Starlet Adem Ljajic has barely featured since joining Inter Milan on loan from AS Roma, but international form suggests his time to shine has finally arrived.
Serbian attacking midfielder Ljajic was meant to become a significant part of Roberto Mancini’s Inter reconstruction when swapping the Stadio Olimpico for the San Siro this past summer.
He was Roma’s joint-highest league goalscorer last term with eight strikes, which made it quite surprising that any such switch materialised in the first instance.
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Many saw the transfer as a coup for Mancini’s men, but the new-found relationship has turned sour after a short few months together.
Ljajic has so far seen just 59 minutes of action for the Nerazzurri, despite being involved in 32 Serie A fixtures for former club Roma last season.
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Italian publication Il Corriere dello Sport suggested his minimal first-team involvement was a punishment for a perceived lack of effort in training.
Furthermore, a plethora of potential arrivals in his favoured roles have been speculated upon within recent weeks, including AC Milan star Alessio Cerci and Jese of Real Madrid.
It’s been a difficult start to life in northern Italy, with little evidence before the recent international break that it was about to get any better for the versatile 24-year-old.
He’s been forced to watch on as fellow new boy Ivan Perisic cemented a spot in the side, while rumours of his supposed ‘bad attitude’ surfaced.
However, a spell away with the Serbia national team has brought the talent he possesses into sharp focus ahead of a crucial clash with reigning champions Juventus.
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Able to perform anywhere across midfield or as a supporting striker, Ljajic offers several options to his coach Roberto Mancini.
Unfortunately for the Partizan Belgrade product, this has been largely ignored up to now. But, the situations appears much brighter after he sparked Serbia into life during a 2-0 victory away to Albania last week.
He set the opener up for Manchester City defender Aleksander Kolarov in injury time, before adding a second of his own at the death.
Afterwards, he expressed hope that he would be given an opportunity to feature for Inter at home to fierce foes Juve in the Derby d’Italia on Sunday evening.
“I hope they [Inter] saw what I did. For Serbia I play in the role behind the main striker, while at Inter there is a lot of competition for places,” Ljajic told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I can only improve by playing regularly. I certainly put myself forward to play against Juventus next weekend, although at the end of the day the only thing that really counts is that Inter win.”
An Inter Milan triumph would certainly go a long way to banishing any outstanding doubts about their ability to stay the course at the top of Serie A, while the contest also represents the first realistic chance Ljajic has had to stake his claim for a place in the starting line-up.
It must be noted that Ljajic racked up 29 goals and 21 assists throughout just over five-and-a-half years on Italian soil, after he pitched up at Fiorentina as a fresh-faced teenager in January 2010.
His quality is undoubted, but he is young and still has much to learn. Roberto Mancini affording him some much-needed trust and belief would surely be all it takes to get the skilful Serb back on track, and in amongst the goals once again for title-chasing Inter.