Before all of the success Adem Ljajić has enjoyed so far this season, he was a 17-year-old kid looking to impress at a Manchester United trial in 2008.
When he went on trial at Old Trafford, Ljajić and his teammate Zoran Tošić at Serbian club Partizan both agreed to sign at the storied Premier League squad, but the current AS Roma man’s deal suddenly fell through due to work permit difficulties.
“Psychological shock” had hit Ljajić at the time, admitted Partizan head coach Goran Stevanovic, and from that point forward, United was placed in the back window as the youngster continued to work hard in order to progress his career.
A three-year stint at Fiorentina saw Ljajić’s capabilities on the pitch develop, and when Erik Lamela bailed from Italy to pursue opportunities at Tottenham Hotspur, Rudi Garcia’s side acquired the services of the Serbian.
In his second year in Rome, Ljajić has scored six goals in 14 matches to lead the team in scoring, while also adding two assists.
On track for his best professional campaign, the 5-foot-11 midfielder can reflect on his time in England with nothing but praise for how it helped him evolved as a footballer.
He specifically noted that former United great Sir Alex Ferguson guided him with “beautiful words.”
“I remember I was 17 and I didn’t speak a word of English, a bit like now,” said Ljajic, in an interview with Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. “[Sir Alex] had some beautiful words for me and when they come from him, they stay with you forever.
Ljajić pinned himself as a wild child back then, but he made it known that an increased level of maturity has yielded excellent results in his latest showings on the pitch.
“I wasn’t training well before and I was a bit of a hothead. If I wasn’t playing, I was getting into trouble. I was a bit of a crazy lad, but now I know that if I don’t give 100 percent even in training, it’s not likely I’m going to play.
“I’ve changed and the result is what you’re seeing now. I’ve scored nine goals, provided seven or eight assists and maybe I could have done even more, but if I play with this consistency, I can make the difference.”