Germany has a shining generation of footballers in the Bundesliga and across Europe at the moment, and it’s not stopping with that generation. This analysis is on one of tomorrow’s most promising German prospects – Lazar Samardzic.
Who is Lazar Samardzic?
Born in Berlin to parents of Serbian descent in February 2002, Lazar Samardzic is one of German football’s top prospects. Clubs such as Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, and Benfica have shown strong interest in Samardzic, but It’s Milan who’ve pursued the young playmaker the most with technical director Paolo Maldini allegedly being a big admirer. Nike signed him at a very early age as well to secure him for the future.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder plies his trade in his hometown club Hertha Berlin and as captain in the German U19 national team. This season he scored 14 goals and 9 assists in 16 matches for Hertha Berlin’s U19 team, started training with the seniors in February and made his senior debut for the blue-white club from the German capital as he was subbed on for Per Ciljan Skjelbred in the Berlin-derby against Union Berlin – which Hertha won 4-0.
On U17 level, Samardzic scored 40 goals and made 14 assists in 40 appearances over two seasons. Those performances led him to win bronze in the Fritz Walter Medal in 2019, a price dedicated to Germany’s best U17 players.
Samardzic is still eligible to play for both the German and Serbian national team but hasn’t made his choice yet – both countries, however, have pursued him intensively. Germany seems to have the upper hand, though, as Serbia rejected him on youth level and Germany introduced him to their youth setups immediately. Therefore, Serbia seems to have blown its opportunity.
Samardzic style of play can best be described with the German expression “käfigkicker”, which in English translates to “cage footballer”. A cage footballer is a player with quick footwork and a perplexing technique to beat defenders. It’s called cage footballer because those are the ideal characteristics for those who play in “cages” or street pitches.
In possession, Samardzic likes to operate between the lines of the opposition midfield and defense. And out of possession, he tends to drop down to contribute defensively, get ahold of the ball and start attacks from deep by either finding a teammate on the run or progressing it himself by carrying it forwards. As a player, he’s very confident, got a great work ethic, and fights hard on the midfield. He might not be the most vocal player, but Samardzic is one of those players who lead by example. He sets the bar for the quality of the game and triggers his teammates to raise their game to that level.
Samardzic is first and foremost a creator and playmaker. He thrives on his vision and ability to execute those visions with his sublime passing foot. It clear whenever he plays, whether it’s for Hertha’s U19 or Germany’s U19, that he sees everything completely different than his equals. His peripheral vision is miles ahead for spaces to exploit, passing lanes to utilize, or off-the-ball movements to make in order to benefit his teammates. Samardzic has an exceptional high footballing IQ, which he matches with a sublime passing ability – both seen to through balls, long balls, and final balls.
His close control and technique are two excel qualities in Samardzic’s game as well. The 18-year-old is very hard to stop and dispossess due to his quick feet and exceptional close control. He’s always combining his agility, center of gravity, and close control to make quick turns or change of direction to trick defenders.
However, according to one of his former German youth coaches, Michael Feichtenbeiner, says that one of his best traits is his strong mentality and the responsibility he takes. Something he’s down since he joined Hertha’s academy at age seven:
“He’s mentally strong and has the courage to take on responsibility in special moments. It’s good when players at this age have that courage”
Samardzic doesn’t have many weaknesses. He’s a mature, productive and makes good decisions on the pitch. But there are mainly two areas that could be improved to benefit his overall game.
Although he has size and a big posture, at 184cm tall, Samardzic could benefit from building more muscle. It would help his ball retention, his carries that progress the ball forwards, and when he drops down to regain possession to start attacks from deep. Samardzic does these things well today. But, in top-level football, it really benefits players in his position to be able to fend off defenders with your body in order to retain the ball or in duels to win the ball.
The other aspect that could be improved in his game is letting go of the ball earlier sometimes. Overall, Samardzic’s decision-making is great. But around the opposition penalty area, he sometimes takes one or two touches more than necessary. It’s likely because he wants to score, and it rarely ends up with him losing possession for the opposition to counter-attack. However, with the passing foot and vision he’s got, it’d benefit the team more if he uses that instead sometimes.
It’s a trait that applies to most young footballers. A sign of wanting to prove yourself to the manager, the club, and the seniors – and it usually fades with age. Why I’m pointing this out though is because Samardzic is so advanced to his equals, and he’d increase that distance even more by improving this.
To summarize, it would not be surprising to see Samardzic be in a similar position as Kai Havertz in a few years, i.e. the next big name for German football. He’s got the talent, no doubt. But it’s important that he chooses his destinations wisely and continues to play regularly. If he does that, the sky is genuinely the limit.
Comparable footballer: A young Mesut Özil