That’s a good question. There’s limited video publicly available of Vancouver Whitecaps signing Ranko Veselinovic and no publicly available stats for the Serbian league. Veselinovic comes via loan with a mandate to buy should he play 12 or more games. He’s 20 years old, already has 64 senior appearances in all competitions in Serbia and is the captain of FK Vojvodina Novi Sad. He has also played 43 times for various Serbian youth national teams. He’s certainly amassed an impressive CV for someone so young.
Is the Serbian League Good?
It’s decent. It ranks 18th out of 55 in the UEFA coefficients. Players from Serbia like Alexander Katai have been very successful in MLS. Derek Cornelius was struggling for playing time in the Serbian second division (though that was a bit of a unique circumstance as he’d been a regular starter before his team was relegated and changed managers) and he proved to be at least a capable squad player in MLS. Vojvodina currently sit third in the Serbian league only two points behind traditional power Partizan Belgrade (also thirteen behind Red Star Belgrade but considering how much they have won the league by in recent years that’s actually not that bad). So Veselinovic is captaining a strong team in strong league at age 20. Seems promising.
Style of Play.
Nobody has really put together a good highlights package of him and there aren’t publicly available stats on the Serbian league. Fortunately every country is full of people who tweet about exciting up and coming local players. So here are some google translated quotes which I have editorialized slightly for the sake of readability.
“Veselinovic is Vojvodina team captain. His gameplay, ball technique and positioning are rather good. He is a very mature player for his age. He is one of two good Serbian centre backs that have made a name for themselves this season with [AS Monaco’s Strahinja] Pavlovic being the other.”
“A player who has shown great improvement this season is Ranko Veselinovic. He is the captain of Vojvodina. He is very strong but can struggle when in a foot race. However at only 20 years old he is a very promising centre back. He has been playing at youth level for Serbia, showing surprising defensive strength for his age and is comfortable with the ball at his feet. He has the potential to continue growing in a higher league.”
“Ranko Veselinovic is one of the better defenders in the league...”
“From the little that I saw, this generation of Serbian players were quite interesting with, for the most part, a very high level of quality (Igor Zlatanovic & Ranko Veselinovic in particular)”
Person 1 (in June of 2018): “Who are the best talents currently playing in Serbia?”
Person 2: “Sveto Markovic (now of Olympiakos), Ranko Veselinovic, Dejan Joveljic (now of Eintracht Frankfurt, currently on loan to Anderlecht), Igor Zlatanovic (now of Mallorca), Armin Djerlek (now of Sivasspor),”
“@ManUtd hey guys there is an excellent player for the future he is playing for vojvodina and his name is ranko veselinovic you must chech it” (this one was in English and I feel its integrity is best maintained if it is left unaltered)
So everybody who watches him seems to think he’s good. He seems like a strong player with good defensive awareness and passing but who still has some developing to do. His coaches have rewarded him with an important role and he’s played a lot for a guy his age. Of course nothing is guaranteed and you never know how a player will adapt to a new country. But for the time being I give this transfer a grade of “yeah, seems reasonable.” It will be interesting to see how the Whitecaps deal with their glut of centre backs. Perhaps Erik Godoy will move to right back? We shall have to wait and see.