Tall, quick and sought after, Richairo Zivkovic is hot property. Complex in complexion, Zivkovic was born in the Netherlands, to a Serbian mother (hence the surname) and a Curacaoan father. The 17-year-old already has records to his name, explicitly the honour of being the youngest representative of Groningen to hit the back of the net in Holland’s top flight.
Flattering comparisons litter the internet, most often balding Champions League winner Arjen Robben; however, the similarity between the Dutchmen ends at their club of origin and nationality. Regardless of unimaginative media associations, the forward has almost immeasurable potential: composed, athletic and technically gifted, Zivkovic has the scouting world at his proverbial feet.
Yet, to quote a certain Winston Churchill, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” Too often prospects become peripheral, read: Freddy Adu; Zivkovic may become a product of heightened expectation and unfounded transfer rumours. Early indications regarding the mental aptness of the rangy striker are inconclusive. Mature tendencies have been exhibited through the medium of Twitter, such as the sharing of philosophical mottos and motivational sentiments.
Conversely, by the same token, Zivkovic has reminded us of his callowness. In the midst of developing speculation and reports, the poacher has informed his two-thousand-odd followers that his “holiday is booked!” before adding, “On the way to Crete on 22 May / 30 may”, befitting the widely held stereo-type of today’s teen. He also challenged the Green-White Army for a FIFA tournament last week: a significant reminder of just how juvenile the wanted Zivkovic is.
In his Sunday League prime, Zivkovic was outstanding, metaphorically and literally. His technical ability was unrivalled, while his puberty-fuelled height and strength dwarfed his opponents as he proceeded to bulge the net game after game. His raw talent had echoes of an exuberant Fernando Torres, with an instinctive selfishness sourced at an irrepressible desire to score. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the Pride of the North pounced on the opportunity to sign the physically established 11-year-old.
Fast forward half a dozen years: five goals in five starts.
The statistics flatter somewhat, Richairo Zivkovic has been impressive, if unspectacular, in the first half of his debut season. Nonetheless, if you may allow this statistical indulgence, the fact remains, seven out of ten shots Zivkovic hits work the ‘keeper. Four chances have been created in only five starts. One in three aerial duels is successful. The promise is evident, few adolescents could be thrown into top flight football and emerge in a positive light.
On the other hand, Zivkovic has many shortcomings, particularly his selfish traits. Granted, a degree of egocentricity is quintessential for any frontman, but the Assen-born forward fundamentally lacks the attributes to demonstrate collaborative efforts. Almost entirely devoid of teamwork values; Zivkovic’s paucity in this department is reflected by the fact that he has the lowest pass completion rate in the Groningen squad.
The relative dearth of genuine co-operative astuteness and passing accuracy is largely outweighed by the facets of Zivkovic’s that cannot be taught: almost intangible mental features. Composed, brave, tactically shrewd and, most appreciably, zealous, Zivkovic is the perfect concoction of youthful avidity and technical adeptness. Additionally, at six foot one inch, Zivkovic has considerable aerial presence, indicated by a high proportion of goals being scored with his head throughout his career.
So who’s interested?
Or, more appositely, who’s not? Groningen has begrudgingly admitted Zivkovic is almost unfathomably popular. Manchester City and Barcelona have both been linked with Zivkovic for some time now, but they may have to move quickly, after reports claimed that super powers PSG have sent scouts to watch the 17-year-old extensively. 30 months remain on the whiz kid’s contract, though such figures are irrelevant considering the nature of the clubs scouting him.
Groningen director Hans Nijland has expressed the extent to which Netherlands international Zivkovic is desired across Europe in describing the composition of the crowd after a recent Eredivisie clash: “certainly, twelve, thirteen clubs were there.” There was suggestion that Zivkovic was heading to Bavaria, where Groningen product and constant comparison Arjen Robben currently operates, speculation stimulated by Zivkovic enthusing: “Bayern are beyond world class.”
Confusingly, Zivkovic also seems attracted by the club responsible for European domination over the last few seasons. “Catching Barcelona’s attention is great and gives me extra motivation” Zivkovic told De Telegraaf, “ultimately we all want to end up at a club like that. On the pitch you can’t think about it though, you just have to stay calm and do your thing.”
Zivkovic has a broad range of offensive talents, hence his preferred role as an advanced forward, leading the line, thriving on any supply from the midfielders, be it aerial, to feet or in the channels. As an advanced forward, the teen is suited to clubs who typically utilise a solitary frontman, Arsenal, perhaps?
Alas, it appears one club is leading the race for Zivkovic’s prized signature, “all the top clubs in Holland want him but Liverpool is here every week too”, declared Nijland. The notion that the Merseyside club are favourites to secure the services of Zivkovic is underpinned by a recent report in Serbian ‘paper Blic, who have claimed Liverpool “head the queue” of clubs seeking Zivkovic’s talents.
It all seems quite familiar. A tall, elegant, technically gifted and aerially potent youngster, adroit and refreshingly skilled with either foot, remarkably driven and impressively prolific, hunted by a host of dominant clubs in Western Europe; apparently unfazed by such interest.
Fernando Torres minus the dwindling confidence and fading technical attributes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic minus the soaring confidence and volatile temper.
Arjen Robben minus virtually everything.
Regardless of where he ends up, he is sure to hit the headlines: remember the name, Richairo Zivkovic.
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