31.12.2021 03:15 h

Vlahovic, the rising star on the radar of Europe's best

Dusan Vlahovic will attract interest from across Europe in the January transfer window after an incredible 2021 for the Serbia striker in which he has netted 33 times in Serie A.

He currently leads the league's 'Capocannoniere' charts with 16 goals after scoring 21 times last season and has thrived under Vincenzo Italiano's new attack-minded regime in Florence, which has brought enthusiasm back to the Stadio Artemio Franchi after years of sub-par football.

Vlahovic's powerful physique and deft touch resemble that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who the 21-year-old admitted in an interview with DAZN earlier this year was the player he admired most because "everything he's done, he did on his own".

He does not even balk at comparisons with superstar-in-the-making Erling Haaland.

"He's definitely faster than me, but for everything else we're on a similar level," said the confident forward.

In the summer Fiorentina held off interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid while trying and failing to extend Vlahovic's contract, which expires in the summer of 2023.

Vlahovic said that it was his decision to remain in his "second home" of Florence this season.

"Those of us from Balkans tend to do things more from the heart than with our heads, I wanted to stay here, it was my choice," he told DAZN.

"I think I can grow here, that I can take another step forward, score plenty of goals and win lots of matches."

In October, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso told fans in an open letter that Vlahovic had flat-out refused a renewal which would have made him the highest-paid player in the club's history, meaning Fiorentina have to sell either now or in the summer, or risk losing one of Europe's most-sought after young players for free in 18 months' time.

In December, Italian-American businessman Commisso then said that he "would not be held to ransom" over Vlahovic, with Italian media reporting that Fiorentina want 80 million euros ($90.6 million) to give up their biggest asset midway through the current campaign.

It has been a rapid rise to stardom for the 21-year-old, who went from cheering on Partizan Belgrade in the stands to making his club debut less than a month after his 16th birthday in early 2016, before moving to Italy two years later.

Described by his former Partizan Under-21 coach Milan Ristic as the biggest talent he has seen come out of the former Yugoslavia, Vlahovic has also become a fixture in the Serbian national team.

He has scored seven times for a talented side that will be gunning to reach the knockout rounds of a World Cup for the first time since 1998 when next winter's tournament in Qatar rolls around.

"You can see from how he plays that he's someone who has the right attributes... in Serbia you get those characteristics for free," said Sinisa Mihajlovic, another Serb to make his name in Italy.

"He's lucky to have been born where he was because you can see that he's got fire and hunger. I'm happy for him and I'm happy for my national team."

Also among Vlahovic's supporters is former Fiorentina teammate Franck Ribery, who saw the fiery young striker as a "little brother" during his time in Florence.

"He's a good guy and has a great mentality," said former France star Ribery, now at Salernitana.

"I'm happy for him because when he went through difficulties we spoke a lot over a coffee on how to work and how you need to behave."