The inconsistent genius: Mirko Vucinic
Capable of the brilliant and the ludicrous, Mirko Vucinic splits opinion.
On the one hand, he is blessed with such unbelievable talent, technical skill and footballing intelligence that he excites the crowd and raises the level of play within a team. Whether on the wing, as a support striker or a centre forward, Vucinic is a footballing artist capable of changing the course of any game.
But on the other hand, his unreliability and moody performances mean his talent may never really command the total respect of the footballing world.
With Juventus having brought in both Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez, one wonders whether the Montenegrin really has a place in the Bianconeri next season. Vucinic's transfer fee would likely bring in more money than that of Alessandro Matri or Fabio Quagliarella, and many are wondering whether the Old Lady will finally cash in on her creative talent since rumours of Manchester United's interest in the striker are gathering pace in the press.
"When I watch Vucinic play, it's like standing in front of a Van Gogh painting," said Alberto Cavasin, the former Lecce Coach who trained young Mirko. Always capable of a moment of magic in which he will curve the ball in just the right manner or deliver the most precise pass to notch up yet another assist, to concentrate on Vucinic's play is to appreciate the true meaning of brilliance.
His vision sublime and his technique smooth, one need only watch his mouthwatering back-heel assist for Stephan Lichtsteiner's goal against Palermo last season to fully appreciate the mere artistry of the creative forward.
It always appears so easy for Vucinic, who can also be the definition of the word unpredictable. One never quite knows what Vucinic will do next. Whether positioned up front or whether asked to drop deep to collect the ball, a simple tap may well result in a goal, an assist or, frustratingly, loss of possession.
While Montenegro's hero, Dejan Savicevic, referred to his fellow countryman as a "genius," Vucinic could never quite shed the reputation of being inconsistent. A moment's magic may be followed by minutes of indisputable madness. Easy goal-scoring opportunities are so easily squandered, while his ability to lose possession has driven coach Antonio Conte, and Juve's many fans, to the edge of madness.
In fact, while in training Sunday, Vucinic was involved in an altercation with a fan who chose to hurl abuse at the player for squandering what appeared to be an easy goal-scoring opportunity. Unhappy with the reaction of the fan, Vucinic walked over and became involved in a spat that was thankfully swiftly concluded.
Not even the player's reactions can be predicted. Never one to look under pressure, his nonchalant ways reveal a hint of arrogance, yet his wild celebrations, which often include the player stripping off his clothes, demonstrate real joy borne of his love for the game.
When in the mood, Vucinic is a necessary component of Juve's game. On form, his coolness allows him to always produce a worthy performance in the big games, while one can often rely on him to score a goal when absolutely necessary. His movement has not only resulted in goals but also in the effective play of his teammates around him. His ability to slow the tempo and deliver accurate assists has turned nearly every Bianconero into a goal scorer, while the Old Lady would not have surpassed her many expectations without Vucinic's ability to hold the ball up.
A starter for Conte's team, in preseason training the former Roma forward has been played on the left flank of a four-man attack to see how well Juventus would do in a 3-3-4 formation. The results have proved rather exciting, especially with the Montenegrin's ability to snatch the ball and provide assists to his striking partners up front.
Yet there is the belief that Juve cannot hope for perfect tactical balance with so many forwards and wingers who do not track back and defend convincingly. As such, Vucinic is too special to keep on the sidelines, and given Manchester United's rumoured interest in the player, a sale may provide a satisfactory solution.
Without him, Juventus will lose their creative flair up front. While Tevez can hopefully be depended on, none of the other Juve forwards, including young Sebastian Giovinco, can affect the game as effectively. Frustrating, perhaps, but are 15 million euros really enough to allow Montenegro's "genius" to leave?