“33 clean sheets with Savic at the back! That makes Leicester's miracle season look like an everyday occurrence!” noted a Manchester City fan on Twitter upon looking at Atletico’s defensive record with Stefan Savic as one of its components.
That was the general sentiment when you mentioned Savic after his spell with Manchester City. He was awkward, clumsy, stiff, prone to errors and every other pejorative term you can attach to a central defender.
His transformation under Diego Simeone, however, has been nothing short of miraculous.
It’s one thing for an attacking player, who has the talent but not the application, to recover and come good a little later in their career. For a central defender prone to error, however, it was going take some top man-management and a psychological mastermind to turn his career around.
Savic has started every game for los Rojiblancos in La Liga this season to date and has become the first choice central defender beside Diego Godin at the back for Cholo Simeone; It is also worth noting that he is keeping out a player who many believe will become one of the best in the world at the position in Jose Gimenez and Lucas Hernandez who has the capacity to do likewise.
It might seem an impossible task to look tough beside a player like Diego Godin but Savic has done that without committing himself to simply being a bruiser. His positioning has improved and his ability to keep his cool under pressure is another point that strikes upon watching the Montenegrin operate in recent times.
At 25 now, and with plenty of time to come before his prime, it seems Savic is blossoming under Diego Simeone, as many players are wont to do.
Savic arrived during the summer after the 2014-15 season and cost Atletico €25 million from Fiorentina, a price that many clubs most likely balked at. He was supposed to simply be a back-up but given the system he plays in and its reliance on defending like an old school central defender, he has surpassed all expectations.
Despite enjoying three good years Fiorentina, the former Manchester City player is winning more tackles at present per 90 minutes and completing more blocks than at any point in the last five years.
It is a small sample size but he impressed last year when given the opportunity and with the confidence he has surely gained by becoming one of Simeone’s first choice defenders, there is plenty of room for growth.
If Diego Simeone does happen to leave in the next year or two and the current band breaks up, expect plenty of offers for Savic as he rebuilds his reputation in the spotlight of the Vicente Calderon and European football nights.