Due to a knee injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not participate in the European Championship this summer, but his possible successor may already have emerged. Dejan Kulusevski is only 20 and also plays in Serie A, with Juventus. With his babyface he hardly is an Ibra loo-alike, but in terms of shoulder width he is already well on his way.
Zlatan will not play with him in the Swedish national team, but Kulusevski can count on his support from the sidelines. ‘This just goes to show that incompetent types are stifling Swedish football’, Ibrahimovic commented, when Swedish national team manager Janne Andersson decided not to line up Dejan Kulusevski from the start in an international match against France last year.
Juventus bought Dejan Kulusevski at the beginning of the victorious 2019/20 season for 35 million euros, excluding bonuses. In his first season for the club from Turin, Kulusevski’s performances were spectacular. No player delivered more balls into the enemy penalty area than he did.
In addition, he was among the three players in Serie A who most often put their teammates in good scoring positions. At first glance, Kulusevski’s statistics are less specracular this season, but it should be noted that he played less. Measured per game, only three players in the Serie A put their teammates in better scoring positions than Kulusevski did (as measured by expected goals assisted: xA).
‘Cristiano Ronaldo and Kulusevski get on well’, Juventus coach Pirlo said of him. In any case, it is certain that Kulusevski is able to adapt. He usually plays from the right, but can also play centrally as a second attacker. Unfortunately, he is not a yet a cool finisher in fronT of the goal. His 4 goals last season are in stark contrast to the 29 of his teammate Cristiano.
Despite Zlatan’s support, it remains to be seen whether Kulusevski will be in the starting line-up from day 1. After the departure of Ibra, Sweden has certainly done well internationally. They qualified for the 2018 World Championship, at the expense of the Netherlands among others and they even made it to the quarterfinals of that tournament in Russia. Sweden’s starting team has hardly changed since then and it will be difficult for national coach Janne Andersson to immediately put the veterans aside in the first game of Sweden against Spain.