The 2013/14 season looks likely to provide Real Sociedad with a multitude of challenges. The Basque side have returned to the UEFA Champions League group stage after a decade-long absence, and will aim to go as far as possible in the Copa del Rey and emulate last year’s strong showing in La Liga.
To tackle this three-pronged test, Sociedad were expected to make a significant number of new signings, but in the end the Txuri-urdin brought in just three unfamiliar faces over the summer.
Philippe Montanier, who was keen to return to France, the country of his birth, handed the coaching baton to Jagoba Arrasate. Midfielder Esteban Granero came in on loan from Queens Park Rangers, but has since suffered a serious injury to his right knee and been ruled out for most the season.
Consequently, on the pitch, where the San Sebastian side had already lost one of their best players in the shape of Asier Illarramendi, who was transferred to Real Madrid, they will only be able to call on the services of one new addition - Haris Seferovic.
“We have a good team with good players," the Switzerland international told FIFA.com. "There are numerous challenges ahead, but there should be playing time for everyone – squad rotation will be very important."
The Helvetian, whose family are of Bosnian descent, was one of the stand-out performers at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2009. “It was a hugely important experience and it really kick-started my career,” he said.
Since emerging victorious at the tournament in Nigeria four years ago, the 21-year-old has pulled on the jerseys of Grasshoppers, Fiorentina, Neuchatel Xamax, Lecce and Novara.
“It’s good for a player to experience different styles of football," said the Zlatan Ibrahimovic fan. "It helps you to develop. But I’m very happy to have landed in the Spanish league. I love the way the game is played here – it’s much faster and more skilful. I think it’s the greatest league in the world.
“Before signing for Real Sociedad, I had already crossed paths with Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann. Both of them are great players, and it’s fair to say we have a very good understanding,” added Seferovic, who, like his two aforementioned team-mates, enjoyed an excellent pre-season and initial first few weeks of the current campaign.
Indeed, his competitive debut for the Basques could not have gone much better, as he coolly chipped home his team’s second goal to seal three points against Getafe on the opening day of the Liga campaign. A few days later, he repeated the feat in a more pressured environment, scoring an impressive volley against Lyon at Stade de Gerland in the Champions League play-off round.
Seferovic’s promising start then slowed somewhat, as he and his team-mates went the entire month of September without registering a victory, drawing three and losing three of their six matches.
The club did not enjoy the greatest of starts to the group stage of the Champions League, losing 2-0 on their own turf to Shakhtar Donetsk. On Wednesday, they travel to Germany for a tricky Group A clash with Bayer Leverkusen, who themselves lost their opening fixture to Manchester United.
“I felt great in the qualifying round and I’d love to experience that feeling again," said the Sursee-born attacker. "I’d like to go as far as possible in the Champions League with this team. And hopefully I can grab a few goals along the way."
Brazilian dream becoming reality
There is still time to get their campaign back on track, and Seferovic is confident his side can regain their initial momentum. After all, the success of a player’s club can often have a positive impact on other aspects of his career.
With less than a year to go until the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, and with Switzerland on the verge of booking their ticket to the prestigious tournament, the former U-17 star will likely be eyeing a place in the final squad, having made his senior debut in February and scored a goal against Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier later in the year.
“There are some brilliant players on the Swiss team and it feels good to be a part of it," he said. "I hope to be called up repeatedly and, of course, to be on the plane to Brazil. It’s a bit of a dream, but I think that I have a chance of turning it into a reality."