Nikola Zigic: Serbia's target man
Defenders will have to be at their best to bring down this giant
Born: Sept. 25, 1980, in Backa Topola, Serbia
Nickname: The Doctor
Clubs played for: Serbia's six-foot-seven-inch phenomenon floated around Serbia's lower divisions between 1998 and 2001 before Red Star Belgrade took a chance on this giant. In three seasons, Zigic manhandled defences in the Serbian Superleague, scoring 47 goals in 79 league games and winning two league and cup doubles in 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. Racing Santander brought the 29-year-old to Spain in 2006 and then Valencia paid $25 million to bring the Serbian to the Mestalla a year later. Zigic has had trouble asserting himself in the much-faster, more-skilled La Liga; but on a loan back to Racing Santander in 2009, he impressed with 13 goals in 19 games.
International career: Zigic only recently became a regular in the Serbian national team. Before the 2006 World Cup, he was a bit player in the national setup and did not feature much during the tournament in Germany. During qualification for South Africa, however, Serbian head coach Radomir Antic utilized Zigic up alone as Serbia's target man and he flustered every country in Group 7. Zigic went on to score three goals; he has scored 16 goals in 42 appearances
Why is he so special? Zigic is more than just a hulking centre forward. He has a precise touch that can provide a crisp pass and a clean strike. Nevertheless, Zigic harnesses his stature, and all the strength provided through that solid frame, to manhandle smaller, weaker defenders.
His most famous moment: Zigic pushed around Spain's defence during a crucial 2006 World Cup qualifier and used his time on the ball to set up Mateja Kezman's important equalizer. The 1-1 draw put Serbia and Montenegro on a direct path to Germany.
He said it: "I don't know what the plans of my club are. But my desire is to go to England. I'm still a Valencia player, but I have to think about my future."
What they're saying about him: "Zigic brings a lot to each team. He is extremely helpful at every stage of the game, both in attack and in defence" — Radomir Antic, Serbian head coach
Here's an interesting fact: Zigic is the exact same height as English forward Peter Crouch, and the two could meet in a knockout round for a veritable clash of the titans.