Football

Adem Ljajic | Miserable martyr or misunderstood?

Ljajic has endured quite a month. (©GettyImages)
Ljajic has endured quite a month. (©GettyImages).

Adem Ljajic has had quite an eventful month. Firstly, the Serbian starlet was attacked by former Fiorentina manager Delio Rossi, then he was banished from the international scene by head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic after refusing to sing the national anthem.

The 20-year-old, a Slav Muslim from southern Serbia's ethnically mixed region of Sandzak bordering Bosnia and Montenegro, has hit the headlines again after his failure to comply with strict rules outlined by his national team boss prior to Saturday's 2-0 friendly defeat against Spain.

Mihajlovic was only appointed Serbia boss last week, but, famed as a tough taskmaster, the coach immediately issued a set of rules to be signed by all players and staff, and the first item on the agenda was that everyone had to sing the national anthem.

The game against the reigning European champions in the Swiss city of Saint Gallen was the first of three games on Serbia's tour designed as a build-up for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, after their failure to reach this summer's European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Serbia play France away on Thursday before a meeting with Sweden on June 5, prior to kicking off their World Cup qualifying campaign in a group alongside neighbours Croatia and Macedonia, as well as Belgium, Scotland and Wales.

A statement from the Serbian Football Federation announced that in failing to sing the anthem, Ljajic had breached the team's code of conduct: "Ljajic has been sent home from the team's European tour and the decision is based on Mihajlovic's rulebook stipulating a code of conduct which Ljajic has breached.

"Ljajic has told Mihajlovic he refused to sing the national anthem out of personal beliefs and that there would be no change in his position regarding the matter.

"The player will only be allowed to return to the national team if he changes his attitude and officially notifies Mihajlovic that he has done so. Then when his form merits it, he can return."

Earlier this month, the Serbian FA issued a staunch defence of Ljajic when he was repeatedly punched by club coach Delio Rossi after he sarcastically applauded him having been substituted midway through the first-half of La Viola's 2-2 draw with relegated Novara in Serie A.

Rossi was labelled a "disgrace to all football professionals" and was swiftly sacked for his actions.

 

The attacking midfielder had been tipped for a bright future in the game, and was set to join Premier League giants Manchester United from former club Partizan Belgrade in January 2010. But, Sir Alex Ferguson withdrew the option to sign him one month prior to the transfer.

Ljajic instead moved to Fiorentina on a five-year deal for a fee of around €8million, but has struggled to establish himself in Italy, with his off-field antics casting further doubt over his long-term future in Florence.

On his return from the national squad and mobbed by journalists at the airport in Switzerland, Ljajic attempted to explain his actions surrounding the latest incident:

"I'm sorry. I love Serbia, but I have to respect my beliefs. I've always wanted to play for this country. The coach asked me to sing the national anthem, but if you do not respect yourself, no one can respect you."

Ljajic has made just seven appearances for the senior Serbian side, and whilst his international career is still in its relative infancy, the chances he will wear the national team colours again, certainly under the Mihajlovic regime, seems very unlikely indeed.

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