AGONA Spotlight: Aleksandar Prijovic, the ex PAOK hitman
During his two years at PAOK, Aleksandar Prijovic was fondly known as ‘The Killer’ among the supporters, however the Serbian hitman will now be on the hunt for victims in the Saudi Professional League. In connection with his transfer to Al Ittihad, the AGONA Spotlight looks back at his best moments in Thessaloniki.
Prijovic, who was born in Switzerland to a Serbian family, is the true definition of a journeyman. Before he transferred to PAOK in January 2017, the striker had already represented a grand total of 10 different clubs, playing for the likes of Parma, Derby Country, Djurgardens Stockholm, Sion and Legia Warsaw.
In Poland, Prijovic received his first taste of UEFA Champions League football, notably scoring twice in a 4:8 loss to Borussia Dortmund and dishing out assists against Real Madrid and Sporting Lisbon. The Serbian struck 24 goals in 72 appearances for the Polish giants, and in the winter transfer window of the 2016/2017 season, PAOK came calling and signed him on a long term contract.
To be honest, ahead of his PAOK move, Prijovic wasn’t really known as a truly prolific forward. His best league season was in the 2014/2015 Turkish Second Division with Boluspor (16 goals in 31 appearances), but in Thessaloniki, he transformed into a ruthless striker with the ability to take advantage of any opportunity inside the penalty area. PAOK may have come second in last season’s Super League, but Prijovic was on top form throughout the campaign, registering a large 19 goals in just 28 matches.
Prijovic enjoyed a perfect start to his PAOK journey. On January 26, 2017, he made his debut in a Greek Cup match against Panetolikos at the Toumba Stadium, hitting the target to help PAOK earn a 4:1 victory. In the remainder of the 2016/2017 Super League, Prijovic was hindered by injury problems, however he still managed to score seven goals which included the winner against Olympiacos in Thessaloniki. If you score the goal to beat the Erythrolefkoi, you’re immediately going to win the supporters’ hearts.
In May of that same year, he won his first trophy at PAOK. The Dikefalos tou Vorra defeated AEK 2:1 in the showpiece final to win the Greek Cup, and although he didn’t score in that victory, Prijovic had previously helped PAOK to lift the trophy by scoring the fourth marker in a 4:0 rout of Panathinaikos in the second leg of the semi-finals.
The 2017/2018 season was when Prijovic let the shackles go. In the summer, he initially scored twice in UEFA Europa League qualifying against Swedish outsiders Ostersunds, and he then started the Super League in determined fashion by scoring five goals in the opening seven rounds.
After that fantastic start, he failed to score in six consecutive games, but following that minor blip, he suddenly began beating goalkeepers for fun. Prijovic didn’t score in any of the matches against Olympiacos and AEK, but he did strike three goals in two games against Panathinaikos, and he closed out the championship with a brace in a 3:0 win over Platanias to finish with a remarkable 19 goals and three assists in 27 matches!
In the ensuing Greek Cup final, Prijovic contrived to miss a first half penalty against AEK at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, but PAOK still won 2:0 as the 28-year picked him his second piece of silverware with the Thessaloniki organisation. As a result of playing so well, Prijovic was called up to the Serbian squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, in which he made a cameo in a 1:0 win against Costa Rica. Incidentally, in October 2017, Prijovic had scored the decisive goal to defeat Georgia in Belgrade and seal Serbia’s spot at the World Cup in Russia.
This season, the forward had carried on from where he left off in the 2017/2018 season, grabbing nine markers in 13 matches to fire PAOK to first place. In the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, Prijovic took a leading role for the Greeks, striking four goals as PAOK eventually dropped into the UEFA Europa League after playoff heartbreak against Benfica. In the domestic championship, his most notable goals came in a 2:0 win over reigning champions AEK at home, and he also scored the winners against both Panathinaikos and arch-rivals Aris.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, but this winter, Al Ittihad went shopping in Greece. Having engaged in negotiations with PAOK, the Saudi Arabian club decided to activate Prijovic’s release clause, in turn giving the player a tough decision to make. Many thought Prijovic would remain loyal to PAOK, but considering the hugely lucrative contract with Al Ittihad offered him, he decided to transfer to the Saudi Professional League on a 4.5 year deal. Prijovic is set to earn over 25 million during the course of his Al Ittihad contract.
He will be sorely missed in Thessaloniki. Yes, even without Prijovic PAOK should still win the Super League if they keep their composure, but they will severely lack his passion, desire and goals. Overall, Prijovic tallied 55 goals with PAOK in 87 matches.