Rebic’s ten-year journey from a small stadium in Slovenia comes full circle – he finally reaches UCL

By Oliver Fisher -

Not many members of the AC Milan squad have Champions League experience, and one of the players who will be making his debut in the competition is Ante Rebic.

The Gazzetta dello Sport writes how the Croatian will play in the Champions League exactly ten years after his first match in Europe back July 2011, when an 18-year-old Rebic entered during the second qualifying round against Domzale in Slovenia with half an hour to go.

That was his first taste of European football in a stadium with three thousand seats and after ten seasons he will hear that famous anthem at San Siro, hopefully in front of 80,000 people, while dreaming of the Bernabeu and Camp Nou. If you fancy having a bet on how the Rossoneri get on during their return to the Champions League, sites like SBOBET are ideal for having a flutter.

Rebic is one of the players who deserves to be part of Milan’s revival given the contributions he has made, with 4 goals and 3 assists in the last 10 games during 2019-20 and 5 goals in the final 10 games of last season, including the 12-minute hat-trick against Torino that allowed him to hit double figures in goals for the second straight season.

Rebic is regarded as one of Pioli’s more flexible elements. Naturally a left winger, he played 33 games (2072 minutes) this season with 19 in his favoured role and 14 as the centre-forward, never shying away from the challenge when asked to stand in for the often injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The 27-year-old found success in a similar way at Eintracht Frankfurt when he, Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller drove German and European defences crazy. “I attacked the depth, Luka scored and Seba won all the aerial duels,” Rebic remarked. He went to a Europa League semi-final in 2018-19 and lost to Chelsea after eliminating Benfica, Inter and Shakhtar.

Three years later, Ante is ready to play another high-level European season, his first in the Champions League and the second in the Rossoneri. Under the heading “European appearances” it says 23. A couple of these are also with Fiorentina in 2015, starting against Belenenses and Lech Poznan in the groups.

A journey that has taken him from that small pitch in Slovenia to playing in the best stadiums in the world in front of much bigger crowds. Rebic has been patient in his 10-year path, but now all the hard work is set to bear fruit.

There is one worry, though, and that is the fact that Rebic has struggled to perform in the respective first half of his two seasons at Milan. Not so much in terms of assists and clever play, but certainly goalscoring-wise.

In fact, 21 of his 22 league goals for the Rossoneri have all come in the second half of the season. It was understandable in the 2019-20 season, when he didn’t find space at the start, but the fans were hoping for an improvement this past season.

Although he was still an important player, he scored just one goal in the first half of the 2020-21 season. Hopefully, he will be able to break this trend next season with Champions League play in the bag.

Certainly, as has been highlighted in this article, we all know that Rebic works extremely hard for the team and it’s just a matter of getting into form as early as possible. A good run in the Euros with Croatia might give him the boost needed for pre-season.

Speaking of which, because of his participation Euros, he will inevitably join the Milan squad a tad later than the others. He’s not the only one as the likes of Mike Maignan, Simon Kjaer and Hakan Calhanoglu also will join later.

This might not be a bad thing for the former Eintracht Frankfurt man and of course, he will need the rest to be at his best once the season starts. And as said, that will have to be the sole focus after the Euros: getting into form quickly.

After all, the competition will be tougher for Rebic next season and Milan are expected to make some important signings this summer. While the left-hand side isn’t exactly a position that needs improving, the centre-forward role is another story.

And in a way, this could work out in the No.12’s favour as well, considering that his main position is on the left flank and not in the middle. This past season he was forced to play there due to injuries, but the upcoming term should be a different story and hopefully, a successful one.

READ MORE: Journalist highlights why Calhanoglu leading the way in chances created is misleading

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