Gabriel Vidovic is on the cusp of a first team breakthrough at Bayern Munich but what else makes the young Croatian tick and how similar is he to Lionel Messi, Luka Modric and Neymar - his greatest footballing inspirations?
Born in Augsburg on 1 December 2003, Vidovic made his early footballing forays with the Fuggerstädter before joining the Bayern youth setup in the summer of 2016. His ties to the Swabian city are strong and Vidovic still lives in Augsburg with his family, with a club driver collecting him for the 75-mile round-trip four times a week. Vidovic currently balances his football with his studies and has long days ahead of him that centre on that hike to and from the FC Bayern Campus. "I'm at school in the morning, until about 3pm," he said previously. "So at 3.30pm I go to training and in the evening around 9pm I'm home again."
Having been quickly moved up from the U17s in 2019/20 and to the U19s in 2020/21, Vidovic has caught the eye in Bayern's reserves in 2021/22. The 18-year-old is the team's top scorer with a whopping 21 goals, while he has added a further 10 assists in just 30 appearances. That form led to first team head coach Julian Nagelsmann inviting Vidovic to train with the senior squad a number of times, and the teenager made his first senior Bayern matchday squad in the Champions League round of 16 first leg away to Red Bull Salzburg in March 2022 - a month after he penned a new deal that extended his contract with the reigning Bundesliga champions until June 2025.
Vidovic then became the 11th Croatian to represent Bayern and surpassed fellow German-Croatian upstart Josip Stanisic as Bayern's youngest Croat when he made his professional debut against Arminia Bielefeld on Matchday 30 of 2021/22. Stanisic was also on the pitch at the time to welcome Vidovic into the fold as the latter played the final minute of the game. He was then given more minutes as he came on as a 67th minute sub against Mainz on Matchday 32. More matchdays and more time with the first team awaits, with Vidovic turning professional with Bayern on 1 July 2022.
Plays a bit like: Luka Modric
Vidovic is crystal clear when asked who his biggest inspiration is. "Modric is my role model, and I absorb his every move," he told Croatian website Tportal.hr in July 2021. "Of course, he's my idol among Croatian players, and Nikola Vlasic is right behind him. However, he's still younger, so I'm still following Modric."
And while Modric now patrols a deeper role, Vidovic's technical ability, poetic dribbling, vision and eye for goal do draw similarities to that of a younger Modric that played further up the pitch. When you consider Vidovic's prowess in front of goal for Bayern's second string - and ability to play anywhere from a six to a 10 - it also make sense that his other inspirations find the back of the net more regularly than Modric.
"Messi and Neymar," he said of his more global muses, although the youngster's admiration for them will never reach the same height as the regard he holds Modric in. "However, although they are world stars, they are still behind Modric."
Did you know?
Gabriel's father, Zoran, was his first coach and Vidovic Sr. made Bayern wait until his own tutelage was finished before the club could sign his son.
"I started playing football as a child, because my dad also coached football, so I went to training with him. I loved it. I went to the club for the first time when I was six years old," said Vidovic Jr in the same interview with Tportal.hr.
"[Bayern's first contact was] when I was nine, 10-years-old. They called me back then, but I was still too young, so I stayed in Augsburg. After that, they called me two more times, so Dad said when I was 12 and a half: 'Obviously they really want you, when they call for the third time.' So then I became a Bayern player."
What they're saying
"He's an outstanding football player; he's our future!" - Bayern coach Nagelsmann
"Gabriel Vidovic is a player with terrific technical skills who provides a big scoring threat from between the lines. He's been playing for us for six years, he received the best training at the FC Bayern Campus and now it's time for him to take the next step in the first team." - Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic
"I'm very happy to have the confidence of the club and I'd like to thank everybody at FC Bayern who has supported me up to now. I know this is a small step initially, but I will do all I can to be able to play for FC Bayern for a long time." - Vidovic after signing his new contract at the club in March 2022
"It's a big leap from the fourth tier to the Bundesliga, but the club need to set an example that the pathway is there. Vidovic is a player who can make that step, and then start producing at the top level." - Former Bayern captain Lothar Matthäus
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