Dejan Stankovic: Serbia’s Engine

A complete midfielder when he's at his best, Serbia will be relying heavily on Dejan Stankovic.

Dejan Stankovic  

Born: Sept 11, 1978, in Belgrade, Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia)  

Position: Midfielder  

Nickname: Deki  

Clubs Played for: Talented young soccer players in Belgrade usually begin their careers with either Partizan Belgrade or Red Star Belgrade; Dejan Stankovic began his career with the latter in 1994. In 1998, Stankovic made the move to Italy, signing with Lazio, and he was part of the Biancocelesti’s (white and sky-blues) most successful side; winning two Coppa Italias, a Serie A title and a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. In 2004, Inter paid $5 million for Deki and he soon became a fan-favourite.  

International career: Stankovic has played in major international tournaments for three different countries: He made his international debut in 1998 and played in the 1998 World Cup and EURO 2000 with Yugoslavia; then, he played for Serbia and Montenegro in the 2006 World Cup; and in South Africa he will suit up for Serbia. In all, Deki has played 86 times for the parcelled out nation.  

Why is he so special? Although occasionally chided for being inconsistent, Stankovic at his best is a complete midfielder. He can slot into a holding position when the goal is under siege or take the lead and ignite an attack with a penetrating pass. What’s more, Stankovic has a heavy foot and is always willing to shoot from distance.   

His most famous moment: In 2008 Stankovic thumped a 50-yard volley into a wide-open net after Genoa goalkeeper Marco Amelia cleared the ball right onto Deki’s foot.   

He said it: "I've never stopped improving. The results speak for themselves; I've won a lot of titles over the last five years. But I don't intend to stop there."  

What they’re saying about him: "Tonight [ Nov. 23, 2008; Inter 1 - Juventus 0,] he was a midfielder and he was a striker, it was like playing with 12 men," said Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho.  

Here is an interesting fact: Inter Milan midfielder Mario Balotelli has been upsetting everyone this season, and Stankovic has been one of his loudest critics. After he watched Balotelli storm off following Inter’s 3-1 Champions League semifinal first-leg victory over Barcelona, Stankovic offered a paternal commentary: "He [Balotelli] is like a child. We really need to see and understand what is going on in his head. I am a father of three children, and we cannot force it out of him."