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2008: Danijel Aleksić

Even before the finals in Turkey, Danijel Aleksić was marked out as one of the prospects to watch.

Danijel Aleksić shows his skills against Scotland
Danijel Aleksić shows his skills against Scotland ©Sportsfile

Spain may have won the 2007/08 UEFA European Under-17 Championship with a talented lineup that left even veteran coach Juan Santisteban stunned but they were not the only team with stars that May in Antalya. One player who bowed out in the group stage was soon outpacing even his Spanish contemporaries.

Even before the finals in Turkey, Danijel Aleksić was marked out as one of the prospects to watch. The top scorer in qualifying with seven goals, including five in three elite round matches, he had made his senior debut for FK Vojvodina against FK Crvena Zvezda on 5 May 2007, setting a top-flight record five days after his 16th birthday, and a month before the U17 finals he opened his league account.

Therefore when he got to Turkey, there was a lot for Aleksić to live up to. It did not take him long. In the opening game against Scotland the first half was drifting to a goalless conclusion when Aleksandar Ignjovski sent in a cross and Aleksić met it with a stunning overhead volley to put Serbia ahead, just as he had done in the Elite round against Slovakia. Three minutes after the interval his powerful finish gave Scotland goalkeeper Grant Adam no chance, and the points were secure. Aleksić also showed a mature attitude afterwards, telling UEFA.com: "I didn't actually play that well in the first half but I got lucky in the last minute."

Life proved tougher in the next two games, as Serbia lost 1-0 to the Netherlands and drew 0-0 with Turkey to miss out on the semi-finals. But Aleksić's tally of nine goals for the competition as a whole was the joint-best, and he was soon bolstering his reputation further. Staying loyal to Vojvodina, he was an 83rd-minute substitute in the 2008/09 season opener against Crvena Zvezda and struck in injury time for a 2-0 win. By the autumn he was appearing regularly. His performances were winning headlines and in December 2008 he was named Serbian Young Player of the Year and given his senior international debut against Poland. "That really was the year of my dreams," said Aleksić, who in January 2010 joined Genoa CFC, making his Serie A debut the next month against Juventus.