The Best is yet to Come for Miralem Pjanić

The Best is yet to Come for Miralem Pjanić

Albinko Hasic –

Miralem Pjanić stands over the football positioned some 25 yards away from Bernd Leno’s goal. The lights of the Champions League stage cast a small shadow behind the Bosnian. A small step, mechanical precision, and the ball in the back of the net. It always looks the same. The goalkeeper didn’t even attempt to move. Hakan Çalhanoğlu, touted in the media as the best free-kick specialist in Europe, looks on while Miralem Pjanić shows him how it’s done, and devotes the goal to his recently departed grandmother.

The ‘Little Prince’ has been playing like a man possessed. His free-kick goals are the stuff of fantasy and his contributions to club and country have been immense.   This season alone, Pjanić went through stretches of incredible form. At the height of the title chase in Italy, for example, he accrued five goals and five assists in ten Serie A matches, or 848 minutes. In the Champions League, two goals and one assist in three matches, or 270 minutes. Roma’s success this season, has rested heavily on the wide shoulders of the ‘Little Prince,’ from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Forget his compatriot and Roma teammate, new-kid-on-the-block, Edin Džeko. Despite Džeko’s own perceived value, it has been Pjanić who has carried the team.   Pjanić, at one point, was averaging a goal or assist every 86 minutes in all competitions. These are immense statistics, from an immense talent. For a long time, Pjanić‘s performances did not reflect his immense talent.

Pjanić Has Risen to New Heights this Season

The tune has changed considerably this season. Even for his country, Miralem Pjanić has risen to heights that many were starting to doubt. In a crucial home match against Wales on October 10th, Bosnia was without their star talisman Edin Džeko. Miralem Pjanić rallied his troops and commanded a win, despite the handicap, even recording an assist in the process.

Turn back the clock six years, when Pjanić was simply a baby-faced playmaker at Olympique Lyon. A product of Metz’s academy, Pjanić played his youth national team football for Luxembourg where his family had arrived as refugees from war ravaged Bosnia and Herzegovina. His talent was evident from the start. There was something special about the boy from Bosnia, and clubs around Europe took notice almost immediately. So did national team selections. France came knocking at one point, but Pjanić always voiced the same sentiment, “Bosnia, and only Bosnia, my one and true homeland.”

His production was up and down in the ensuing years, first at Lyon and then at Roma where he arrived in 2011, often otherworldly and sometimes downright depressing. Through the years, Pjanić has consistently been a boom or bust, feast or famine player. This season, however, we are witnessing not just a little prince with growing pains, but a king in the making.

Pjanić converts a free-kick against Bayer Leverkusen - Image via abc

Pjanić converts a free-kick against Bayer Leverkusen – Image via

Forget the statistics and football metrics. Miralem Pjanić’s free kicks have been the stuff of legend. After all, he learned from Juninho, the free-kick legend himself, during his time at Lyon. Juninho recently told L’Equipe, “Mire has incredible quality. He’s maybe the best free-kick taker in the world today. He always stayed with me after training for free-kick practice. We discussed things a lot.”

Pjanić meanwhile, recently told Dnenvi List, “I think people overstate how much I learned from Juninho. It’s wrong to say he was my mentor. We were teammates and friends, like all of the other players, and I often asked for advice, but there is only so much you can learn about how to properly take a free kick. It’s something that you can develop over time and through training. It takes a feel for it and a certain technique.” And perhaps this quote above all, embodies Pjanić’s newfound attitude towards the game.

Back in September of 2015, Pjanić told the Bosnian press, “I’m finally playing the way I’ve always envisioned myself—tough, precise and with purpose. This has been my mantra. I’m playing aggressively and the way Miralem Pjanić knows how to play.”

Pjanić is an important member of Bosnia's national team - Image via ProvenQuality

Pjanić is an important member of Bosnia’s national team – Image via Proven Quality

And maybe, this has been the story lost underneath the glitz and glamour of beautiful football that Pjanić has obviously been producing. Pjanić isn’t just playing the beautiful game he’s playing a game of purpose. His new determination has been pivotal in both Roma and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s success. Pjanić has shown no signs of stopping, and has only improved as the season has progressed. His production has compounded with the wear and tear of the season, which should be frightening to any opponent that he is going to face. Pjanić has finally steadied his top-notch performances to a consistent level, and has risen from the rank of “what could be,” to “what is.”

What is Next for Pjanić?

During the January transfer window, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain came calling—and now Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been added to the mix of suitors. Roma know they have something special on their team, and will be hard pressed to release the player with impeccable ball control and precision. But perhaps this is exactly what Pjanić needs—another step up. Pjanić’s performance has steadily trended upward, but more than ever in the last season. Perhaps being surrounded by other competent midfielders is just what Pjanić’s game needs at this point in his career. Perhaps we are on the precipice of witnessing Pjanić’s true potential.

The ‘Little Prince’ stands over the football some 25 yards out from Leno’s goal, and the shadow he casts looms just a little bit larger.

Albinko is an educated football journalist based in the United States, who focuses on Bosnian and ex-Yugoslavian football. He also authors his own blog at Follow him on Twitter @albinkohasic