International Wanderers: Sasa Curcic

Shaun Botterill /Allsport

Oh this is going to be a good'un

Sasa Curcic was born in February 1972 in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia, which for the kids reading this was a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia along with two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina and Kosovo.

He spent his formative years playing youth football for various clubs, including 25.Maj Kovilovo, Pionir Besni Fok, Trudbenik and finally OFK Beograd, where he turned professional in 1991, a year before the dissolution of Yugoslavia into its component nations.

Towards the end of 1990/91 season while the club played in the Yugoslav Second League under coach Ilija Petković, making three appearances without troubling the score keepers. In an interesting move, the Yugoslav First Division admitted OFK Beograd to the league despite them not winning promotion the year before. The withdrawl of Slovenian and Croatian sides following the break-up of Yugoslavia left space for OFK and Curcic to play at a higher level.

That season proved to be his breakout year, as he starred during his 24 appearances for the club. He was given his international debut in October 1991 in an away game against Brazil by head coach Ivica Osim.

He continued to improve during the 1992/93 season with 3 goals from 32 league appearances and earned himself a move to Yugoslav champions Partizan Belgrade (from whom Bolton Wanderers would sign Medo Kamara in 2013).

Coached by Ljubiša Tumbaković who I'm sure you'll all be aware of as the most successful coach in Partizan's history, Curcic found a team in transition. Star players such as Predrag Mijatović, Vujadin Stanojković and Zlatko Zahovič left meaning that Curcic became an important player, and quickly. He responded with a fine overall season contributing to another title for Partizan. The following season brought more attention to Curcic thanks to his excellent performances.

He began the 1995/96 season at Partizan but in October 1995 after 10 league matches left to join English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers. At £1.5m he became our joint record signing alongside Gerry Taggart, and left Partizan to join up with his new teammates under the now infamous joint managerial team of Colin Todd and Roy McFarland.

Curcic made his Bolton debut in October 1995 against Arsenal, and soon settled into the centre of midfield. He scored his first goal in English football during a League Cup replay at Leicester City, whilst later that month he scored his first in league with a fantastic individual goal versus Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

At the time of Curcic arrival, Bolton found themselves at the bottom of the table, and despite his fantastic personal form, the club was relegated. The season was a success for Curcic on an individual note, as he hit an impressive 7 goals from 33 appearances in all competitions. Indeed, following a 3-0 FA Cup third round win away at Bradford City on 6 January 1996 where Curcic scored two goals, opposing team's manager Chris Kamara called Curcic - "a Serbian George Best". We all know that Chris Kamara isn't given over to hyperbole. High praise indeed.

In addition to playing at a high level, Curcic also established himself as a fan favourite, all of which made his departure from the club all the more emotional, and not only for this writer. Not fancying playing football in the First Division, he joined Aston Villa for £4 million.

Now here is where I'll divert to a personal tale. The 13 year old me loved Curcic . He was my favourite player. On the day he left, my Dad spoke to me and the conversation went thusly:

Dad: "Who is your favourite Bolton player?"

Me: "Sasa, why?"

Dad: "OK, who is your favourite Villa player?"

Me: "erm Dwight Yorke, why?"

Dad: "OK, so who is your favourite Bolton player?"

Me: "NO!"

Dad: "Yep"

Me: "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"

Cruel, I know you'll agree.

However, what cheered me up afterwards was that the move to Aston Villa was a failure for Curcic . He made a meagre 22 appearances in his first year at the club, as he struggled with form. Indeed, in early January 1998, he labelled his move from Bolton to Villa "the biggest mistake I've made in my life" and publicly demanded that he be placed on the transfer list.

Although he made up with club management soon after, it would not be long before relations became frosty again. Curcic would go on to make only 7 league appearances, mostly as a sub, in addition to a few UEFA Cup outings for Villa. His foe, Brian Little resigned in February 1998, but things did not change for Sasa under new manager John Gregory.

By most, Curcic's time at Villa is better remembered for his party lifestyle and erratic behaviour than anything football related. Indeed in interviews since he has admitted to habitual drug use. A favourite story of mine was his purchase of a double-decker bus, which he used to throw parties.

I took some pleasure, I seem to recall, in reading a list of 50 worst Premier League transfers of all time, which listed his move from Bolton Wanderers to Aston Villa prominently.

In March 1998 he was sold to Crystal Palace for £1 million, representing a £3m loss in just two years.

He made an immediate impact in London with his form returning. He showed qualities that made him a favourite with the fans, but his application to Palace's fight against relegation at times was questionable. The club were relegated to the Football League, whilst Saša remained at the club.

It was around this time that he really started to demonstrate his eccentricity to a wider audience. In 1999 he walked a lap around the Selhurst Park pitch with the Yugoslav flag in order to protest against the ongoing NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. This and a series of underwhelming performances, including one at the Reebok Stadium where I remember someone throwing a pie at his head, he was released and went on to join MLS side MetroStars, then coached by compatriot Bora Milutinović.

His time in America was no more successful, however. The team had a disastrous season, at one point losing seven matches in a row, and 13 out of 14. Not even some reasonable performances from Ćurčić could save the season that turned out to be the worst recorded by any club in MLS history.

In March 2000, Curcic joined Scottish side Motherwell. He only made five appearances for the club, before returning home to sign for Obilić Belgrade.

In an interview on Sky Sports in April 2001, Curcic who just turned 29 years of age stated that he had retired from football.

In a memorable quote upon retirement, he said

'I would not sign for another club, not even if I was offered 15 million dollars. However, it would be different if they were to instead offer me 15 different women from all around the world. I would tell the club chairman: 'Please let me make these women happy - I will satisfy them like they have never been satisfied before'.

As you do.

Curcic international football career spanned seven years during the 1990s. Interestingly, this international career both started and ended with away friendlies against Brazil. In total he made fourteen appearances, scoring once.

Upon retirement, On 5 May 2007, Curcic entered, and won, the Serbian Celebrity Big Brother TV show. In September 2009, he appeared on the Serbian version of "The Farm", but left before he had to interfere with any pigs. He was rumoured to have been invited to take part in the British version of Celebrity Big Brother in 2000 though has since denied this was ever likely to happen.

In February 2011 Curcic went on yet another reality show in Serbia. This time it was Parovi - the programme featuring couples that live in a big house for a few months while competing for a money prize - which he entered with his girlfriend. His time on the show was marked by drunken outbursts and insult-laced tirades directed at a wide variety of public figures in Serbia, culminating in an on-air physical altercation with a rapper. As a result Curcic was kicked off the show.

Ladies and gentlemen, Sasa Curcic. Football genius, and mentalist.

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