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Milos Veljkovic interview: Tottenham youngster eager to join Harry Kane and Nabil Bentaleb in the Spurs first-team

In his first interview with a British newspaper, the 19-year-old Serbian tells Jack Pitt-Brooke about his hopes for next season

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Friday 29 May 2015 10:30 BST
Milos Veljkovic
Milos Veljkovic (GETTY IMAGES)

Tottenham Hotspur play Sydney FC on Saturday, but one of their own will be turning out this weekend not very far away, in Dunedin in New Zealand.

Milos Veljkovic is not part of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad for the post-season tour to Malaysia and Australia. Instead, he is part of the Serbia team at the Under-20 World Cup. Veljkovic, in his first major interview with a British newspaper, told The Independent that he hopes this World Cup will be the start of a breakthrough season for him.

Born in Switzerland to Serbian parents, centre-back Vejlkovic is only 19 years old but is the latest promising product of Tottenham’s academy. Spurs signed him from FC Basel seeing him play his only game for Switzerland Under-16s in Geneva in 2011, before he changed allegiances to Serbia.

Veljkovic arrived at Spurs at 15 and developed alongside Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane. Like Bentaleb, he was given his first-team debut last season by Tim Sherwood. Having Kane and Bentaleb – and Ryan Mason - step up to the first team, now Veljkovic wants to join them.

“Next season my goal is to play for Tottenham’s first team,” he said before flying out to New Zealand this month. “I played with Kane and Bentaleb a few years ago in the same team. Now I want to keep going hopefully on the pre-season tour I will impress the gaffer again.”

If 2015-16 is to be Veljkovic’s year, then it starts this weekend. The U20 World Cup is one of those international tournaments which is valued higher abroad than it is in England, and Veljkovic is keen to make a good impression with his talented side.

“The World Cup will help me,” says Veljkovic, who is eager for any possible learning experience. “I am looking forward. We have a good team.”

Veljkovic already has winning experience at international level. He was part of the Serbia team which won the European Under-19 Championships in 2013, along with Anderlecht star Aleksandar Mitrovic. Veljkovic was due to attend the same tournament in 2014 as well, only for new manager Pochettino to call him up for the pre-season tour of the United States.

“The last day before I was going to go,” Veljkovic remembered, “the gaffer called me into his office and said he wanted me to come on the tour. It was a good experience, I trained with the first team every day and played three and a half games.”

When the season started, Veljkovic, an intelligent game-reader, comfortable in defence or midfield, played five minutes of a Europa League game against Limassol. But it soon became clear there would not be too many first-team opportunities. So Pochettino loaned Veljkovic out to Middlesbrough, coached by his good friend Aitor Karanka.

“I had nothing to lose,” Veljkovic said, “but it was difficult. It was mid-way through the first half of the season. Boro were winning every game and already had their team formed. So I had to wait for my opportunity.” Veljkovic made four appearances, one from the start.

Looking for more opportunities, Veljkovic joined Charlton Athletic on loan in January. “I spoke with the manager [Guy Luzon] before I signed, he told me I was going to play. Then I played three games, and in the third, I injured my shoulder. I wanted to get 10 or 20 games there until the end of the season. So it was difficult, more mentally difficult than painful.”

So Veljkovic returned to Tottenham to recover and is now fully fit, ready for the country and club commitments that could make this the most important summer of his career.

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