The fall and rise of Aleksandar Kolarov

The fall and rise of Aleksandar Kolarov
Sep 26, 2016

Featured Manchester City

A day after Man City’s one all draw with Swansea, a match that brought down the curtain on a disappointing season. I sat down to write an article on City’s season. I started by drafting a list of names who I believed would not be at the Etihad come August. Atop the list was Serbian left back Aleksandar Kolarov, a series of lacklustre  performances and Clichy exceeding expectations left Kolarov residing on the bench for much of the 15/16 campaign. Like many pundits I deemed Kolarov, now thirty, to be past his best and a dead weight at Manchester City. Yet under new manager Guardiola, Kolarov has looked like a completely new player. Rejuvenated and Reinvented Kolarov has looked like the player that was set to become a Galactico six years ago.

Kolarov came through the youth set up at his hometown club, Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. However, before he could make a first team appearance he was released. Labelled as a journeyman in his early career he played in three leagues in three years before getting his big European move to Lazio. After impressing at Lazio the summer of 2010 brought the next biggest shift in Kolarov’s career. Linked with a move to Real Madrid, new money Manchester City swept in at the eleventh hour to snatch him from underneath Madrid’s nose.

Through his time in Manchester Kolarov has built a reputation as an attacking left back with a canon for a leg. Kolarov made his City debut on the of 17th August when he was named in the starting XI against Tottenham. He helped his side to keep a clean sheet however City didn’t manage to score and the game ended goalless. The Serb scored his first goal for City with a fantastic 25-yard free kick against Birmingham on the 2nd of February. As the 2010/11 campaign drew to a close Kolarov won his first silverware at the Etihad with an FA Cup success.

Despite a successful start in Manchester, Gael Clichy was bought and Kolarov found himself second choice to the newly purchased Frenchmen. His opportunities now few and far between. Despite finding it hard to break into the first team he made the starting XI for The Citizens in their inaugural game in the rebranded Champions League. It was this game that City would score their first Champions League goal, scored by Kolarov himself. The game ended one all, a result to shout home about in their first Champions League game. The club would go on to won the 11/12 title, courtesy of a last-gasp goal from Sergio Aguero. Finishing the season with 12 appearances- enough to earn him a winners medal.

With Gael Clichy’s performances getting stronger week by week Kolarov was increasingly pushed out of the first team picture. However, when Clichy became injured Kolarov stepped up to the plate, impressing then manager Roberto Mancini. Featuring in the team even when Clichy was back to full fitness. After the dismissal of Mancini, City appointed Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, under Pellegrini Kolarov, featured heavily in the side. He became one of the key members of the team helping City to their second title.

However, towards the end of the season, journalists, pundits and fans raised questions about Kolarov’s defensive contribution. Now the wrong side of 28 and seemingly declining his future was hanging in the balance. More weak defensive performances followed causing the Serbian to lose his place in Pellegrini’s plans. Exposed in defensive more often than not Kolarov and defensive partner Demichelis would come under fire for costing City games. Come the twilight of Pellegrini’s reign Kolarov had one season left on his contract with negotiations looking like a distant dream. It was at this point I began to write my season review. I labelled Kolarov as ‘below par’ and a ‘mid-table player’.

A transfer saga ensued, a move to Besiktas was on, then off, then on again, before finally closing with the signing of Caner Erkin from Inter. With a left back now on Besiktas’s books, Kolarov looked set to reside in the City reserves for the rest of the season until his contract ran out. It was a surprise to many when during pre-season Guardiola selected the seemingly anti-Guardiola player, Aleksandr Kolarov at centre back alongside Adarabioyo.

Many fans laughed it off as a joke, that laughter soon stopped. Kolarov was continually picked at CB, causing supporters to start to worry that Kolarov could be starting at CB. Finally, the opening game rolled around. The main news was the inclusion of Willy Cabellero ahead of Joe Hart, however sneaking in below the radar was Aleksandr Kolarov playing at CB alongside Otamendi.

Divergent to his performances the previous campaign Kolarov was cool on the ball, able to use his head and pick a pass, epitomising Guardiola’s football. Despite Sunderland scoring and their clean sheet tarnished the defensive display was a world away from that of last season. More good performances were to follow, Kolarov was quickly becoming hailed as Guardiola’s greatest success at his short stay at the club.

Despite the arrival of John Stones, Kolarov still found his way into the starting XI as an inverted wing back, pushing Gael Clichy out the team. His good performances were rewarded with a starting spot in the Manchester derby. The game that had so much hype built around it, Pep vs Jose, angel vs devil. Kolarov bagging the assist for De Bruyne’s opener helping City to a 2-1 victory.

Kolarov has bypassed all expectations this season ten fold, the Serb has gone from having one foot out the door to talks of a contract extension to prolong his stay at the Etihad. Under Guardiola, Kolarov has reignited his career, once more looking like the man that almost became a Galactico.

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