Tonight Juventus face Villareal in the Round of 16 of Champions League. It hasn't been the best season so far for Juventus domestically. They sit in fourth in Serie A, are out of the title race and up to recently it looked like they mightn't even qualify for the Champions League. Their fortunes have changed in the last month after the signing of Serbian international Dusan Vlahovic.
Vlahovic is one of the hottest properties in Europe at the moment after his record-breaking form for Fiorentina had people putting him in the same bracket as Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé as the best young players in the world. It's been a meteoric rise for Vlahovic, who just two years ago was an afterthought in the Fiorentina squad. Now he holds all the hopes of Italy's most successful clubs and will be making his Champions League debut tonight.
Vlahovic was born in Belgrade in 2000 and played football with a few clubs across the city, including former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade before joining their arch-rivals Partizan Belgrade when he was 14. Just a year later aged 15 he signed his first professional contract with Partizan and on 21st February 2016 he made his debut for the first team and scored against OFK Beograd. He became Partizan's youngest ever debutant and goalscorer that day but he wouldn't be too prolific for the rest of his time at Partizan.
He scored three goals across the next year and a half before Fiorentina announced they had signed the then 17-year old in June 2017 on a five-year contract and he made the move to Florence on his 18th birthday in January 2018.
He began playing most of his football for La Viola's Primavera side (youth team) and was instrumental in them winning the 2018-19 Coppa Italia Primavera (equivalent to FA Youth Cup). He scored six goals in the cup as Fiorentina knocked out the like so Inter Milan and Juventus on their way to triumph.
It took some time for Vlahovic to find his feet in Serie A but after the appointment of former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli in November 2020, Vlahovic began the number one option for La Viola and began scoring. He was lethal in the box and an expert penalty taker with 41 of his 44 league goals for Fiorentina coming in the penalty area.
It wasn't a successful 2020-21 season for Fiorentina as the battled relegation for most of the season but Vlahovic finished the season with 21 goals as Fiorentina stayed up. During this season he also made his debut for Serbia and would become recognisable to Irish fans as he scored in Serbia's 3-2 win in Belgrade in March 2021 as he embarked on an amazing hot streak.
Prandelli would leave Florence but his replacement Valentino Italiano would prove to get even more out of Vlahovic. He scored 17 goals by Christmas and broke Cristiano's Ronaldo Serie A record of most goals in a calendar year, scoring 33 in the Serie A 2021 and 39 in all competitions as Fiorentina went from relegation contenders to fighting for European football.
However while scoring goals and breaking records, Vlahovic's contract situation loomed over the club. It was due to run out in 2022 and it looked like the striker wanted to try his hand at a top European club. Meanwhile Juventus had a very rough start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri and were down in the middle of the table. Champions League football didn't look to be a guarantee for the Old Lady and they needed to find a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo who left for Manchester United.
It was the perfect chance for Fiorentina to cash-in on their star as well and in January 2022 Vlahovic made the move to Juventus for €70 million.
Dusan Vlahovic got off to the best start in Turin as he scored on his debut at the Allianz Stadium against Verona. Since then he's helped Juventus climb the table and get into the Champions League spots. He's spoken openly about wanting to play Champions League football and be one of the best in the world and tonight he gets his chance to finally show the world what he's got.