‘Deki’, or better known as Dejan Stankovic, is one name that is unforgettable on the blue side of San Siro.
After spending almost a decade at Internazionale and a part of the historic treble winning team, he retired from club football at the start of the season, thereby pulling curtains over his illustrious career.
The one thing that the football fans will be devoid of is his long range screamers. He retired from international football last week, with his last game coming against Japan.
A part of the Red-Star Belgrade youth system, he rose to prominence when he made a switch to Inter Milan in 2004 and thus, became a part of the team that was about to create history. At the San Siro club, he won 15 major trophies (5 Serie A titles, 4 Coppa italia, 4 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 UCL and 1 Club World Cup) including a treble in 2009-10.
After having started his professional footballing career with Red-Star Belgrade, he was quick to break into the first team and it was his consistent performances on the pitch that not only made him a fan favourite but eventually the captain of the side at an age of 19 (the youngest ever to captain Red Star Belgrade).
His versatility at the heart of the midfield coupled up with his accurate passing and creativity had started receiving plaudits for him and no sooner Lazio latched on to the opportunity of signing him for a fee supposed to be close to $ 11 mn.
At the Roman side, he faced very tough competition to break into the first side that boasted themselves of a star studded midfield comprising of the likes of Pavel Nedved, Diego Simeone, Matias Almeyda and Juan Sebastian Veron. But soon he managed to break into the first team and formed a formidable partnership with the others thereby, forming one of the best midfield in the entire Europe. At the Eternal City he did manage to win the Scudetto of 1999-00 season.
He made another high profile transfer to the Serie A rivals of Lazio to Inter Milan in 2004-05. At that point of time Inter Milan was struggling to pose any challenge to the Scudetto. He hardly took any time to show his importance at the Milan side.
Under Mancini, he flourished as one of the top midfielders in Serie A. Soon, after the Calciopoli scandal, Inter started becoming a strong force in domestic competitions by winning Serie A in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and Coppa Italia in 2004-05 and 2005-06 respectively.
However, it was Europe where they struggled a great deal and exited in the knock-out rounds at UCL. That also saw a change in management at the club when Mancini was replaced by Mourinho.
Also under Mourinho, he again became an irreplaceable player in the midfield. But with the arrivals of Wesley Sneijder and Thiago Motta, he found his game time limited and only played as a back-up to the first team players.
It was during this time that his club started performing well at the Europe also. With their win against Bayern Munich at Bernabeu, Inter Milan completed a treble. It was a decade when Inter Milan dominated Italian football winning 5 Serie A titles, and Dejan Stankovic was a part of it after he rejected a move to Juventus before making a switch to Inter Milan.
After the departure of Mourinho, Inter Milan struggled to reach to the same heights and constant injuries had seen him sidelining out of the game for greater periods. It was in the beginning of this season that he eventually decided to get released from Inter Milan after spending close to a decade at the club.
His international career is equally illustrious. He represented the national side for 103 games including two FIFA World Cups and scored 15 goals for them.
Stankovic will always be remembered not only at Inter Milan but also at Lazio and Red Star Belgrade. He was a born winner and will always be regarded as one of the best known midfielders in Europe of the last decade.Published 18 Oct 2013, 13:38 IST