Liverpool linked with Roma's Miralem Pjanic but who is midfielder billed as Steven Gerrard replacement?
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 20/02/15 8:26am
Liverpool have been linked with £37m-rated Miralem Pjanic but who is the man touted as Steven Gerrard's replacement?
Brendan Rodgers jetted to Europe last week for a 'club-related meeting' and was spotted outside the Vatican building in Rome.
The Reds boss reportedly held talks with Roma director of football Walter Sabatini during his trip to the Italian capital but could Bosnian pass-master Pjanic - under contract until 2018 - really be the man to fill the boots of departing skipper Gerrard? We take a closer look at his credentials...
Place of birth: Tuzla, SFR Yugoslavia
National team: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nickname: The Painter
Miralem Pjanic was born in former Yugoslavia but he and his family moved to Luxembourg shortly before the outbreak of war in his homeland, the youngster joining Schifflange 95.
It was not long before Pjanic attracted admiring glances from abroad and aged just 14, he signed for Metz in France.
Three years later, after impressing in the club’s youth academy, Pjanic was handed his first-team bow during the 2007/08 season, going on to play 32 games and score four times in Ligue 1 that campaign.
Pjanic soon became one of the first names on the Metz team sheet, his form at the Stade Municipal earning him both a Ligue 1 Player of the Year nomination and a £5.5m move to Lyon that summer, despite interest from Barcelona.
“I went to Barcelona, the negotiations were very fair and they made us a specific offer," his father Fahrudin revealed in an interview with the Guardian in 2009. "But it was a turbulent time for the club after (coach Frank) Rijkaard had left and I thought it wasn't smart for an 18-year-old to go to Barcelona at such a time."
But after replacing fans’ favourite Juninho Pernambucano in central midfield in the summer of 2009 following the Brazilian’s departure from the Stade de Gerland - helping Lyon to the 2009-10 Champions League semi-finals on the way - Pjanic asked to leave the club at the end of that season after losing his starting place in the team to Yoann Gourcuff.
Roma paid £8.5m to bring Pjanic to the Stadio Olimpico in the summer of 2010 and although the Bosnian took time to adjust to life in Serie A, he had become a key member of coach Rudi Garcia’s lineup come the 2013/14 campaign.
In the mould of Juventus veteran Andrea Pirlo, Pjanic has thrived in the Italian capital as a deep-lying playmaker.
The 24-year-old is capable of playing in the No 10 role but is far more effective at the base of midfield, where his accurate long-range passing can best be utilised.
He boasts a 91 per cent pass completion rate this term, according to Opta, has created 43 goalscoring chances and found the back of the net three times himself in 21 appearances.
Technically accomplished, too, he is also a more-than-useful set-play exponent.
"I've been taking them for a long time, practising every day," Pjanic, while at Lyon, said about honing his free-kick technique.
"I am a midfielder and it is important for me to have that quality, too. I have to have the power to score from the free-kicks.
“But I am aware that I have to learn more, to be more dangerous. My free-kicks have to be a strength of my team, so that everybody who plays against us is scared when we take them."
Pjanic might be nicknamed 'The Painter' for his creativity - no player crafted more than his 12 goalscoring chances during the group stages of last summer's World Cup.
But with more than 50 caps for Bosnia and Herzegovina he appears to have the experience and temperament to take on the tough task of trying to succeed Gerrard - a player he recently described as "one of the best and most complete in the world".
Roma president last month again played down reports Pjanic could be on his way, insisting: "The Liverpool thing with Pjanic is the same. We have another four years with him, and we love him."
It seems Liverpool would have to make a huge offer - in fee and wages - to lure one of Serie A's shining lights.