Mihailovic was instrumental in Montréal’s ability to remain in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs contention last season, scoring four goals and finishing second in MLS with 16 assists. If he can build on that in 2022, both Charlie Davies and David Gass agree he could be playing in Europe sooner than later.
“Where he needs to improve is shot selection,” Davies said. “So he had 59 shots but only 15 were on target. You’ve got to be a little bit better with that. Because as a midfielder, when you’re controlling the game, you can not give up possession in taking the wrong shot, making the wrong choice.
“ … And then for me, it’s the strength on the ball. Sometimes it looks like when things do get physical, he shuts down. There are times when I’ve seen him, when he gets in a groove, teams can come and get under his skin and then you start to see him disappear slowly within the game.”
Perhaps Mihailovic is already making those steps forward, Gass countered. After spending part of the offseason training with Montréal's sister club Bologna in Italy’s Serie A, he opened his competitive campaign in 2022 leading Montréal’s impressive Round of 16 Concacaf Champions League series victory over Santos Laguna.
With a goal, an assist and five key passes, Mihailovic was the clear man of the match in Leg 2, a 3-0 Montréal win propelling the Canadian side to a 3-1 triumph on aggregate.
“It felt like he was physically bossing Liga MX players, high-level players,” Gass said. “It felt like he had that moment where he went over and trained with Bologna in the offseason and was like, yeah ... whatever I’m good at, I can do it against anyone.”
That doesn’t mean a European move is a given, even if that development continues. After time out of favor earlier in his career at Chicago Fire FC, Mihailovic may appreciate remaining at a club where he knows he is a leader and regular contributor. And Montréal may find he’s more valuable in that role than as a transfer chip slightly older than most of the other players who have recently made a move to Europe out of MLS.
“At some point teams need to build around something,” Gass said of Mihailovic, who turns 24 this November. “And so I am curious what a 24-year-old, maybe-not-on-the-national-team Djordje Mihailovic looks like on the market, and what that’s worth to Montréal versus having him in your team.
“ … It’s interesting because Djordje didn’t play in Chicago, so he kind of knows that experience of like, if he goes to a European team, that’s not guaranteed time. How does he handle that? What does that experience look like? Does he prefer being the guy somewhere? I think all of these are conversations we shouldn’t ignore just because teams are spending money in Europe for Americans.”
Mihaolovic is in the midst of his sixth season in the league and second with Montréal. He has recorded 11 goals and 30 assists in 108 regular-season appearances since debuting with Chicago as a homegrown player.