The well-travelled former FK Crvena Zvezda youth player Goran Gavrančić raised eyebrows when he joined arch-rivals FK Partizan this winter but, he confessed, "Players only ever really support the club they play for."
The versatile 31-year-old defender never made the first team at Crvena Zvezda, instead starting his career with FK Čukarički before enjoying international success in seven title-laden years with FC Dynamo Kyiv. He had a brief spell at PAOK FC last term before switching to Partizan on 15 January. Joining his boyhood team's arch-rivals seems a shocking move, and he is likely to be up against Crvena Zvezda in his first game for Partizan on 21 February. Not that Gavrančić is overly-daunted, saying: "I was at Crvena Zvezda, but life offered me a new route and I accepted the challenge with pleasure."
Recent seasons have seen a number of top Serbian players return to their home country, with Ognjen Koroman, Marjan Marković, Nenad Jestrović and Nikola Lazetić signing for Crvena Zvezda, Nenad Djordjević and Albert Nadj joining Partizan, Boban Dmitrović coming to FK Borac and FK Vojvodina snaring Miodrag Pantelić. It may seem like a comedown after their careers abroad, but Gavrančić for one is not unhappy. "Everything is great: the atmosphere among the players, relations with the coach, the quality of the team, our place in the league," he said. "I made a great choice and I'm full of confidence about our future challenges.
'So much to offer'
"I have learned so much abroad," he added. "At Dynamo, I saw great organisation and gained experience in Europe. Champions League football means so much to me. The Greek experience was also good. I have not lost motivation. A battle for a domestic double is the greatest possible challenge and we're up for it. Then there is qualification for the Champions League, and in that respect I have so much to offer."
Having played with Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, Gavrančić also hopes returning to Belgrade will encourage Serbia coach Radomir Antić to see him at close quarters as he looks to add to his 28 international caps. "I think that I still can get into the team and I really want to, but I am taking it step by step," he said. "First I have to play well for Partizan."
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