Marko Pantelic is one of Serbia’s most experienced and dangerous players. Having been an international since 2003 and played for 11 clubs in eight different countries, the 31-year-old forward has been in arguably the form of his career since joining Ajax last year.
Pantelic was part of Crvena Zvezda’s youth academy when, as a 14-year-old, his father got a job in Greece and the family decamped. The youngster signed for Iraklis, made his debut for the club at 16 and scored four goals in eight matches before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 1997.
Pantelic failed to make the grade in the French capital, but he nevertheless gained from training alongside the likes of Rai and Leonardo. “I learned a lot from my short time there,” he would later recall. “Being around such great players is of invaluable benefit.”
Fourteen goals in 21 outings for Lausanne following in 1998/99, before he had brief, unproductive spells at Celta Vigo, Sturm Graz and Yverdon Sport. A switch to Obilic in 2002 revitalised Pantelic’s career, though, and after helping them win the Yugoslav Cup, he was snapped up by Crvena.
Pantelic spent just one and a half seasons with the Belgrade heavyweights, with 26 goals in 44 games – he was the top flight’s top scorer in 2005 - convincing Hertha Berlin to take him on loan. An intelligent frontrunner capable of brining team-mates into play and finishing coolly, his form swiftly persuaded the German team to make the deal permanent.
Pantelic ultimately scored forty-five goals in 114 appearances for Hertha, but became a free agent in the summer of 2009. Unable to agree a renewal, he chose to pen a deal with Ajax. Handed the No9 shirt, the Serbian responded in style, becoming a fans’ favourite with his work-rate and goals. “I feel like I’m in the best form of my career,” he said. “I love it in Amsterdam and think Ajax’s style of play suits my game.”
Pantelic made his Serbia debut in 2003 but was, for years, a bit-part player. He is now a key figure in Antic’s squad, though, and made nine appearances during South Africa 2010 qualifying, scoring in the 5-0 win over Romania that sealed his nation’s place among the world’s elite.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle for any player,” he told FIFA.com. “It's an experience you never forget. I've heard a lot about it and now I want to be a part of it. I'm really looking forward to playing in South Africa. I know it's going to be winter there, but I'm still expecting a wonderful tournament full of great games and plenty of spectacular goals.”