Confident table leader, well-known qualification for the round of 16 of the Champions League and the recent entry into the final of the ÖFB Cup: Red Bull Salzburg is a thing of the past this year. Right in the middle is Luka Sucic, who at the age of 19 is already one of the key players in the Mozart city team this season.
Luka Sucic is one of the key players in Salzburg.
Red Bull Salzburg via Getty Images
Luka Sucic symbolizes the sporting upheaval at Red Bull Salzburg last summer: young, ambitious, hardworking and dynamic. Since Matthias Jaissle took office, the 19-year-old midfielder has been part of the starting XI of the Austrian series champions and, with his calm and confident style of play, is one of the constants in the Mozartstadt squad. “It went fast for me (laughs). I found my feet in the first team relatively quickly and felt really comfortable there straight away. I was really well received by the players and of course that makes the task easier,” the youngster explained in an interview with kicker about his rapid integration into the professional team.
Champions Group – Matchday 26
At 16, Sucic signed his first professional contract in Salzburg, at 17 he made his debut in the second division for FC Liefering, and at 18 he made his first appearance in the Bundesliga. “It was my goal before the season to collect more scorer points than last year. It’s working now and I hope it will last for a long time,” Sucic is still as hungry and efficient as on the first day. Last season, he made his breakthrough under Jesse Marsch, played in 17 Bundesliga games, five ÖFB Cup games, three times in the Champions League and twice in the Europa League, after he had beaten the Salzburg youth team in the previous year almost single-handedly made it to the semi-finals in the UEFA Youth League with six goals and two assists in ten matches.
Junuzovic as an important mentor
The 19-year-old still had to internalize Salzburg’s system, which is designed for pressing: “My strengths are with the ball. I still have some catching up to do against the ball, but I’ve improved since I’ve been here. The coach always gives me tips and I try to make the best of it.” Even in Austria’s top division, Sucic has lost none of his offensive drive after an illness during winter preparations that put him out of action for a while he has contributed three goals in the past six league games.”I’m on the run right now and I hope it continues like this,” Sucic says, pleased about his nose for goals, for which he has no concrete explanation: “It’s hard to say. Maybe “It’s because I’m more offensive on the field at the moment. In general, I’m just happy that I can help the team.”
The fact that he has moved up from his traditional position in central midfield to the top ten behind the two leaders is due to Sucic, who sees his old strength in terms of fitness (“I’m fine again. I’m at 100 percent and I’m hoping that I remain injury-free and healthy”), extremely well: “I used to play there in the youth team and I like the position very much. But it’s up to the coach to decide where to put me. At the moment I feel very comfortable here.”
A professional who has particularly helped him with the integration is Zlatko Junuzovic. After his winning goal against SK Rapid last weekend, Sucic sprinted about 60 meters to celebrate with his mentor on the lawn about the first goal after a long absence: “He’s a very important person for me because he’s been with me for a long time always helped and always gave me tips on what I could improve. We were just happy for him as a whole team. He deserved it after the long injury break to come back and score the decisive goal. Everyone is just happy for him.”
Educational time in the Champions League
But not only in the league, where they set a new point record after the regular season and are currently clearly leading the championship group with twelve points ahead of Sturm Graz, but also internationally they provided some highlights this season. They took second place in a strong Champions League group and qualified for the knockout stage for the first time, where they ended up being beaten by German record champions Bayern Munich.
“The first game was really crazy with the four penalties. It was an unbelievable Champions League season for us. That’s what you dream of as a young player, to be on the pitch in games like that. You can learn something from every professional there , regardless of whether it’s the orientation towards the goal or the way they distribute the balls. That’s incredible. Now we want to fix the title and then attack again next year, “Sucic enthuses about the performances in the premier class, where you don’t only the youngest head coach, but also the youngest team of all participating teams.
To still be playing at this level at 36 is just unbelievable. It’s my goal to do that at some point.
Luka Sucic about his role model Luka Modric
A factor that will benefit Salzburg this season, as the 19-year-old from Linz says: “You can say that. We young players have known each other for a long time from our academy days and from FC Liefering, so this year it made it even easier to get together as a team quickly.” With just one particular defeat in league operations, you show yourself of one in general this season constant side. That’s no coincidence, as Sucic explains: “We can count on all the players here. Not only the starting eleven, but also the players who come off the bench are always ready and always call for their performance. That draws us as a team.”
With the takeover of Matthias Jaissle (“He gives me a lot of trust, which is very important as a young player. This allows you to play freely”) Sucic also made the breakthrough at the beginning of the current season, after having previously worked through all of the Mozartstadt academy teams in the Austrian Bundesliga. A few people were special mentors in his process of becoming a regular player in the upper house, says Sucic: “Basically, every coach I’ve had so far has helped me on my way and I’m very grateful for that. Of course there are a few names like Alexander Zickler, Bo Svensson and Matthias Jaissle, who looked after me in the U18s, who have helped me in particular in my development.”
Luka Modric as a role model
Through his convincing performances – among other things, he made his debut for the Croatian national team last October alongside his idols Luka Modric (“To still play at this level at the age of 36 is simply unbelievable. It is my goal to to be able to do that at some point”) – the 19-year-old midfielder also attracted the interest of the top European club. This is what the four-time U-21 team player for Croatia (four goals), who still has a valid contract with Salzburg until 2025, is dealing with, but not at the moment: “I’m not thinking about a change at all at the moment. I feel good here in Salzburg, I have everything I need for my development and am only flexible in my head for my task here.
One thing is clear: Sucic is still pursuing big goals in his career and definitely wants to make it into one of the top five leagues. One of them would particularly appeal to him: “In terms of my playing style, the Spanish league is tailor-made for me. I can imagine playing at some point in the future.”