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Sports play an integral role in the Serbian community, and there are many sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, water polo, and handball. However, soccer is hands down the number one sport in Serbia and is played and enjoyed by many players. There are plenty of momentous soccer clubs in Serbia, with the oldest one being FK Backa 1901. However, Serbia’s most famous and well-known soccer clubs are none other than Partizan and Red Star Belgrade. They are also the most successful soccer clubs in Serbia, and a number of Serbia’s greatest ever players have played for these iconic clubs.
The Serbian soccer national team may not be as celebrated or gifted with talent as some of the other European soccer teams, but they have achieved notable honors in the world. They have participated in numerous world cups and have established a reputation as a European powerhouse. That was in the past, but the current Serbian national soccer team is gifted with talented individuals as well. There are many gifted soccer players who have played for Serbia over the years and can easily claim to be the best and greatest Serbian soccer players of all time.
It can be difficult to compile a list of the greatest or best Serbian soccer players of all time, but we have done our best to come up with one. We hope that by the end of this list, you will have a greater appreciation and understanding of Serbian soccer and some of the superstars that have graced the national teams of Serbia. Therefore, without further ado, let’s check the list of the best Serbian soccer players of all time right here. It should be said that the list we have compiled is in no particular order, as all the players mentioned deserve to have their names sung by the proud nation of Serbia.
1. Nemanja Matic – Defensive Midfielder
It has always been said that playing in the Barclays English premier league is no easy ride, especially if you’re a central defensive midfielder. There are many illustrious midfielders that have graced the premier league, which is considered to be the best and hardest league in the world. One name that is regarded by many to be one of the best defensive midfielders playing in the premier league today is Nemanja Matic.
Matic began his professional career in 2005 when he was playing for FK Kolubara in Serbia and found great success. A couple of years later, he moved onto another Serbian club known as Kosice, where he played for a further two seasons. His big-money move to Chelsea in 2009 came, and much was expected from the Serbian player, but his career in London didn’t flourish in the beginning. He was sent on loan to the Dutch side Vitesse in the Eredivisie.
As he was struggling to make an impact in Chelsea, Nemanja Matic spent years playing on loan for several clubs, and he switched to Benfica in 2011 and played for them till 2014. Matic impressed a lot playing for Benfica and was recalled back by Chelsea to have another crack at the premier league. This time Matic would not let the ball drop and impressed in three successful seasons with the club. He established his reputation as a well-respected player in the premier league and became a constant fixture for Chelsea in their matches, winning the premier league with them.
In 2017, Nemanja Matic was spotted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager of Manchester United, and he moved to the Red Devils. It came as a surprise that Chelsea would let him leave, but that is exactly what happened. His time at Old Trafford playing for Manchester United came with its own set of challenges as Matic struggled to make the same impact he had for Chelsea.
Matic’s international career began in 2008, and he would go on to make 48 appearances for the Serbian national team, scoring two goals in the process. It was only in 2019 when Nemanja Matic decided to call time on his international soccer career, and he retired from the national team. As one of the most gifted defensive midfielders from Serbia, one can safely say that Nemanja Matic is one of the best Serbian soccer players of all time.
2. Sinisa Mihajlovic – Defender
Think of all the great names that have played in the Serie A, from Zinedine Zidane to Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero to Andrea Pirlo. You would expect these names to have a big influence on soccer in Italy, and they did, and you would expect them to score the most free-kick goals as well. That is where you are wrong, as that honor falls to none other than Sinisa Mihajlovic. The defender from Serbia holds the all-time Serie A record for most goals scored from a free-kick, as he scored no less than 28 free-kick goals, which is an astonishing amount for a defender.
Another surprising fact that you would like to know about Sinisa Mihajlovic is that his playing career didn’t begin with a Serbian club, as he played for Croatian club HNK Borovo in 1986. However, he only played for the Croatian club for two years before transferring to FK Vojvodina in Serbia in 1988. After two successful years at the club, he decided to move again to Serbia’s most famous club, Red Star Belgrade. He played for two successful years at Red Star before his career saw him move to AS Roma in Italy to play in the Serie A.
Sinisa Mihajlovic would go on to play for fourteen years in the Serie A as he played for a host of clubs in the Italian top-flight division. He established a strong reputation as one of the best defenders and free-kick takers in Italian soccer, playing for the likes of AS Roma, Lazio, Sampdoria, and Inter Milan. He scored a total of 37 goals in Italy, with 28 of those goals coming from free-kicks. The master of free kicks from Serbia also found success in his international career.
He represented Serbia in 63 matches and scored a total of 10 goals in his ten years playing for the national side from 1993 until 2003. With a career as illustrious as the one that Sinisa Mihajlovic had, we can safely say that he is one of the greatest and best Serbian soccer players of all time.
3. Velibor Vasovic – Defender
Serbia has a long history of fantastic defenders, and another one makes the list. We are talking about Velibor Vasovic, who is widely regarded as a legendary player from Serbia. He played as a sweeper and a midfielder at times and started his playing career at the age of 18, playing for Partizan in Serbia. He played for Partizan for five successful years, but he ruined his reputation with supporters of the club as he made the controversial switch to their greatest rivals Red Star Belgrade.
The fans didn’t take kindly to this move, and many of them sent letters to Velibor with death threats and all kinds of abuse. The abuse got so toxic for Velibor Vasovic that he decided to switch back to Partizan after only six months with Red Star Belgrade. However, his homecoming wasn’t as warm and welcoming as he expected, with fans still upset over his controversial move.
Velibor Vasovic moved to the Netherlands in 1966 when he signed a contract with one of the most famous Dutch clubs, Ajax Amsterdam. He would go on to become an influential player for the Dutch side and also became the first foreign player to become captain of the Dutch giants. In terms of his international career, Vasovic would go on to represent Yugoslavia in 32 matches, scoring two goals for the national side as he played for the national team for five years, from 1961 to 1966.
Even though Velibor Vasovic had a short playing career, as he only played soccer in thirteen professional seasons, he made quite a big impression. That’s why he is deserving of his spot on this list of the best Serbian soccer players of all time.
4. Dragan Stojkovic – Midfielder
Coming up next on the list is none other than one of the most famous Serbian soccer players of all time, Dragan Stojkovic. He had a long and illustrious soccer career, which started in 1981 when he joined the Serbian club FK Radnicki Nis. Throughout his career, he would go on to play mostly as a midfielder and would occasionally play as the center forward when required. After spending five years at the club, he was spotted by managers at Red Star Belgrade, and he moved to the famous club without hesitation.
He played for Red Star Belgrade for four illustrious years, playing a total of 120 matches and scoring 54 goals. He would then move on to France, where he joined Olympique de Marseille, but he couldn’t replicate the success he had in Serbia. His time in France was plagued with injuries, and he had to undergo knee surgery in his first season after suffering a nasty injury. He soon transferred to Italy, where he joined the Italian club, Hellas Verona.
Dragan Stojkovic was hoping to have more success in Italy but unfortunately disciplinary and injury problems meant that his time in Italy wasn’t a successful one. He returned to Marseille soon and found immediate success, winning the UEFA Champions League with the club in the 1992-93 season, but he missed playing in the final due to an injury. In 1994 Dragan received an offer from a Japanese club known as Nagoya Grampus Eight, and he decided to accept their offer.
He signed a contract with a club and moved to Japan, where he played for seven seasons and appeared in 184 games, where he scored a total of 57 goals. Dragan Stojkovic was very popular with fans in Japan, and he was even named the J-League MVP in the 1995 season. His international career lasted for eighteen years, which is more than most Serbian soccer players. He played in a total of 84 games for the national side and scored 15 goals, which is enough to earn him a spot among the greatest ever players ever to represent Serbia internationally.
Dragan Stojkovic retired from soccer in 2001, and he would go on to become a coach, where he found great success. He had a fantastic playing career, and he rightfully earned the right to make our list of the best Serbian soccer players of all time.
5. Aleksandar Kolarov – Defender
Aleksandar Kolarov is another defender from Serbia who earned plaudits playing in the Premier League and in Serie A. Kolarov began his career in 2004 with Serbian club FK Cukaricki, but only two years later, he would go on to move to OFK Beograd, another club based in Belgrade. It took him less than a year to impress at his new club, and he was quickly spotted by scouts from Lazio. He would sign a contract with the Italian side, where he enjoyed great success playing for them.
After three successful years playing for Lazio, Kolarov signed a contract with Manchester City in the English Premier League. He would go on to achieve great success with the English side, winning the Premier League twice with them between 2010 and 2017, until he transferred back to Serie A. However, this time he decided to join AS Roma, where he played and delighted the fans. Aleksandar Kolarov also had a successful international career, and he is fourth on the list of players with the most caps for Serbia.
He has represented Serbia in 94 international matches, where he has scored 11 goals for the national side. He was part of the Serbian team that went to the FIFA World Cup in 2010 in South Africa and also participated in the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. The Serbian defender has earned plenty of praise throughout his career from other players and coaches. He is one Serbian player who could easily claim to be one of the greatest Serbian soccer players of all time.
6. Dejan Stankovic – Midfielder
Dejan Stankovic is another legendary player from Serbia and is a two-time winner of the Serbian player of the year award. The talented midfielder started his career in 1995 as he played for Red Star Belgrade. His performances on the pitch got him noticed by scouts from other teams and would soon earn him a transfer to the Italian Serie A side Lazio. He played 85 games for Lazio throughout his six years for the club and scored 29 goals for the team.
His legendary performances on the pitch earned him another move, this time to Italian giants Inter Milan in 2004. He would go on to represent the Nerazzurri for 230 games and scored 29 goals for them throughout the nine years he played for the team. Stankovic holds the distinction of being the second most capped player for the Serbian national team. He has played in 103 international matches for Serbia, scoring a total of 15 goals for the national side.
Dejan Stankovic has played for Serbia in three World Cups and has represented them in a UEFA Championship. He is well-known as the Serbian player who has won the most trophies, which has rightly propelled his name to legendary status in Serbian soccer. With a career as illustrious as the one Stankovic has had, you can easily name him as one of the best Serbian soccer players of all time.
7. Branislav Ivanovic – Defender
Branislav Ivanovic played as a defender for Chelsea FC for nine years and is the player with the most international caps for the Serbian national team. All that has made him one of the most famous Serbian players in history and a household name in Serbia. The defender began his career in 2002 when he joined FK Srem, a club in his hometown. He would go on to move to OFK Beograd only two years later. After spending two years at that club, Ivanovic would earn a transfer to the Russian Premier League, where he would play for FC Lokomotiv Moscow.
His impressive displays for the Russian club earned him a transfer to the English Premier League, as he joined Chelsea FC in 2008. That was the start of an illustrious career with the London club as he won countless important honors, including three Premier League titles, a Champions League, and a Europa League trophy as well. All of these trophies are the highlight of Ivanovic’s career and earned him a spot on the list of most successful Serbian soccer players.
Branislav Ivanovic went to two World Cups with the Serbian national team in 2010 and 2018, and he was the captain of the Serbian national team from 2012 to 2018. Therefore, it’s not wrong if we consider him one of the best Serbian soccer players of all time.
Our Final Thoughts
Serbia has been blessed with countless gifted and talented soccer players, and the country has a rich tradition in European football. They may not have the superpower of their European counterparts, but time and time again, Serbian soccer players have proven that they can rub shoulders with the world’s best soccer players. We can also introduce more names to our list, such as Nemanja Vidic, Stjepan Bobek, and Dragan Dzajic, as they deserve to be on the list of best Serbian soccer players as well, but we will talk about them another time.