Club – Borussia Dortmund
Age – 20 (December 10, 1988)
Nationality – Serbian/Bosnian/American
Previous Clubs – Mainz
Position – Centre-back
Not a lot in football is ever straightforward, but little is as complicated as the past of Borussia Dortmund’s star centre-back, Neven Subotic. Born in Bosnia to Serbian parents, Subotic grew up first in Germany, then America, before finally returning to Germany to commence his football career at Mainz. Few would have predicted the meteoric rise to the top that Subotic has had since then, given his much-travelled upbringing, but, at the tender age of 20, the uncompromising centre-back has been courted by Europe’s top clubs – as well as four different nations. Before making his international debut for Serbia in March, Neven Subotic was at the centre of a tug-of-war between his current nation, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, and the United States for his services. All four nations had watched him mature into a top talent at Borussia Dortmund and were eager to see Subotic in their country’s colours. Given his outstanding form in the 2008/09 season, it is easy to see why there was such a hullabaloo over his talents. He finished the season with 6 goals in 34 appearances and was a key factor in Dortmund’s surprise sixth place finish.
Born in Banja Luka, Subotic left war-torn Bosnia in 1994 to move to Germany with his family. It was there where he first started playing football with a local club, but was forced to leave Germany in 1999 before his talents were recognised due to the expiration of his visa. However, having moved to the States, he was soon making waves at junior level in his new home of Salt Lake City before moving once again – this time to Florida. It was while playing for South Florida University that he was first spotted and was invited to play for the United States Under-17 side.
Subotic starred for the States at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships in Canada and was subsequently offered the chance to move back to Germany and play for 2.Bundesliga side Mainz. At just 17, Subotic was excelling for Mainz reserves and was soon offered his first pro deal before making his full debut at the end of the 2006/07 season in a Bundesliga match against Bayern Munich. Although Mainz suffered relegation that season, it turned out to be a blessing for Subotic’s career as the following season in 2.Bundesliga he became a regular at the heart of Mainz’s defence.
Now playing regularly, Subotic’s quality was starting to be noticed. The tall, pacey defender was winning praise from every corner and was being hailed as the division’s best defender. The summer of 2008 saw a scramble for the youngster’s signature as Mainz were besieged with interest from bigger clubs. Eventually, Subotic decided to join his Mainz manager Jurgen Klopp in moving to Borussia Dortmund, where he would soon become a vital player to the former European champions. Klopp had given Subotic his big break and firmly believed he could become a star at the top level – and the Serb hasn’t disappointed.
Flying out of the blocks, Subotic was becoming a match-winner for Dortmund in the early part of the 2008/09 season and was adding goalscoring to his impressive list of talents. He managed to bag three goals in his first four games and was lighting up the league with a string of top performances. His improving aerial prowess was proving useful at both ends, while his ability to read the game would often thwart opposition attacks. Finishing the season with six goals, Subotic was the undoubted star of Dortmund’s season and it was seen as no coincidence that BVB finished sixth – their highest position in five seasons – and became tough to beat with his presence in the side.
Now a fully-fledged international, it appears highly likely that Subotic will be part of Serbia’s squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The potential partnership between himself and Nemanja Vidic will leave Serbian mouths watering with anticipation and rival attackers shaking with fear as the duo’s intimidating size and speed is sure to be a combination as good as any in the competition. Given the rumoured interest from Arsenal and Manchester City, a good World Cup could be very lucrative for the young Serb. Don’t be surprised if by this time next year, Subotic has shaken off the ‘next Nemanja Vidic’ tag and started creating his own.