From Nato bombings to Manchester United

Nemanja Vidic literally battled his way to the top

When Nemanja Vidic was just a boy he went through a three month period where his family could barely use their apartment because of air raids.  Now Vidic is captain of one of the biggest clubs in the world and seen as one of their most pivotal players.

Vidic was born in 1981, in what was known at the time as Yugoslavia, his nationality now, is that of Serbia.  In the period of 1991-1999 Serbia was involved in the Yugoslav wars which directly conflicted with Vidic’s youth.  When growing up, Vidic would have to endure air raid sirens, evacuations and bunkers and if it wasn’t for football, he could have ended up fighting in the war himself.

Vidic started playing football at the age of six by just kicking a ball around on the streets with his brother.  He played for local youth sides Jedinstvo Uzice and Slobodia Uzice until the age of 15 when he signed for Red Star Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and the largest city in the country.  By the time he was playing for Red Star Belgrade, Serbia was directly involved with the Balkan conflict.  Serbia was being bombed and under constant threat.  If you were not a student or a professional athlete, you were drafted into the army.

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Vidic had already had his medical tests for the army, but it wasn’t until signed paperwork from Red Star Belgrade arrived that he was saved from joining.  Proving that he was a footballer was probably the best move Vidic could have ever done, but that didn’t make his journey any easier.  Serbia tried to deploy an air of ‘carry on as normal’ during the war and this was even shown within games of football.  Belgrade itself was bombed, but luckily Vidic was away during this period.  However when speaking to The Daily Mail Vidic stated: “We’d wait until the planes had come and dropped their bombs before we came out on the pitch.  That was the worst moment, hearing the planes and knowing that they were coming to bomb the city.”

A country at war can have devastating effects on everything within it, people, society, economy and much more, but Vidic believes that war has made him a stronger person: “Any person that has bad times in their life, I think gets stronger after it, and obviously they learn to live in other ways.” (Setanta Sports)

“You have good things to enjoy and bad things to make you strong, and if it makes you stronger it’s good.”  Vidic certainly knows not to take things for granted, and he knows he is lucky to be in the position he is in.  This was re-affirmed, when at 20, best friend and playing partner Vladimir Dimitrijevic died on the pitch of a heart attack.

“We were inseparable,” Vidic said.

“We dreamed the same dreams.  When I play, I think about my friend.  Others didn’t make it.  I am lucky.  I reached the dreams I had.  I gave everything I had to be a professional footballer.”

It is clear to see that Vidic isn’t exactly the type of player to go out drinking heavily and get bad press.  This is partly because he has a family to look after, a wife and three kids to support, when Vidic plays, he does so for his life.

After Red Star Belgrade, Vidic secured a move to Spartak Moscow in July 2004.  Value around the deal was not disclosed but it was heavily rumored that he became the most expensive player in the Russian League’s history.  After two successful seasons Vidic was approached by Manchester United and then signed for a deal worth £7million in December 2005.

Since then, Vidic hasn’t looked back and has collected 14 honours for the Red Devils, including five Premier League titles.  Individually Vidic has won the Players’ Player of the Year award 2008-09, Barclays Player of the Year award 2008-09 and 2010-11, and has featured in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year four times 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11.  Vidic has become both a reliant and dependent centre back for Manchester United and when injured, it shows.

In recent seasons Vidic has been hampered by various injuries forcing him in and out of the side, and the stats confirm just how much he is missed.  In the last 60 appearances Vidic has the highest win percentage out of any other player with the figure of 72%.  In the 2011/12 season stats showed that when Manchester United had Vidic fit and able their win percentage was 80% and without him it was only 61.9%.  When someone on the team can make that much difference, they become a very important person indeed.

Since 2010 Vidic has captained the United side and with the leaky goal form they have been in this season, they will be looking to have their star man fit for the start of the 2013/14 season.  The last time Sir Alex Ferguson lifted the FA Cup was in 2004 and with the backing of the board and a healthy budget this summer it will be likely he will be going for more than just the one piece of silverware next season.

Vidic has been through the wars, literally, but has a good few seasons in him yet to lead Manchester United to more glory.

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