The dynamic duo were in top form in the early 2000’s for PSV Eindhoven; winger Arjen Robben and striker Mateja Kezman (nicknamed Batman) provided the partnership that left PSV fans drooling. So more was expected from the duo as they both joined mega-rich Chelsea in 2004 as part of Roman Abrahamovic’s Russian revolution. Their career paths differ from here on in – whilst Robben has since impressed for Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Kezman has stumbled around Europe, playing for five different clubs in five and a half years and never really finding his niche. It’s a big change for a man who scored 129 goals in 176 games in Holland and was considered one of the deadliest strikers around.
Kezman had previously made his name in his native Serbia with a good spell at Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade between 1998 to 2000 the catalyst to his move to the Eredivisie. Kezman, 21-years-old when he was transferred to PSV, had scored 43 goals in 74 games and was Serbia’s brightest talent. He adapted quickly and easily to Dutch football, managing 24 league goals in his first season and he proved a consistent scorer throughout his four years there, impressing particularly by scoring more goals than the amount of games he’d played in the Eredivisie for his latter two seasons in the club. Kezman was just 25 when he made his £5.3 million move to Chelsea and should have been in top condition, expectations were high.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned for Kezman; whilst he was part of a title winning side, he managed just 7 goals in all competitions for the Blues and was deemed a big failure – part of his failure was due to his inability to hold down a first team spot with Ivorian Didier Drogba preferred as a lone striker with Robben and Damien Duff operating on the wings to great effect. Kezman also failed to adapt to the Premiership after playing in the relatively easier standard of the Eredivise. Signings from the Eredivisie have proven unpredictable over the years – the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie have excelled but some, like Kezman, Afonso Alves and (as a striker) Dirk Kuyt have really not been good enough. Kezman’s failure to adapt was never rectified as Chelsea decided to cut their losses and sold the Serbian to Atletico Madrid.
And thus the man once the star of Dutch football had started his journey across Europe; Kezman spent one year at Atletico where he hit 10 goals but, given the right price, he moved on, this time to Turkish side Fenerbahce. It looked like Kezman had found a suitable home there as he impressed in Turkish football, scoring 30 goals over two years with the Turkish club. But in 2008 Kezman was loaned out to Paris Saint-Germain as his relationship soured with the Turkish club. Kezman managed 8 goals for PSG in his loan spell, only 3 of which came in the league but they still decided to buy him and completed a permanent signing for the Serbian in summer 2009. The move seems an odd decision though as Kezman, now 30, was loaned out to Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia. Kezman scored twice in 10 games for Zenit to help them finish 3rd in their league but has recently returned to PSG where his future is uncertain.
Kezman is a classic example of a player who has failed to adapt to a new country – after leaving Serbia he excelled in Holland but couldn’t adapt his play to suit the Premiership quickly enough for Chelsea and he was moved on. At Atletico he did okay but that drew a large bid from Fenerbahce that put him on the move again, and things have promptly gone wrong since. Where Kezman will now end up is unclear as PSG are reportedly eager to be shot of him which could mean a 6th club in less than 6 years for Kezman. How things have changed for a man who was once consistently one of the world’s top scorers.
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