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Lyon's Pjanić spreads fear throughout

Published: Saturday 27 March 2010, 16.09CET
Miralem Pjanić, 19, is taking the UEFA Champions League by storm. His goal at the Santiago Bernabéu suggests it will not just be Real Madrid CF or Olympique Lyonnais fans taking note.
by Emmanuelle Hingant
Published: Saturday 27 March 2010, 16.09CET

Lyon's Pjanić spreads fear throughout

Miralem Pjanić, 19, is taking the UEFA Champions League by storm. His goal at the Santiago Bernabéu suggests it will not just be Real Madrid CF or Olympique Lyonnais fans taking note.

Name: Miralem Pjanić
Club: Olympique Lyonnais
Debut: 18/08/07 FC Metz v Paris Saint-Germain FC (Ligue 1)
Position: attacking midfielder
Nationality: Bosnian
Date of birth: 02/04/90

Such has been Pjanić's impact since making a central midfield berth his own at Olympique Lyonnais this season that it is a surprise to learn he only turns 20 in April. Pjanić had big shoes to fill when he stepped in to replace veteran Juninho Pernambucano last summer yet he has thrived amid the responsibility.

The teenager's equaliser at Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg secured Lyon's quarter-final place and proved he is a man for the big occasion. It also took his tally in the competition to four goals, equal with Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney.

Lyon signed Pjanić for €7.5m in June 2008 after his brilliant debut season with relegation-bound FC Metz. After a quiet first term under Juninho's wing, he has now taken flight. The apprentice is proving every bit as deadly as his master from free-kicks, and his eye for goal is complemented by terrific touch and vision. Born in Zvornik in Bosnia-Herzegovina and raised in Luxembourg, he has been capped 14 times by his native land. 

Breakthrough game:
Lyon 1-0 Metz
15/04/08, French Cup quarter-final
Metz were knocked out by Lyon, but Pjanić was man of the match as he gave the eventual double winners a fright with the positions he took up and the chances he created.

He says:
"From when I was young, maybe ten, I started watching the Champions League. But when you're ten, no one knows if you're going to make it. You can never guess, but it was always a dream to be like Zidane, my idol, and play for Real. I didn't miss a game from then on. Because of Zidane, Real are still my favourite club. I didn't miss a game, and it became almost an obligation to play football."

"I called Juninho during pre-season training and asked for permission to wear his number. He told me not to worry and not to put too much pressure on myself. Juni did some amazing things here. I liked him and I like this number as well."
Pjanić speaks about inheriting Juninho's No8 shirt.

"Physically I'm not there yet – I'm 19 and playing with players who are 25 or 26. They're well ahead of me physically and I need to progress and that only comes with work. You never want to waste time, so I want to progress, be out on the pitch to show my qualities, win games and help the team."

They say:
"He keeps it very simple and makes it easy for others to play. Time stops when the ball comes to his feet."
Yvon Pouliquen, Pjanić's coach at Metz

"A phenomenon – there are few like him. A great one for the future."
Former France striker Bernard Lacombe, now a Lyon special adviser

"He has great vision and the technical skills to go with it. The way he touches the ball and moves, it's designed to serve his vision of the game. At 19 he has a great attitude. He cares about everything, he wants to learn and he is ambitious. He has a strong personality and lots of character."
Lyon coach Claude Puel

Last updated: 29/03/10 11.24CET

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