When Slavko Perović was originally omitted from the Serbia squad for this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship the promising FK Crvena Zvezda striker was, not surprisingly, at a low ebb.
The 20-year-old had found opportunities at Crvena Zvezda hard to come by and so opted to spend the second half of the 2008/09 season on loan at the club's Superliga rivals, FK Napredak. Two goals in 14 league appearances were not, though, enough to convince then U21 coach Slobodan Krčmarević to take him to Sweden, a decision which led the forward to consider his future with Serbia's most successful club.
Then came the stroke of luck which helped transform the frontman's confidence. Filip Djordjević was injured a week before the competition was due to begin, leading Krčmarević to call up Perović as a late replacement. Despite not making an appearance at the finals, Perović arrived back at Crvena Zvezda a different player and soon forced his way into the plans of new coach Vladimir Petrović, scoring four goals in his first seven matches, matching the number he struck in the previous two campaigns combined.
"I wasn't sure that I could be successful," said Perović, born in the central Serbian city of Kragujevac, which has also produced PSV Eindhoven's Danko Lazović and Nenad Tomović of Genoa CFC. "My coaches from last season didn't count on me, I had doubts, but Petrović explained to me in a simple way that everybody starts from zero. I got a chance, have scored some goals and grown up but with new, much better feelings."
Aside from his exploits in the league, Perović also struck three times in a UEFA Europa League qualifying campaign ended by SK Slavia Praha and once in the Croatian Cup, goals which have established him as a key member of the side. "I'm satisfied with our games," he added. "We're playing well and my goals are a product of the team spirit. Of course, I am delighted."
With eight wins and a draw from nine league matches, Crvena Zvezda hold a four-point lead over arch-rivals FK Partizan at the Superliga summit and are on course to end their city rivals' title successes of the past two campaigns. "We've had two bad, trophyless seasons," Perović continued. "Our main target is the title and we will be brave in trying to achieve that. Maybe we were a little underprepared for Europe. I don't think Slavia were better than us, their experience proved decisive. This season we will try to grow as a team, win both domestic titles and I am confident that Zvezda will return much stronger on the European stage next year."
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