Marko Pantelić

Pantelić's position in a typical 2009/10 Ajax XI.

It’s unlikely anyone has a passport bearing more wrinkles than the Serbian striker’s.

Cravings for a long-term deal went unfulfilled by cash-strapped Ajax and leave the veteran hunting what would be his 12th club.

Changing team doesn’t just involve moving city for Pantelić, as the 31-year-old tends to combine a change of scenery with a change of country.

His passport has also been stamped in exotic climes while on international duty – summons which have only arrived in great frequency recently.

Capped 34 times, Pantelić has scored for his country in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Algeria, and South Africa.

Goals have also been scored in European club competition; outfits from Albania, Croatia, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Slovenia the victims.

Self-explanatory picture-cum joke. 1995-97 - Iraklis Thessaloniki//1997-98 - Paris SG//1998-99 - Lausanne//1999-00 - Celta Vigo//2000-01 - Sturm Graz//2001-02 - Yverdon Sport//2002 - Obilić Belgrade//2002-03 - Smederevo//2003-05 - Red Star//2005-09 - Hertha BSC//2009-10 - Ajax

But for one so keen to sample less glamorous leagues, his list of honours is surprisingly low. Gold medals from Dutch, Serbian and Swiss cups nestle alongside one for a Serbian league title on a sparse mantelpiece.

Similarly, Pantelić has accumulated a mere €2.25m in transfer fees over the course of a career: a figure to which Hertha BSC contributed €1.75m, and one that hints at his agent’s ability to slip in escape clauses.

The veteran’s CV wasn’t enhanced by World Cup 2010 appearances. A late goal against the Aussies can’t mask that anonymous one-half cameo against Ghana.

This let-down epitomises the true nature of a notoriously cocky chap: one who underwent knee surgery last season. These are just two reasons suitors may well clear, not to mention his lack of pace and lazy application of marking.

Prior to departing the Bundesliga, Hertha BSC were told to make him one of the league’s highest-paid players, and to guarantee the Serb a place on the club’s board upon retirement!

Arrogance, injuries, tortoise-speed and drifting nature aside, the ghost of a good player lingers in that six-foot shell.

In the last five seasons, four with Hertha and one with Ajax, Pantelić has scored 12, 16, 16, 15 and 24 goals respectively.

Raddy Antic's rather queer decision to field two hulking strikers against Ghana backfired. Presumably a move designed to match the physicality of the Africans, Pantelić's inability to function with less midfield support and a like-minded striker rendered him useless. The same happened when Jol included Sulejmani from the off against Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico.

It’s definitely worth noting that after relinquishing possession of the 31-year-old, Hertha’s reliance on goal-shy Colombian Adrián Ramos culminated in their relegation.

The aforequoted figures read as an admirable tally for any striker, let alone one primarily seen as a target-man. Still, many in his technical-player-producing homeland dismiss him as a mere workhorse.

Although Martin Jol didn’t over-abuse his attributes in this way, Pantelić’s back-to-goal presence in the Ajax system fed the talented and dynamic livewires in front of him.

It’s apparent that he thrives best as a lone-frontman. The one time Jol amended his 4-3-2-1 to 4-3-1-2 was an away tie at Juventus in the Europa League. Ajax drew a blank, and exited the competition.

As the 110-year-old club thrashed all and sundry in the Eredivisie, Pantelić’s selflessness, canny positional sense, reverse through-balls, and knock-downs allowed the likes of Rommedahl, Suárez, Emmanuelson and De Jong to thrive.

Currently, representative Nikola Dajmanac boasts Stevan Jovetić, Marko Marin, and Zvjezdan Misimović among his clientèle, so the Amsterdam-departing forward knows his name will be touted in the right circles.

A club of overwhelming calibre is unlikely to snap him up, but Pantelić has the credentials to join a lesser light in the English or Russian Premier League: a move granting him yet another league to tackle!


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