Tuesday May 19 2020
Greatest Eastern European XI in Serie A

Throughout the years some of the finest Eastern Europeans plied their trade in Serie A, so Vilizar Yakimov picked out his greatest XI in a 3-4-2-1 formation.

GK: Samir Handanovic (Udinese, Inter)

It is a bit odd to start our team with a player who has never won the Scudetto, but considering Handanovic has been the most consistent goalkeeper in Serie A for the past decade, you could guess the winner of this slot. The Slovenian amassed nearly 500 appearances for Udinese and Inter, recently taking the Nerazzurri captain's armband. Being able to produce stunning saves with a remarkable ease, Handanovic has also won the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year award on three occasions.

RCB: Kakhaber Kaladze (Milan, Genoa)

One of the underappreciated warriors of Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan from the beginning of the century. The Georgian was a strong and intelligent player, but arguably his greatest quality was his versatility, which allowed him to cover any defensive role and make 284 appearances for the Rossoneri, while competing for a place with the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Marcos Cafu and Jaap Stam. Kaladze’s inclusion in the list is also justified by his trophy cabinet, as he won everything with Milan, including a Scudetto, two Champions League titles, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup among others.

CB: Cristian Chivu (Roma, Inter)

Another versatile defender and one of the players who peaked under Jose Mourinho’s tuition at Inter. The Romanian had registered more than 120 appearances for Roma, before his move to Inter in 2007, where he truly flourished. There he quickly became one of Mourinho’s favorites, as the Special One managed to keep Chivu’s temper under control, which improved immensely the player’s consistency and composure. A multiple Scudetto winner and an important piece of Inter’s Treble-winning team in 2010, the Romanian deservedly finds a place at the heart of our defence.

LCB: Sinisa Mihajlovic (Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio, Inter)

The current Bologna coach was a fantastic player and one of the finest dead-ball specialists the game has ever seen. Alongside Andrea Pirlo, Mihajlovic holds the record for most goals from free kicks in Serie A (28), but the Serbian’s game goes way beyond that ability. His offensive brilliance was matched by his temper, which was both his best friend and biggest enemy. Mihajlovic retired at Inter in 2006, but he will always be remembered for his years at Lazio, where he won everything domestically and also triumphed in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 1999.

RM: Zvonimir Boban (Milan)

The Croatian was an integral part of Milan’s midfield in the 90s and won almost everything with the Rossoneri, including four Scudetti and a Champions League trophy. Zorro was a very well-rounded and hard-working player, as he combined supreme technique with tactical awareness, and this allowed him to cover multiple roles in both midfield and attack. His vision and ability to dribble past an opponent made him a creative force to be reckoned with and a perfect fit for the RM role.

CM: Dejan Stankovic (Lazio, Inter)

One of the first names in our XI. Stankovic will remain in the history books of both Lazio and Inter, and deservedly so. The Serbian was part of arguably the greatest teams of both the Biancocelesti and the Nerazzurri, as he won six trophies in as many years in the capital, before becoming part of Inter’s Treble-winners in 2010. Stankovic’s work ethic and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team made the players around him look better, while his shooting from distance was simply world class. Just ask Manuel Neuer.

CM: Vladimir Jugovic (Sampdoria, Juventus, Lazio, Inter)

Another midfielder who played for both Lazio and Inter, but Jugovic is undoubtedly remembered primarily for his time at Juventus. Jugovic was mainly known for his physicality, energy and hard-working attitude that was perfectly suited for Marcelo Lippi’s Juventus juggernaut from the mid-90s. The Serbian, who just like Mihajlovic represented Yugoslavia on international level, won four trophies with Juventus, including a Scudetto and a Champions League, as he scored the decisive penalty in the 1996 Champions League Final against Ajax, before moving to Lazio a year later.

LM: Pavel Nedved (Lazio, Juventus)

The 2003 Ballon d’Or winner was always going to make the list, as Nedved was simply one of the best players of his generation. The Czech was one of the stars at Lazio, where he won seven trophies before moving to Juventus in 2001, where he was handed the impossible task of replacing Zinedine Zidane. A player of immense class, La Furia Ceca’s shooting ability was unmatched, as he could strike a ball equally well with both feet. Nedved’s tally of five trophies with the Bianconeri doesn’t do him any justice, but his decision to stay with the club in Serie B cemented his place as one of the greatest players in Juventus history.

CAM: Dejan Savicevic (Milan)

A brilliant, yet at times very frustrating player, Savicevic was known for his supreme dribbling skills and technique as well as his tense relationship with Fabio Capello during his six years in Milan. A classic Number 10, the Montenegrin didn’t quite fit into Capello’s conservative approach in the mid-90s and was often left on the outskirts of the Rossoneri squad, which resulted in his legendary outbursts. However, when given the chance and in the mood, Savicevic was simply outstanding. His performance in Milan’s historic 4-0 victory against Barcelona 1994 Champions League Final is still one of the finest individual displays in the competition.

CAM: Zbigniew Boniek (Juventus, Roma)

Once labelled by Diego Maradona as “the best counter-attacking player in the world”, Boniek is undoubtedly one of the greatest Polish players of all time. Surprisingly quick for his powerful physique, Boniek was excellent at exploiting spaces and attacking from deep, which was a rare quality back in the day. His trademark moustache was also a hint of his personality, as even after retiring, Zibi remained quite a character and is now President of the Polish Football Association. A magnificent player that won everything with Juventus as well as one Coppa Italia trophy with Roma, Boniek was always going to be part of this XI.

CF: Andriy Shevchenko (Milan)

Inevitable. One could only wonder what else Shevchenko could’ve achieved, if he didn’t make the switch to Chelsea in 2006. Before moving to London, the Ukrainian had already won everything with Milan, including the Scudetto, Champions League and the 2004 Ballon d’Or. Amassing 176 goals in more than 300 games for the Rossoneri, Shevchenko goes down as one of the most complete forwards the game has ever seen. Fast, powerful, technically gifted and able to score from anywhere, Shevchenko was simply unstoppable during his Milan years and gets to lead the forward line of Serie A’s Greatest Eastern European XI.

Have your say...
Last week we attacked author for picking Ronaldinho in Greatest Brazil XI in Serie A... This week we're unsatisfied with Hagi's exclusion... :) :)

I think list is great, but it would be better if only players from Balkan would've been picked --"Greates Ex-Yugoslavia XI in Seria A".
(Don't forget Mijatovic, Katanec played for Fiore/ Samp!)

These blogs miss "honorable mentions". Each player should have a "substitute" listed.
on the 20th May, 2020 at 6:23pm
As a Laziale I'm pleased to see this team rightly contains some really fantastic players from our recent past. Radu would certainly deserve a place too if it wasn't for a three man defence! Of the other players that paolo listed, I think Hamsik really deserves a place for his longevity and record goal total at Napoli. One correction, Mihajlovic won the European Cup Winners Cup at Lazio, not the UEFA Cup.
on the 20th May, 2020 at 12:51pm
Nice one, but c'mon - Hagi and Stoichkov have played in Serie A...

For sure I doubt some of the choices in defense, too.
The midfield is beautiful, though.
But let's admit there are too many legendary footballers from Eastern Europe who gave us a lot of joyful moments in Italy. There will be someone important missing whatever the final 11 are. The author should just have mentioned some of them.
on the 20th May, 2020 at 12:44pm
You guys above need to remember it's also what these players won as well as talent hence why they are included in this list. Hagi although a naturally brilliant player was not an immense force in 2 years with Brescia so although a legend of the game that's why he's not included in this list.
on the 20th May, 2020 at 10:21am
This looks like a list based on contribution to Italian Football. If it wasn't, i'm sure Velizar would have added the great Hristo Stoichkov :)
on the 20th May, 2020 at 9:36am
The likes of jankulovski, porborsky, ujfalusi, hagi, radu, hamsik, pandev, vucinic, pjanic, dzeko, kolarov, boskic, mutu to mention a few players to miss out.

jankulovski in particular should be in this team over kaladze or jugovic. he was consistently decent for the majority of his career the was the only player to came close at milan at taking over from maldini at left back. at udinese there were times he was unplayable.

leaving out hagi seriously
on the 19th May, 2020 at 7:45pm
What about Josep Ilicic? One of the best players in world football at the moment.
on the 19th May, 2020 at 6:25pm
Is this based on the number of appearances/titles won/overall skill or what? Because Gheorghe Hagi was bought from Real Madrid to Brescia (1992-1994) only to be sold to Barcelona. Gheorghe Popesc also played for Lecce and some would say he was a better defender than Chivu. BTW, Chivu never had a temper, not sure what the author meant by that.
on the 19th May, 2020 at 4:50pm

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