Djordje Mihailovic’s European adventure gets underway in the new year, joining AZ Alkmaar from CF Montréal.
But the 23-year-old US international may not be long for staying in the Eredivisie, at least in the opinion of midfield partner Victor Wanyama. Mihailovic is reportedly one of AZ’s most expensive all-time transfers, projecting as a key piece at the historic Holland top-flight side in 2023 and beyond.
“For me, that was the best move, it was a smart move [because] you need to build,” Wanyama said on Extratime. “You need to go up and then when you’re up there you don’t have enough game time and then you can only come down. For me, it gets him a good move and from there I think he will kill it.
“I give him a season to figure things out, another season to fly. Within those two years, we’ll see Djordje in bigger leagues again. We see him in the Premier League or we see him in the Bundesliga, a big team, or in Spain, a big team.
“He has that talent and whoever made that decision for him to go first to Holland, it was a smart move. I think he will do well there and he will have a lot to learn there. The league is very good.”
Extratime: Victor Wanyama full interview
Wanyama’s stamp of approval comes after spending over a decade in Europe, starting at Belgium’s Beerschot before progressing to Scotland’s Celtic and then England’s Southampton and Tottenham. The 31-year-old former Kenya captain moved to MLS in 2020, joining just ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic escalating.
Mihailovic, however, isn’t the only Montréal player impressing the central midfielder. He also highlighted Canadian international Ismael Kone as someone with a bright future, after the 20-year-old reportedly nearly joined English Championship side Norwich City this summer.
“For me, it’s not a coincidence he’s been one of the hottest prospects in MLS and everyone in Europe is watching him and they want to get his signature,” Wanyama said of Kone, who’s in his second MLS season. “He’s a guy that needed time and he needed a bit of time to know how to play. Now he’s done that, he’s really matured.
“He’s playing his football like he has 10 years experience or something. You can see how he plays in the league now. He understands everything and he knows what to do. For me, he’s also not going to stay here for long.”
Players like Mihailovic and Kone leave Wanyama bullish on MLS’s future, becoming a greater force on the international transfer market as the level of play continually rises.
“The league, to be honest, has improved a lot,” Wanyama said. “We see younger players going to Europe, doing well here and then going to Europe. We see some of the European [guys] signing over here when they’re still young. Every team is now investing in young players and these young players, they’ve brought something into the league. They’ve made the league better.”
Wanyama’s perspective comes with Montréal sitting second in the Eastern Conference standings, well on track for an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs return as they make strides under second-year head coach Wilfried Nancy. But CFM aren’t getting too eager just yet.
“We want to be humble,” Wanyama said. “We are doing well, yes, but we don’t want to be ahead of ourselves. We just want to take game by game and make sure we can be in the playoffs. Because you know MLS, it’s crazy.”
For more from Extratime, check out their latest episode here.