There can be few harder jobs in football than filling the boots of Francesco Totti, but it is a role that AS Roma's forward Mirko Vučinić is taking in his stride.
There can be few harder jobs in football than filling the boots of Francesco Totti, but it is a role that AS Roma forward Mirko Vučinić is taking in his stride.
Since the Roma talisman hobbled out of his side's UEFA Champions League tie against Sporting Clube de Portugal on 23 October, Vučinić has come into his own. He scored the winner in that match, then followed up with the only goal of a game at AC Milan five days later. Another strike, in a 3-2 derby triumph over S.S. Lazio on 31 October, completed a superb period for the 24-year-old. "Of course it isn't easy to replace a player like Totti, in fact it's very difficult," Vučinić said. "But I don't want to talk about his qualities, as everyone is aware of them. I play for a team and I try to produce my best football whatever the situation."
Vučinić had six years with US Lecce before joining Roma, initially on loan, last season, so much of his career has been spent in the shadow of Serie A's leading lights. That has suddenly changed, though, with the Italian media now drawing parallels between him and FC Internazionale Milano striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, the leading scorer in this term's UEFA Champions League. Montenegrin international Vučinić is unmoved by the praise. "Of course such comparisons are flattering because Ibrahimović is an outstanding player and I try to imitate him in some ways. But I haven't changed. I'm still the same and I have to thank my coach and my team for supporting me during the hard times."
'Nothing to lose'
Roma's opponents on Tuesday, FC Dynamo Kyiv, are yet to pick up a point in Group F and have a goal difference of minus nine. Vučinić, however, does not believe their lowly status will make the visitors' task any easier as second-placed Roma target the victory that would make sure of their berth in the knockout stage. "This is the Champions League so I don't think it would be right to talk about weak or strong teams," he said. "Dynamo were unlucky to drop three points against Sporting. Dynamo's biggest strength is the fact they have nothing to lose, while we have come here to secure progress to the next round."
The Giallorossi beat Dynamo 2-0 when the sides met on 19 September in Rome. Simone Perrotta and Totti got the goals on that occasion, but both will miss the Matchday 5 return through injury. With Vučinić firing on all cylinders, their absence may not be so sorely felt. "They're both great players but we have a long bench and we will try to find some decent replacements," Vučinić said.