Luka Zahovic open to chance of playing for the Seleção
That Portugal have a chronic problem in producing top-class strikers is no secret. Could an 18-year-old going by the most un-Portuguese name of Luka Zahovic be the answer to the Seleção’s problems up front in the near future?
Son of former Vitória Guimarães, FC Porto and Benfica attacking midfielder Zlatko Zahovic, Luka was born in Portugal where he lived his early childhood while his father was playing in the Primeira Liga.
And speaking to the press after scoring against Sporting in the Champions League last night, Zahovic junior admitted: “If I received a proposal to play for the two national sides I would have to think hard about it, but I’d probably choose Portugal.”
His father may have a different view. Zlatko Zahovic is the country’s most successful footballer since Slovenia gained independence in 1991, holding the record for both appearances (80) and goals (35).
Luka, meanwhile, has played for Slovenia at all age levels since under-16, and is expected to get his first call-up to the U21 side soon after his dramatic equaliser in the Champions League last night to salvage a draw for Maribor against Sporting, on the back of a brace in the Slovenian club’s previous league game at the weekend.
However, Portugal represents more than just a place of birth for the promising striker. It was in the Portuguese capital that he began his football education, spending half a dozen years in Benfica’s academy. “I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a Benfiquista. I played there for six years,” he said.
Asked whether he would like to return to Portugal to pursue his career, his answer was emphatic. “It would be a dream to return to Portugal to play. I’ve never hidden my passion for Portugal. But for now I’m happy with the way things are going here.”
The Maribor striker went on to explain that he continues to feel a strong bond with Portugal. “I live in a family that is more Portuguese than Slovenian. The fact my parents are Slovenian doesn’t mean anything. I lived for years in Lisbon and I’m still in contact with friends from my time there. I usually spend my holidays in Lisbon and when I’m there I try to meet up with them.”
As for his spectacular Champions League debut, Zahovic said, “It was a dream debut. It’s very important to start the competition well. It makes no difference that we are outsiders. We were the better team in the second half and I think a draw was a fair result.”
by Tom Kundert