Targets: Balkans

With the January transfer window open, world football expert Jonathan Wilson gives his verdict on five Balkan stars attracting interest from Premier League clubs.

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Sky Sports regular Jonathan Wilson is the editor of The Blizzard, author of tactics bible Inverting the Pyramid and has written about football in the Balkans in his book Behind the Curtain. Adam Bate caught up with him to get his views on five Balkan stars being linked with moves to the Premier League.

Mirko Vucinic goal video

Mirko Vucinic

Age: 30
Nationality: Montenegro
Club: Juventus
Position: Forward
Good fit for: Arsenal; Tottenham

The word

Reports suggest Arsenal have met with Juventus bosses with a view to bringing Vucinic to England but the Italian club are unwilling to settle for a loan deal. It could take a bid of £8million to secure the signature of the Montenegrin forward and with Tottenham also showing an interest in the player, a January switch cannot be ruled out.

Jonathan's expert view

I can see the logic in him going to Arsenal. It's pretty obvious Arsenal are short of a striker and he's not getting in the side at Juventus with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente forming a good partnership. Given his age, he's not going to be that expensive so he could be a short-term fix. The other great advantage he's got is that he can play as an out-and-out forward similar to Olivier Giroud or you can play him in the line of three behind on the left, the right or as a No.10. He can effectively be cover for four positions so as a short-term squad player I think he'd be ideal.



Miralem Pjanic

Age: 23
Nationality: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Club: Roma
Position: Midfielder
Good fit for: Manchester United

The word

After enjoying an impressive run of form with Roma as well as the Bosnia national team, Pjanic has emerged as a target for some of Europe's biggest clubs. Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the player, while Paris St Germain are believed to have firmed up their interest. "We have had many offers for Miralem," said Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini, quoted in Gazzetta dello Sport. "And not necessarily from PSG. For the moment he's not for sale."

Jonathan's expert view

He's a wonderful player. In the last year or two he's really matured as well. He's always had the talent. He sees the game very well. He can play central or can play wide on the right drifting in and he scores goals. He's added consistency to his game. I was in Zenica when Bosnia beat Lithuania 3-0 and he was absolutely magnificent in the first half of that game, hitting passes from one side of the pitch to the other. He's a majestic footballer. I'm not sure he'd want to leave Roma in January if they are still in a title challenge - although whether they are now, that's debatable. If a big team come in for him then Serie A is a league now where players get sold.



Alen Halilovic

Age: 17
Nationality: Croatia
Club: Dinamo Zagreb
Position: Attacking midfielder
Good fit for: Arsenal; Tottenham

The word

Halilovic has been regarded as one of the top young talents in Europe for some time and was rumoured to be close to a move to Tottenham in the summer. It is only a matter of time before he leaves Dinamo Zagreb for a major league. "My father told me that you cannot have a career in Croatia and reach the highest levels," Halilovic told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I love English and Spanish football, and during last summer I was near to a particular club, and they are still tracking me." January could be the time to make that move.

Jonathan's expert view

I think he is enormously talented as a No.10 and can play wide drifting in, but I think he's gone off the boil a bit in the last year. I think they've overused him and overindulged him. It's difficult when you're in a league and the quality isn't so high. The temptation is to play the kid over and over again and he's ended up looking jaded. He's been linked with Tottenham so perhaps that got to him, I don't know. But the other problem is that he regularly tries to do too much. He tries to beat three men rather than play the pass. He really hasn't matured yet and could probably do with waiting a year, playing less and taking time to think about the game.



Mario Mandzukic goal video

Mario Mandzukic

Age: 27
Nationality: Croatia
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Forward
Good fit for: Arsenal; Manchester United

The word

Arsenal and Manchester United are both believed to be monitoring Mandzukic's situation at Bayern with the Croatian forward's future at the club under threat following the announcement that Robert Lewandowski's signature has been secured. Bayern are insistent that he remains in their plans but will the star striker be willing to stay if lengthy spells on the bench lie ahead?

Jonathan's expert view

I'm sure Bayern want to keep him but realistically how is he going to get into that team? They've got Lewandowski on his way as well as Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze who can play in that position. I think he fulfils a useful role for them in terms of initiating the press, but there's a certain wildness to him that coaches find difficult to control. Guardiola looks at him and probably recognises that he's useful in the short term but doesn't quite have the touch of a typical Guardiola player.

I think he's got the physicality to do well in the Premier League. He's not going to be cowed by challenges. He relishes the physical side. He's a player who has his elbows all over the place when he wants to - and I mean that in a good way. He's an awkward player who is quite hard to knock off the ball. Will he move in January? Possibly not, but Bayern might feel now is the time to cash in on him rather than in the summer when Lewandowski comes in.



Nemanja Matic goal video

Nemanja Matic

Age: 26
Nationality: Serbia
Club: Benfica
Position: Midfielder
Good fit for: Chelsea; Manchester United

The word

Matic made his Premier League debut as a Chelsea player back in November 2009 but was unable to make the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge and was subsequently sold to Benfica in 2011. His performances in the Portuguese capital have sparked talk of a return and reports suggest a move back to England could be imminent.

Jonathan's expert view

He was very close to moving to Manchester United in the summer and I think he's the sort of player that United really need. He's really commanding at the back of midfield, powerful and has got that dynamism that United lack at the minute. He scores goals too so I can understand why United are very interested in him. All the word I got from people around Matic is that those negotiations have taken on a very serious shape so I think there's every chance that deal could be resurrected because Benfica are a selling club.

The interesting one is Chelsea because I think there's an issue of pride there. Having sold him, will they pay money to bring him back? It'd be embarrassing but that's better than letting him go to United. Jose Mourinho has hinted that he wants to move away from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 but he's limited in terms of players who can play at the back of midfield. He's got John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and Ramires but after that there's not a lot with Marco van Ginkel being injured. He'd be ideal for that role as a holding player in a 4-3-3.



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Which player would you most like to see in the Premier League?

  • Mirko Vucinic
  • Miralem Pjanic
  • Alen Halilovic
  • Mario Mandzukic
  • Nemanja Matic