“Miralem Pjanic is on the right path to become my successor” – Andrea Pirlo
From spending his younger years in France with Metz, to winning a domestic double with Juventus, it’s been quite a career for Miralem Pjanic thus far. It began when his family moved to Luxembourg shortly before the Bosnian war. His father was a third division footballer himself and developed Miralem’s love for the game, as well as allowing him to join his first club.
While playing for this first club, Luxembourg’s FC Schifflange 95, he attracted the attention of several clubs. In 2004, at 14, he signed a youth contract with Metz in France. After 3 years in the academy, which included a Championnat National des 16 ans victory, Pjanic embarked on his professional journey. On the 18th of August 2007 he was a substitute in Metz’s 0-0 draw with PSG. A week later, he started against Rennes.
His performances as a 17 year old in the French division garnered attention. Despite being unable to save Metz from relegation, he was involved in 38 games that season, scoring 5 and assisting 3 from the midfield. His ball control and passing ability, which are standout elements of his game nowadays, were immediately visible and he did enough to earn himself his first big move.
Pjanic and his move to Lyon
Just one year after playing his first professional game, French giants Olympique Lyon acquired his services for £4.95m. In his first season he set the foundations and began to show that he could be a top player. Playing under the likes of Juninho Pernambucano, who Pjanic was seen as an heir to, he learned to thread passes and strike free kicks effortlessly. He featured 20 times in his first season, helping Lyon to a 3rd place finish in Ligue 1.
The best was yet to come from the Bosnian however, as in the following season he amassed 11 goals and 13 assists in the 09/10 season, filling the gaping hole left by the aging Juninho after he left. Pjanic became Lyon’s midfield lynch-pin, orchestrating attacks and supplying Lyon’s talented forward line, which included Lisandro Lopez (who was 3rd top scorer in Ligue 1 that season). This season was the one which truly showcased his abilities and made him a footballing hipster favourite. He was destined for greatness if he could perform that well on a consistent basis.
New signings in the following season meant a reduction in playtime for Miralem and consequently he only finished with 4 goals and 3 assists this season. A weaker tally than his previous but the makings of an excellent player were still present. The Bosnian wouldn’t stay and try and recreate the exploits of his 2nd season in France. Lyon struck a deal and he moved to the red part of the Italian capital. He signed for A.S. Roma in an £9.9 million deal. There, perhaps, he could reach his lofty potential as a play-maker in the midfield.
A Bosnian in the Eternal City
Roma signed Pjanic in the hopes that he could complement the rough and tough Daniele De Rossi with his elegant control and finesse. He made his first assist in a 3-1 win over Atalanta before making himself an instant fan favourite a week later, scoring his 1st goal for the Giallorossi in the heated “Derby della Capitale” against local rivals Lazio. He capped off his first season by scoring 2 more goals, and assisting 9 in total. His ability to pick a pass was putting him on the Serie A map. Roma finished in a weak 7th place, but the Bosnian had found his place in the team and there was plenty of room to improve.
Luis Enrique was replaced by Zdenek Zeman, who was then replaced by caretaker manager Aurelio Andreazzoli in February. This manager turmoil didn’t stunt Pjanic’s growth, as he managed 4 goals and 8 assists in fewer minutes than the previous season. Once again he managed to strike against Lazio, as well as beginning to make his name as reliable free kick taker. In spite of Roma’s again disappointing 6th place
The 2013/14 season saw Rudi Garcia take over the reigns at Roma. Despite all the changes in managers, one thing didn’t change in the capital. All the managers saw Pjanic’s talent and made him a key part of the team. Quietly, Miralem’s vision and technique was turning him into one of the best midfielders in the league. Now, he is just as capable collecting the ball from the defence and turning defence into attack, as he is playing the final killer ball at the other end of the field.
Throughout the 14/15 season, Pjanic maintained his status as an increasingly talented central midfielder. His goal contributions stayed similar at 5 goals and 10 assists but yet again Roma were beaten to 1st place by Juventus. This season did see Miralem score the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Napoli, which secured 2nd place for the Giallorossi.
The following season would be the Bosnian’s most personally satisfying yet. Although Roma dropped to 3rd place in the table, Pjanic grabbed himself a spot in the Serie A AIC team of the season. He managed 10 goals, 5 from free kicks, and 12 assists. A staggering amount from midfield. His elite performances in setting the tempo for Roma, contributing to goals and dominating the centre of the park meant the big boys of Europe came knocking on Roma’s door. Liverpool and Chelsea expressed interest but ultimately Miralem opted to stay in Italy. He joined 5-in-a-row league winners Juventus, who had beaten him to the title with Roma in the previous seasons.
The European Elite – Pjanic and Juventus
In an excellent piece of business, Juventus secured Pjanic’s signature for £28.8 million deal. It was in the black and white stripes of Juventus that Pjanic would win his first pieces of major silverware. The Bosnian fitted right in to Massimiliano Allegri’s plans, taking a spot in the midfield alongside Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio. Playing mostly in a deep midfield role, Miralem quickly became Juventus’ conductor on the field. His calm presence and ability to release a killer pass to the likes of Dybala or Higuain meant everything ran through him.
This responsiblity didn’t hinder Pjanic, however. He scored 8 goals, 3 of which were free kicks, and managed 14 assists. Although he suffered a heartbreak defeat in the Champions League final, he helped the Bianconeri to their 6th successive league title and 3rd successive Italian Cup victory. His performances earned him another spot in the team of the season and meant Juventus barely felt the loss of Paul Pogba.
This season, Pjanic has continued in the same vein as the last. As of the 21st of February, he already has 5 goals and 10 assists. He’s on track to match last season’s record, if not break it. With Juve, Miralem Pjanic has truly reached the elite potential which he showed since his days at Metz. He’s become one of the most wanted players in Europe and you’d struggle to find a fan who didn’t want him in their team.
One of Pjanic’s most impressive feats since arriving on Italian soil with Roma is reaching 7th in the Serie A all-time free kick table. 14 free kick goals put him level with the legendary Diego Maradona and above Enrico Chiesa, Álvaro Recoba and Balon D’Or winner Michel Platini.
Pjanic back home – International Career
Although Pjanic represented Luxembourg at youth levels, he went on to represent his country of birth, Bosnia-Herzegovina at senior level. He made his debut in 2008 under coach Miroslav Blazevic when he was 18 years old and has gone on to earn 76 caps and counting. In that time he scored 11 goals including 1 at the 2014 World Cup. in Brazil. Yet tht’s simply another statistic to add to Pjanic’s list of impressive achievements.
Miralem Pjanic’s style of play nowadays is described in Italy as a Regista, similar to the great Andrea Pirlo. He is the heartbeat of the team and his range of passes, both short and long, keep the play ticking for Juventus. He doesn’t just provide penetration through passes. Any free kick within 25 yards is instantly dangerous with Miralem standing over it andhe’s no stranger to a long ranged effort either.
Without the Bosnian’s tight control under pressure, precision and awareness the Bianconeri would struggle to break down any sort of competent defence. Instead, with Pjanic as the conductor, they’ve become one of the top teams in Europe and continued their magnificent run of success. One can only see Pjanic keeping his spot in the starting XI in the near future. At 27, he’s only entering his prime and I, for one, am excited to see what more he’ll add to his game.