When a 22-year-old Serbian defender pitched up at Lazio in the summer of 2007, he could have been forgiven for wanting to play down comparisons with his countryman and former Biancocelesti idol Siniša Mihajlović. But understatement is not something that comes naturally to Aleksandar Kolarov.
The Belgrade-born left-back arrived in Italy from hometown club OFK Beograd in time for the 2007-08 campaign and promptly set about demonstrating that comparisons with Mihajlović were frankly impossible to avoid. Kolarov, like the current Catania coach during his playing days, possesses a veritable cannon of a left foot and his first goal was a sensational 35-yard effort on his full debut at Reggina in September 2007.
By last season Kolarov had established himself at the top of the club’s left-back pecking order and he celebrated his new status with a breath-taking strike from a seemingly prohibitive angle at Lecce. The crowning moment of his career to date arrived with an outrageous goal that killed off Roma in last April’s Derby della Capitale. With his team 3-2 up and just over five minutes to play, Kolarov collected the ball from his goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and proceeded to waltz downfield before beating Doni with a precise right-footed strike from 20 yards:
It was not dissimilar to a famous goal scored by Ryan Giggs at Juventus in 2003 and it confirmed Kolarov as an instant Lazio legend and potentially one of the most exciting full-backs in the global game.
Capped twice by Serbia during their successful 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Kolarov has been a virtual ever-present for Lazio in what has to date been a thoroughly forgettable season. He was strongly linked with a move to Inter last month and Nerazzuri great Giuseppe Bergomi has admitted to being a fan. “Inter have thought about taking Kolarov,” Bergomi said. “He has a great shot, great physical strength, and is a really nice player.”
Kolarov’s response to the interest was artfully diplomatic. “With Dejan [Stanković] and Goran [Pandev], it certainly would be easy for me to adapt to Inter, but it doesn’t just depend on me,” he said.
As for those Mihajlović comparisons, Kolarov made sure no-one could be in any doubt as to his ambitions by changing squad numbers at the beginning of the season. Out went number three, in came number 11. And the last Serbian defender with a rocket-powered left foot and a flair for long-range free-kicks to sport the number 11 shirt at Lazio? You’ve guessed it already.