximise the teenager's talent. "In the first six months, we dedicated ourselves to preparing him [Stevanović] physically. Everything was easy after that because his football intelligence, technique, everything he does on the pitch, he is older. He progressed in many ways. If you're not physically ready, you're not able to perform, and you're not able to progress."
Stevanović has been dubbed the "new Cristiano Ronaldo" by some, an impossible comparison that benefits nobody, but Milosević was slightly more modest in his view, likening the teenager – who doesn't celebrate his 18th birthday until September – to a player who was seen as a replacement for Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
"In some things he is unique, but if I have to compare him to a famous player now, I would say Eden Hazard," Milosević added. "Similar weight, height, technique, strong on the ball when he turns and faces the goal. Direct and his finishing is incredible. Maybe Hazard is a little bit stronger but Filip is more of a goal player."
(Please credit Sacha Pisani and Scouted Football before reusing/redistributing any of the quotes featured in this exclusive interview. Thank you.)
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