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Josip Iličić, leaving the demons behind

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Players are built differently. Every single player is an individual with his own stories and their own developments. Everybody has their own story. And every single one of them has their own set of difficulties and challenges, which is something that makes football (and life as a whole) a lot more interesting. And in Atalanta’s Josip Iličić we can find a very interesting case in that regard.

One of the biggest misconceptions in modern football is that players have a straightforward path to glory, success or to simply reach their top performances. This is something that has become quite common in a day and age where short term success is the norm and there is no patience for a player’s growth or simply to help him overcome the odds. And in a sport where there are many different stories, you have the case of Josip Iličić, Atalanta’s attacking midfielder and a very interesting case in Serie A. The Slovenian has been one of the most consistent players at Atalanta and Ilicic has proven, at 32 years old, that he can still be a very reliable playmaker in a day and age where players over thirty are usually written off.

But there is more to the former Fiorentina man than what the eyes see. Josip Iličić has had to overcome a lot of different obstacles throughout the years and at Atalanta he has found a shelter where he has been able to flourish and reach his full potential. A child of the Yugoslavian wars, the Atalanta man had to endure a lot of pain and tragedy from an early age, which has shaped his character and sharped his personality. There is a lot to him that has been defined by the experiences and traumas he had to endure since childhood, which was sadly highlighted last year during lockdown.

Iličić had to leave the Atalanta squad for a few months and go back to Slovenia because the deaths of many civilians in Bergamo brought him back a lot of painful memories of his youth and his time in the Yugoslavian wars, which was something that was really hard to shake off. Thankfully, and especially now after a remarkable 0-3 victory over Serie A leaders AC Milan, Josip Iličić is once again enjoying his football and slowly going back to that great form that made him one of Atalanta’s best players in recent years. He has been able to overcome his own demons and come back stronger than ever.

There is a very valid argument that football has become a bit more superficial in recent years, but we have to appreciate players that are capable of overcoming their own traumas and be a positive inspiration for younger generations. Josip Iličić is certainly that.

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