Ivan Perisic: Scored Sensational Late Equaliser For Borussia Dortmund Against Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League
Borussia Dortmund star Ivan Perisic laid down a marker on his debut on the biggest stage in club football, with a stunning equaliser against Premier League giants Arsenal in Group F of the UEFA Champions League.
The 22-year-old Croatian scored a sensational first-time volley in the 88th minute to secure a 1-1 draw for his side at the atmospheric Westfalenstadion. Robin Van Persie had already given the Gunners the lead.
Perisic had a brilliant season for Club Brugge in 2010-11, and was snapped up by Dortmund for just £5million.
It was a bargain of a fee, and quite a coup for Die Schwarzgelben, emphasised by the fact they wasted little time in tying him to a five-year deal on 23 May, just six days after the Belgian League ended.
He's also had representatives of PSV Eindhoven, Ajax, Hamburg SV and RSC Anderlecht follow him since he started his career as a 17-year-old at Ligue 1 club FC Sochaux, fielding comparisons to the great David Beckham.
Ivan Perisic scored 22 goals in 37 games for Club Brugge last season, making him the top scorer in the Jupiler League. He also contributed 10 assists, and won the Player of the Year award in Belgium.
The most impressive thing about this however, is that he did it as a winger, and scored a diverse range of goals.
His positional sense can be compared to that of Javier Hernandez, with several of his goals coming as he drifts into the penalty area past the unsuspecting fullback to finish at the far post from close range.
He's also scored quite a few goals from the near post, cutting in front of the defender.
Quite often, Perisic is in the right place at the right time, as he proved against Arsenal in the Champions League.
The Croat also combines his positioning with his tall stature very well, with four scoring headers an attesting to his aerial ability.
He's also a player who knows how to beat fullbacks, both with and without the ball, as most of his goals came from ghosting past the defender to tap or head home crosses.
On top of that, Perisic also has a proven knack for the spectacular, following up that brilliant Champions League goal with three stunning free-kick goals last season, again leading to comparisons with Beckham.
But it's not just the goals themselves that makes Perisic so impressive. His goals were scored at an almost equal ratio of right-footed and left-footed efforts.
So unlike Dimitar Berbatov for example, who scored in big clumps and against lesser teams, i.e. his five-goal haul against Blackburn Rovers, Perisic scored in almost half the overall matches his team played.
And he rose to the occasion by scoring against KRC Genk, RSC Anderlecht and Standard Liege, all teams who finished above Club Brugge in the table.
Given freedom to cut inside from the wing, Perisic flourished, making a 46 percent contribution to his team's goal tally in the Championship Playoffs, and a 27 percent contribution in the regular league.
But he also proved he has great ability as a winger too, making 10 assists from crosses and set-pieces.
A proven all-round attacker, Perisic improved greatly after being given a more important role in the team, having scored 13 goals the previous season, and making 13 assists.
His overall stats and performances may not seem amazing considering he did it all in the Belgian top flight, but the league is 13th in the UEFA Coefficient, four places above the Scottish Premier League, and better than the top leagues of Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Israel, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria among many others, countries which all have regular Champions League and Europa League competitors.
Compared to the £20million Chelsea signing, Romelu Lukaku, Perisic was the better player, scoring six more goals, making three more assists, and all in a less advanced role and fewer matches.
Therefore, it's clear to see why Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp was so keen to snap up the talented winger, and why Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was also interested in him.
When Shinji Kagawa joined Dortmund for £350,000 last summer, with lesser stats and track record than Perisic, nobody knew who he was. Six months later, he had the whole of Europe talking about him.
After managing to significantly raise the profiles of Kagawa, Nuri Sahin, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lucas Barrios, there's no reason to think Klopp won't do the same with Perisic.
A shining star in Belgium last season, this campaign could well be the one which turns Ivan Perisic into a European superstar.