Not every extremely talented youngster makes it at Tottenham Hotspur. Making it into the first-team at Spurs is no mean feat and in the end, many have to head elsewhere.
The likes of Ryan Mason, Alex Pritchard, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll are such examples, but the list goes on.
Another name who would appear on that list is Milos Veljkovic. In the winter of 2016, after nearly five years at Spurs, he left to join German side Werder Bremen.
The defender, who can also operate in midfield, was making a brave move joining a club halfway through a season. But Veljkovic backed his ability and made the switch.
Now the Serbian international has spoken exclusively to The Boot Room about his time in Germany, his national team hopes and what helped trigger his desire for a Spurs exit.
At first, some might have felt Veljkovic had made a mistake with the move. First-team football was not immediate at Bremen.
His first start, in March of 2016, saw Bayern Munich put five past The River Islanders.
But Veljkovic worked hard and, as of January last year, has become an ever-present in the Werder Bremen side:
“When I came from England I had a tough start with injury and I didn’t play so much as I wanted,” he explains.
“But I think I have turned it around. Now I am playing and have a lot of games and play every game so I am satisfied.”
His recent form has certainly not gone unnoticed.
Veljkovic has played 31 times this season and become a vital cog in the Bremen defensive unit. Such form saw the club’s sporting director Frank Baumann tell Deich Stube last month of his desire to tie down Veljkovic to a new deal.
Whilst being wary of the dangers of commitment in the modern game, the Serbian certainly sounds happy to be at the Weser Stadion:
“In football, you never know because this is a business and everything,” Veljkovic forewarns.
“But I like the club, I like the coach and my team-mates. (I like) the city and you know it is a nice environment and at the moment I am really happy.
“But you know, you never know what can happen. But I think you know at the moment I am confident and happy to be here.”
The move from England to Germany and vice-versa has been a common theme in recent years. With good reason as well.
Both leagues have massive similarities. A fast-paced and high octane style in both leagues, Veljkovic sees few differences between the Premier League and the Bundesliga:
“I didn’t play too much in Tottenham the first-team but I watched them also. I was also in the Championship (on loan at Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic). I played some games there.
“I think (the Premier League) is quite similar. It is also very fast, depends again who you play, you know normally it is like this and it is physical also. Also, technically you need to be really sharp. With your technique and your movement and everything, you need to be concentrated. Or else you are going to get punished so I think it is really similar.”
As well as finding his feet in Germany, the 22-year-old is making waves with his national team. Although born and raised in Switzerland, even representing the nation at under-16 level, Veljkovic is unquestionably a proud Serbian.
In 2013 he helped his country win the European Under-19 Championships. Two years later, and Serbia conquered the world. Veljkovic played every game as Serbia won the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, a feat England achieved last summer.
Clearly, it was a moment of huge pride to the young man:
“The experience was amazing,” said Veljkovic. “To win the u-20 World Cup with Serbia was something amazing. It was not like Brazil or Germany it was Serbia, so it was even more special because we were not favourites or nowhere near.
“But we believed in ourselves and it was an amazing experience. When we came back the people in Serbia were really, really happy because they didn’t have much exciting football before.
“Everyone was watching. Even at seven in the morning. To see those happy faces and people smiling there, it really made me proud. After five or six days we realised what he had done because it was like a dream, you know?”
But it was also one of the catalysts that pushed him out of Tottenham Hotspur. Veljkovic, who had played just three times for Spurs, felt his time to play regular first-team football had come:
“It was a really big experience for me but then to come back to Tottenham and not get a chance that also got me a bit upset.”
With his pathway blocked by the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Eric Dier the time was right to move on:
“After this, I wanted to be able to get a chance. Obviously, I can’t play every game then but I needed a chance or I needed to go somewhere else. So that was what I decided.
“Unfortunately I could not go straight away to Werder Bremen but after six months the club agreed to let me go. It was also a relief because after winning the under-20 World Cup all of my team-mates went to big clubs or were playing with their respective clubs. I didn’t get the chance. This was a bit disappointing from my point of view.”
Such a feeling should certainly come as a warning for English teams, with such an abundance of talent in the Premier League likely feeling the same way Veljkovic did after his summer triumph.
This summer Serbia will be competing at the World Cup for the first time since 2010. A golden generation has passed, but a new one is on the horizon. Serbia dominated a qualifying group containing both the Republic of Ireland and Wales, who ended up not making it to Russia.
Veljkovic has two caps for the national team, after making his debut in November 2017. Undoubtedly, he is in consideration for the summer and was in the national squad for the most recent fixtures against Morocco and Nigeria.
But the young defender is clearly just focused on a strong finish to the season with his club side:
“At the moment I am just concentrating on the last five games in Germany with the Bundesliga. Obviously, everyone wants to go there.
“I think if I am fit and if I keep playing, then I will be there. Hopefully.”
Werder Bremen had a tough start to the Bundesliga this season but with Veljkovic’s help, the ship has been steadied. Now, with just one defeat in six, they sit 12th in the table and look comfortable ahead of next season:
“I have always had this feeling with Bremen,” claimed an optimistic Veljkovic. “With this coach and with these team-mates. If we keep the coach and these players and keep playing like this, like we have, we will be looking up rather than down.
“I think we will be really successful next season.”
Veljkovic has an exciting few months ahead. A possible World Cup experience lies in waiting and he is also clearly hopeful of achieving great things with his club side next season.
Bremen and Serbia fans are certainly lucky to have a personality like Veljkovic’s on their side going into 2018, 2019 and beyond.