Alexandar Popovic impressed Adelaide United manager Carl Veart and the young defender is only just starting.
Carl Veart played alongside first-class defenders in the defunct national football league, but has now discovered a potential gem as manager of Adelaide United.
Since making his debut against Western Sydney in February, Alexandar Popovic’s rise under Veart has been impressive.
Veart described the 20-year-old center-back as a true defender.
It’s an art form the former Socceroos forward was accustomed to during the happy days in Adelaide City, when teammates like Milan Ivanovic and legendary national team captain Alex Tobin became Australia’s most feared stoppers.
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“Alex (Popovic), I’ve known him for a long time and he just needs games,” Veart said.
“In the last two or three years he has had a bad streak of injuries, even a bad streak of concussions and he needs more playing time, more minutes in his legs.
“He is a quality young defender and throughout his youth career he is one of the best defenders I have ever seen in youth football.
“Just his defensive work and his organization and we’re starting to see it blossom.”
Popovic has played six times this season.
Adelaide kept a clean sheet four times in the lead in the final with the tall defender defending.
Popovic is rarely agitated and remains calm in the most delicate situations.
Veart sees this unique trait as the focus of development in recent times across the earth seemed to be focused on producing an excess of wings more than any other position on the pitch.
“We embarked on a path with the national curriculum where we wanted to develop more attacking players and more players who could play football,” said Veart.
“And the art of defending, of hitting the head, of being strong in one-on-one (situations) has gone a little aside.
“So it’s a pleasure to have a young defender coming in and doing so well.
“We are still at the beginning, he still has to get back on his feet and be able to back up and play and perhaps now is the longest streak he has put together in the last three or four years.”
With veteran Michael Jakobsen set to get back in full shape and George Timotheou and Jacob Tratt also in the mix for the next game, Popovic could be hard to remove from the starting 11 when the Reds host Western United on Sunday.
A win over John Aloisi’s side would see Adelaide finish their regular season in fourth place and host a final elimination.
Originally published as “He is a quality young defender”: Carl Veart impressed with young Red Alexandrar Popovic