Talent Scout: Josip Iličić, Palermo

 

 

As football continues to become a world of quick fixes and transfer window roulette, there is an increasing realisation that Europe's middle weights can only maintain consistency by focusing on the stability of forward thinking.

There are few better examples of this than Serie A outfit Palermo, who's sensible and well thought out recruitment policy has helped the club punch above its weight in recent seasons. The faith put in cheap, well scouted talent with massive sell on potential was summed up last summer, when PSG splashed out £37 million on star man Javier Pastore. It was a notable profit, on a player who cost them just £3 million.

The temptation was surely there for Palermo to invest a large proportion of those funds in a replacement trequartista, but staying true to their model, they promoted from within. Step forward 23-year-old Josip Iličić, a talented midfielder plucked from a journeyman career in Slovenia, and currently thriving after emerging from Pastore's shadow.

Iličić was a £1.5 million buy from NK Maribor in 2010, and after 18 months of Italian adaptation, is now considered one of Serie A's most sought after gems. It's a title that seemed unthinkable given his difficult start to life.

Born in the war torn Bosnian city of Prijedor, Iličić was taken to the sporting hotbed of Kranj in Slovenia by his mother Ana aged just one, following the death of his father. It proved to be a key move in developing his love of football, quickly joining Triglav Kranj and then having spells at minnows Bonifika and Interblock, before sealing a switch to the countries most successful club, Maribor.

But Iličić's time there would be short lived, as Palermo moved quickly to secure his services after months of carefully monitoring his progress. The transfer seemed an instant success, as he established himself as a regular, forming part of a delicious front three with the wily Fabrizio Miccoli and exciting schemer Pastore. But this term, without the Argentine pulling the strings, Iličić has moved from a wide role into the centre, where he's really caught the eye.

It's no surprise, either. Iličić is one of Europe's most intriguing players, defying convention in almost every way, with a mix of physical and technical abilities that are hard to imagine working so well together, but do.

Let's start with the physique - he's six foot three inches tall, with good upper body strength and long, powerful legs. Yet far from being the stereotypical, sluggish, midfield battering ram, Iličić is a highly technical attacker, boasting quick, nimble footwork, incredible poise and more flicks and tricks than you can shake a stick at.

He can play all across the midfield or front three, but Iličić is at his best when allowed to cut inside from the right, where he can find space to show off his best asset of them all - shooting. There are few players who can get consistent results with a modern football, but Iličić can, regularly unleashing accurate, powerful shots from range, which give goalkeepers little chance.

Although the majority of his goals are 25-yard thunderbolts, Iličić is also excellent at timing runs into the box, where he's often on hand to find space and composure to tuck away any scraps that fall his way. That's how he finishes chances, but he's not bad at making them either. Iličić's ability to draw players in, then whip the ball away at the last minute, means he buys himself and team-mates space in dangerous areas. His vision and crossing is good, but the main game is all about beating players then finding a simple ball to unlock defences.

There are some downsides, such as Iličić's desire to over commit to defending, which often leaves him caught down field on attacks. He's also knocked off the ball a little too easily when dribbling through midfield. On top of that, he also needs to learn when to use his delicate flicks to best effect, and not show boat unnecessarily.

However, all in all, Iličić is a fascinating player. Tall and imposing physically, but elegant and poised technically, he's a unique mix. Add to that a thunderous left foot shot, good work rate, versatility and some stylish foot work, and Palermo have got themselves another talent with massive sell on potential.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'