Nikola Žigić

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Nikola Žigić
Zigic vs Antwerp.jpg
With Birmingham City in 2012 pre-season
Personal information
Full name Nikola Žigić[1]
Date of birth (1980-09-25) 25 September 1980 (age 34)
Place of birth Bačka Topola, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 2.02 m (6 ft 7 12 in)[2]
Playing position Centre forward
Club information
Current team
Birmingham City
Number 19
Youth career
1991–1998 AIK Bačka Topola
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1998–2001 AIK Bačka Topola 76 (68)
2001–2002 Mornar 23 (15)
2002 Kolubara 8 (3)
2003–2006 Red Star Belgrade 79 (47)
2003 Spartak Subotica (loan) 11 (14)
2006–2007 Racing Santander 32 (11)
2007–2010 Valencia 28 (5)
2009 Racing Santander (loan) 19 (13)
2010–2014 Birmingham City[a] 128 (32)
2014– Birmingham City 9 (0)
National team
2004–2011 Serbia 57 (20)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 11:55, 5 May 2015 (UTC).
† Appearances (Goals).

Nikola Žigić (Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Жигић, IPA: [nǐkola ʒǐːɡit͡ɕ]; born 25 September 1980) is a Serbian footballer who plays as a centre forward for Birmingham City. At 2.02 m (6 ft 7 12 in),[2][3] Žigić is among the tallest professional players in the world.

Žigić started his career in the youth academy at AIK Bačka Topola in 1991, and joined the senior side in 1998. During his time at the club, he scored 68 goals in 76 league matches, before leaving in 2001 for Mornar. He spent one season at Mornar, scoring 15 goals in 23 league games, before switching to Kolubara in 2002, scoring 3 goals in 8 league games. A brief spell at Spartak Subotica in 2003 followed, where he scored 14 goals in 11 league games. He joined First League of Serbia and Montenegro side Red Star Belgrade in 2003, and made 110 appearances for them, scoring 71 goals. A move to Spain in August 2006 followed, with Žigić joining La Liga side Racing Santander. He spent a single season at Santander, scoring 11 goals in 33 games, before signing for La Liga side Valencia in August 2008. He scored 14 goals in 46 games, but was rarely the first choice striker, and he spent most of the 2008–09 season on loan to Racing Santander, scoring 13 goals in 19 games during his second spell at the club. Žigić joined Premier League club Birmingham City in 2010. In his first season, he scored in Birmingham's League Cup win, and despite their relegation to the Championship, remained with the club for a further three years until his contract expired.

He made his senior international debut for Serbia and Montenegro in June 2005, and has since won 57 caps for his country, scoring 20 goals. He was part of both the 2006 FIFA World Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup squads, and briefly captained his country in 2011. Following the breakup of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006, he played internationally for Serbia until 2011.

Personal life[edit]

Žigić was born in Bačka Topola, in what was then SFR Yugoslavia, the son of Jovan, a former footballer, and his wife Milica. His younger brother Branko also became a footballer,[4] most recently for Serbian First League club Proleter Novi Sad.[5] During the Yugoslav Wars in 1999, Žigić's hometown was beneath the flight-path of NATO bombers heading for Belgrade; for much of that part of the conflict, the family home was without electricity or running water.[6]

Žigić is married to Sanja;[6] the couple have two daughters.[7]

Club career[edit]

Early career[edit]

He joined his hometown football club, AIK Bačka Topola, as a youngster, and graduated to the senior side in 1998–99.[2] A growth spurt from the age of 16 eventually brought his height to 2.02 m (6 ft 7 12 in), provoking suggestions that he might be better suited to basketball.[4][8] He began as a centre back, but soon realised he preferred scoring goals to defending.[9] Žigić's parents did not want him to take football seriously until he completed his education, and he remained with AIK Bačka Topola until 2001, scoring 68 goals in 76 matches in the Serbian League Vojvodina, the third level of Yugoslav football.[2] When military service took him to Bar, he was able to play for the local club, Mornar,[4] for whom he scored 15 goals from 23 Second League appearances. After a brief spell with Kolubara, 3 goals from 8 third-tier matches,[2] Žigić signed his first professional contract, with one of the biggest clubs in the country, Red Star Belgrade.[9] He spent the latter part of the 2002–03 season on loan at Spartak Subotica, also a third-tier side, for whom his goalscoring rate was even higher: 14 goals from just 11 league games.[2]

Red Star[edit]

Returning head coach Slavoljub Muslin brought Žigić into Red Star's senior squad for the 2003–04 First League season,[10] and gave him his debut in the starting eleven on the opening day. Although that first game ended in defeat,[11] Žigić scored the second goal as they beat Hajduk Kula 2–0 in the next league match.[12] In between, he produced a hat-trick against Nistru in the 2003–04 UEFA Cup qualifying round,[13] and went on to contribute a further three goals as Red Star beat Odense 6–5 on aggregate in the first round.[14] He scored twice in the 3–0 win in the Eternal Derby against Partizan, and celebrated by miming a basketball shot.[15] By the mid-season break, he had 13 league goals, as well as the 6 in the UEFA Cup, and was named Player of the Year for 2003; the award is voted for by the captains of the First League teams via the Večernje novosti newspaper.[16] He finished the season as the league's top scorer, with 18,[17] as Red Star won their 23rd title,[18] and scored the winning goal in the cup final.[19]

Continuing the partnership with Marko Pantelić begun in the second half of 2003–04, Žigić continued to score freely in the new season. With Red Star two goals and a man down in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier against Young Boys, he netted twice in the last 12 minutes to give his team an away draw.[20] Domestically, Pantelić top-scored with 21 league goals and Žigić contributed 15 as Red Star finished the season in second place, behind Partizan.[21][2] Žigić scored against Partizan to help Red Star reach the cup final, but was one of five regular starters unavailable for that match through injury or suspension, and his team lost to a last-minute goal to ten-man Železnik.[22]

During his years at the club, he played 110 matches and scored 71 goals in all competitions[citation needed] (cup, league and European competitions).

Nikola Žigić

Racing Santander[edit]

On 29 August 2006, Žigić signed a four-year contract with Spanish side Racing de Santander. On 1 April 2007, he scored his first hat-trick in La Liga,[citation needed] in a 5–4 win over Athletic Bilbao.[23] While at Racing, he formed a formidable duo with diminutive veteran forward Pedro Munitis,[24] and netted 12 league goals during the 2006–07 season.

Valencia[edit]

Despite reported competition from Manchester City, Werder Bremen and Fenerbahçe, Žigić signed for Valencia in August 2007. The fee was unconfirmed, but media suggestions of €15 million[25][26] were not inconsistent with Marca's reported figure of €20M to include the player's wages over the five years of his contract.[27] He was suffering from an ankle injury when he arrived[28] – which delayed his integration into the first-team group and, according to El Mundo Deportivo, undermined the coaching staff's confidence in him[29] – then aggravated the injury by playing in a Euro 2008 qualifier in September,[30] and did not appear for Valencia until October.

He made his debut as a second-half substitute in Valencia's Champions League group-stage defeat at home to Chelsea, and started the next league match, another home defeat against Espanyol, but was selected only infrequently either by Quique Flores, who had signed him, or by successor Ronald Koeman.[29][31] By mid-December, Koeman had given Žigić two weeks to convince him he was worth keeping,[32] Valencia had not scored for seven matches,[33] and were 1–0 down to third-tier opponents Real Union in the Copa del Rey. Žigić came on and scored twice to turn the match around, and followed up with another goal four days later as Valencia came from behind to secure a 2–2 draw at Real Zaragoza.[31] A mooted loan to English club Portsmouth fell through when Koeman changed his mind about the player leaving,[34] but he made only nine league appearances (two starts) in what remained of the season, and was sent off in the first of those.[31]

Speculation regarding moves to the Premier League,[35] came to nothing. By October, Žigić had appeared just once for Valencia, in the UEFA Cup, and an opportunity arose to join his former club, Racing Santander, on an emergency loan. This depended on the league allowing Racing to release Luis Fernández on medical grounds, because of a degenerative condition of his knee, thus freeing up a space in the first-team squad. The LFP's medical committee decided that the condition was not yet clearly career-ending, so any agreement with Žigić had to be held over until the January 2009 transfer window.[36] In the meantime, he played in four more cup matches for Valencia, two domestic and two UEFA, and scored in three of them, but took no part in the league campaign.[37]

The loan agreement was duly revived, and Žigić returned to the club and the city that "feel like home".[38] Racing were to pay his wages and write off the debt outstanding from the sale of Mario Regueiro, and there was no option to purchase.[39] Resuming his partnership with Munitis in the first game of his second spell, Žigić scored the only goal of the visit to Real Valladolid, repeated the feat at Getafe two matchdays later, and scored again the following week in a 2–0 win away at Sevilla. He finished the season as Racing's top scorer, with 13 goals from only 19 games.[37][40]

In the 2009 close season, there were rumours linking Žigić with moves to clubs including Sunderland,[41] Monaco,[42] and Bordeaux,[43] but the player insisted his intention was and always had been to be successful with Valencia.[44] He made 26 appearances for the club in 2009–10 in all competitions, more than in the previous two seasons combined, but only 5 were league starts.[45] Within four minutes of replacing the injured David Villa in the league match against Racing in October, he took advantage of a defensive error to score the only goal of the game; out of respect for his former club, he did not celebrate.[46] On 2 January 2010, his 93rd-minute header against Espanyol took Valencia third in the table,[47] and his double against Deportivo La Coruña in the 2009–10 Copa del Rey put Valencia 2–0 up at half-time; the game finished 2–2 and Valencia lost 4–3 on aggregate.[48] With four minutes left of the Europa League quarter-final second leg, Valencia were denied a penalty when an Atlético Madrid defender pulled Žigić to the ground so forcefully that a large hole was torn in the front of his shirt, apparently unnoticed by referee or goalline official; the tie ended goalless, so Atlético progressed on away goals from the first leg and went on to win the competition.[49][50] Away to Espanyol on 1 May, again as a substitute for Villa, he scored both goals in a 2–0 win that secured Valencia a place in the next season's Champions League.[51]

Žigić with Birmingham in 2010

Birmingham City[edit]

On 25 May 2010, Žigić signed a four-year contract with Premier League club Birmingham City for an undisclosed fee.[52] Media speculation suggested the fee to be in the region of £6 million.[53] He made his debut on the opening day of the season away at Sunderland: replacing Garry O'Connor in the 58th minute, he came close to scoring from outside the penalty area and "injected a note of panic hitherto undetected" in the home team's defence as Birmingham came back from 2–0 down to secure a draw.[54][55]

Žigić's first goal for the club came as Birmingham beat Milton Keynes Dons 3–1 in the League Cup on 21 September.[56] He scored his first Premier League goal on 16 October, opening the scoring at Arsenal with a header from Keith Fahey's cross, but Birmingham lost the game 2–1.[57] His fourth goal of the campaign was the 84th-minute winner as Birmingham progressed to the League Cup semi-final at the expense of local rivals Aston Villa.[58] He scored the opening goal in the 2011 Football League Cup Final with a short-range header as Birmingham defeated favourites Arsenal 2–1 at Wembley Stadium on 27 February 2011.[59] Because of "niggling" hip and groin injuries, Žigić made only two more substitute appearances. His absence deprived the team of what the Birmingham Mail's reporter called their "most effective style: getting the ball forward early, pressing up the pitch and playing off him", as they were relegated to the Championship.[60]

Žigić's first goal in the Championship gave Birmingham a 1–0 win against Leeds United in October 2011.[61] Away to Leeds in January 2012, Žigić scored all four goals as Birmingham came back from 1–0 behind to win 4–1.[62]

He began the 2012–13 season with a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to gain a point for Birmingham at home to Charlton Athletic on the opening day.[63] On 15 February 2013, Birmingham manager Lee Clark publicly criticised Žigić for producing "possibly the worst training session in terms of a professional footballer I have ever come across", despite knowing he was due to start the forthcoming game against Watford.[64] Up until this incident, Clark had used Žigić more often as substitute than starter. He had scored six league goals at a rate of one goal every 165 minutes, and been sent off twice.[65] Clark said that Žigić would not be involved against Watford, but that it was "in Nikola's hands" as to whether he would prepare properly for the Sheffield Wednesday fixture three days later.[66]

On the last day of the 2013–14 season, Birmingham needed at least a draw away at Bolton Wanderers and for other results to favour them to avoid relegation to League One. Two goals down with 12 minutes left, Žigić scored, and three minutes into stoppage time, his close-range header was cleared off the line to Paul Caddis, who headed home to preserve Birmingham's second-tier status.[67] He left the club when his contract expired at the end of the season.[68]

Having been without a club since his departure, Žigić began training with Birmingham again in November 2014.[69] After a successful appeal to be granted a work permit, for which he did not qualify automatically, he signed a contract on 4 December to expire at the end of the season.[70] He made his second debut as a late substitute in the Championship match at home to Reading on 13 December, with Birmingham already 6–1 ahead.[71] He played only infrequently – nine substitute appearances in the league and two FA Cup matches[72] – and the club confirmed he would be released when his contract expired.[73]

International career[edit]

Although he attracted much attention for his performances with Red Star in the Serbo-Montenegrin league, Žigić only gained a regular place in the national team in mid-2005, after having made his debut the previous year under coach Ilija Petković.

He scored a couple of goals in some friendlies, but it was his substitute appearance in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Spain in Madrid in September 2005 that brought him international recognition. After an atrocious first-half at the Vicente Calderón Stadium, during which Serbia-Montenegro rarely crossed the centre line, only being 1–0 down, coach Petković threw Žigić into the mix, and his towering presence up front changed the flow of the match instantly. He would later set up the equalizer, also providing Mateja Kežman with a 2–1 chance, but the ball was clipped wide of Iker Casillas' gaping half-empty net.[citation needed] However, Serbia got the key away point and confirmed their World Cup qualification at home in Belgrade versus Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Žigić again nicely setting up Kežman for the game's only goal.

Žigić's only start at the 2006 World Cup came in the nation's final Group C match, when the team was already eliminated. He scored an early goal in the 10th minute of the first half off a long ball from Dejan Stanković against Côte d'Ivoire, in a 3–2 loss.[74]

Still an automatic choice under new national manager Javier Clemente, his form took a dip. On 24 March 2007, Žigić received a red card during the Euro 2008 qualifying match against Kazakhstan, seconds before the end of the game. This caused him to miss the home game against Portugal.[citation needed] He also missed the match against Finland on 2 June 2007 after surgery on a facial injury received on 27 May.[75]

Also playing a crucial role during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers partnering up with Marko Pantelić scoring three important goals on the way to Serbia's first qualification of a major tournament as an independent nation.

He represented his country in the 2010 World Cup. On 17 November 2010, he scored the winning goal against Bulgaria in a friendly match, which was held in Sofia, but was sent off for a second yellow card shortly before the conclusion of the game. Also scoring three goals in Euro 2012 qualifiers against Faroe islands, Slovenia and Estonia. Žigić was appointed captain of the national team when Dejan Stanković and Nemanja Vidić retired from international football after Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2012.[76] He captained the team in friendly defeats to Mexico and Honduras in 2011, but, as of June 2014, has not featured for his country since.[2]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of match played 2 May 2015
Club statistics
Club Season League National Cup League Cup Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
AIK Bačka Topola 1998–99[2] Serbian League Vojvodina 14 8 14 8
1999–2000[2] Serbian League Vojvodina 28 28 28 28
2000–01[2] Serbian League Vojvodina 30 30 30 30
2001–02[2] Serbian League Vojvodina 4 2 4 2
AIK Bačka Topola total 76 68 76 68
Mornar 2001–02[2] Second League of FR Yugoslavia 23 15 23 15
FK Kolubara 2002–03[2] Serbian League Belgrade 8 3 8 3
Spartak Subotica 2002–03[2] Serbian League Vojvodina 11 14 11 14
Red Star Belgrade 2003–04[2][19][77] First League of Serbia and Montenegro 28 18 3 2 5[b] 6 36 26
2004–05[2][78][79] First League of Serbia and Montenegro 25 15 5[c] 3 30 18
2005–06[2][80][81] Serbia and Montenegro SuperLiga 23 12 3 2 7[b] 6 33 20
2006–07[2][82] Serbian SuperLiga 3 2 0 0 4[d] 2 7 4
Red Star Belgrade total 79 47 6 4 21 17 106 68
Racing Santander 2006–07[83] La Liga 32 11 1 0 33 11
Valencia 2007–08[31] La Liga 15 1 3 4 3[d] 0 21 5
2008–09[37] La Liga 0 0 2 1 3[b] 2 5 3
2009–10[84] La Liga 13 4 4 3 9[e] 2 26 9
Valencia total 28 5 9 8 15 4 52 17
Racing Santander (loan) 2008–09[37] La Liga 19 13 19 13
Birmingham City 2010–11[85] Premier League 25 5 2 0 7 3 34 8
2011–12[86] Championship 35 11 1 0 1 0 6[f] 1 43 12
2012–13[87] Championship 35 9 1 0 0 0 36 9
2013–14[88] Championship 33 7[a] 1 0 1 0 35 7
2014–15[72] Championship 9 0 2 0 11 0
Birmingham City total 137 32[a] 7 0 9 3 6 1 159 36
Career total 413 208[a] 23 12 9 3 42 22 487 245
  1. ^ a b c d Birmingham's goal in the 2–1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers on 5 October, originally credited to Žigić, was retrospectively awarded to Lee Novak.[89]
  2. ^ a b c Appearance(s) in UEFA Cup
  3. ^ Three appearances three goals in UEFA Champions League, two appearances in UEFA Cup
  4. ^ a b Appearance(s) in UEFA Champions League
  5. ^ Appearance(s) in UEFA Europa League
  6. ^ Five appearances in UEFA Europa League, one appearance one goal in Football League play-offs

International[edit]

Serbian national team[2]
Year Apps Goals
2004 1 0
2005 9 3
2006 9 4
2007 7 4
2008 7 2
2009 8 3
2010 12 4
2011 4 0
Total 57 20

International goals[edit]

Score and result columns list Serbia's score first. Source:[2]

International goals
Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 8 June 2005 Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada  Italy 1–0 1–1 Friendly
2. 15 August 2005 Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine  Poland 1–1 2–3 Friendly
3. 13 November 2005 Nanjing Olympic Sports Center, Nanjing, China  China PR 2–0 2–0 Friendly
4. 21 June 2006 Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany  Ivory Coast 1–0 2–3 2006 World Cup
5. 2 September 2006 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Azerbaijan 1–0 1–0 Euro 2008 qualifying
6. 7 October 2006 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Belgium 1–0 1–0 Euro 2008 qualifying
7. 11 October 2006 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Armenia 3–0 3–0 Euro 2008 qualifying
8. 24 March 2007 Almaty Central Stadium, Almaty, Kazakhstan  Kazakhstan 1–2 1–2 Euro 2008 qualifying
9. 17 October 2007 Tofik Bakhramov Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan  Azerbaijan 2–0 6–1 Euro 2008 qualifying
10. 17 October 2007 Tofik Bakhramov Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan  Azerbaijan 4–1 6–1 Euro 2008 qualifying
11. 21 November 2007 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Poland 1–2 2–2 Euro 2008 qualifying
12. 6 September 2008 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Faroe Islands 2–0 2–0 2010 World Cup qualifying
13. 11 October 2008 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Lithuania 3–0 3–0 2010 World Cup qualifying
14. 1 April 2009 Stadion Partizan, Belgrade, Serbia  Sweden 1–0 2–0 Friendly
15. 10 October 2009 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Romania 1–0 5–0 2010 World Cup qualifying
16. 18 November 2009 Craven Cottage, London, England  South Korea 1–0 1–0 Friendly
17. 3 September 2010 Tórsvøllur, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands  Faroe Islands 3–0 3–0 Euro 2012 qualifying
18. 7 September 2010 Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia  Slovenia 1–1 1–1 Euro 2012 qualifying
19. 8 October 2010 Stadion Partizan, Belgrade, Serbia  Estonia 1–0 1–3 Euro 2012 qualifying
20. 17 November 2010 Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria  Bulgaria 1–0 1–0 Friendly

Honours[edit]

Red Star[2]

Valencia[2]

Birmingham City[58]

Individual

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "Nikola Žigić". UEFA. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
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    Boškovic, Aleksander (24 May 2005). "Famous first for Železnik". UEFA. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
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