AGONA Profile: Ognjen Vranjes, AEK’s controversy-laden warrior
In a boost to their defensive options, AEK secured the services of Ognjen Vranjes for the 2019/2020 season, loaning the controversial Bosnian centre-back from Anderlecht. The AGONA Profile analyses his career to date.
A LOVER OF CONTROVERSY
Vranjes is never out of the headlines for long. Throughout his entire career, the 29-year-old has consistently been in the centre of attention for the wrong reasons, whether it was for allegedly inciting fan violence or supposedly engaging in sexual relations with well-known Serbian singer Jelena Karleusa.
Largely due to the sex scandal with Karleusa, Vranjes was ostracized from both Anderlecht and the Bosnian national team for the majority of the 2018/2019 season, but AEK decided to take a chance on the popular defender and subsequently loaned him for one year (without a purchase option). Vranjes holds strong ties with AEK’s Original 21 fan movement, notably sporting a tattoo of the organisation on his chest.
EARLY START WITH HOMETOWN CLUB
Vranjes perfectly epitomizes a journeyman. Over the course of his career, the defender has represented a grand total of 12 clubs, switching teams practically every year. His unpredictable, fiery temperament is a large reason why he has never been able to settle anywhere.
His football journey began in his hometown of Banja Luka, located in the Republika Srpska region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a teenager, Vranjes played regularly for his local club in the Bosnian league, before eventually being snapped up by Serbian giants, Red Star Belgrade in 2009.
TWO LOANS, TRANSFER TO KRASNODAR
Vranjes would remain under contract at Red Star for two years. In that period, the Bosnian played in a handful of matches for the senior Red Star team, while being sent out on two loans to Napredak Krusevac and Sheriff Tiraspol. With the latter, Vranjes got a taste of UEFA Champions League football, competing in the qualifying rounds with the Moldovan side. Reports state that after beating Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League qualifiers, Vranjes displayed a Delije shirt (the main group of Red Star supporters), a gesture which naturally greatly angered the opposing Croatian fans.
Vranjes left Red Star permanently in January 2011, penning a contract with FC Krasnodar of the Russian Premier League.
DEVELOPMENT WITH KRASNODAR, MOVE TO ALANIA
He began to mature as a player in Russia. In the 2011/2012 Russian Premier League, Vranjes was a first team regular for Krasnodar, participating in 29 matches as he gave solid showings in the middle of defence. The campaign stretched over the course of a full calendar year as Russia switched to the autumn-spring system used by the majority of UEFA-registered championships.
Vranjes transferred to lowly Alania Vladikavkaz in January 2013. Sadly, he received a serious injury in May of the same year, and after managing to score twice in seven Premier League games for Alania, he left the organisation as a free agent in early 2014.
FOUR TRANSFERS IN THREE YEARS
In the next three years, Vranjes would play for four different clubs, as he was on the books of Elazigspor, Gaziantepspor, Sporting Gijon and Tom Tomsk before eventually penning a contract with AEK in January 2017. A date which signified the start of a special love affair with the Kitrinomavri.
AEK helped Vranjes to finally find his feet and play at a high level on a consistent basis. In the second half of the 2016/2017 season, Vranjes scored the one goal for AEK in a 6:0 thrashing of Veria FC at the Olympic Stadium, participating in 17 Super League games as the Enosis qualified for the Champions League preliminaries:
TITLE TRIUMPH, ANDERLECHT DEPARTURE
Vranjes made a big contribution to AEK’s charge to the Super League crown a year later. Although he got involved in disciplinary issues all too often, he was a warrior on the pitch for AEK, playing with commitment, grit and passion in defence as the Athenian giants claimed their maiden domestic championship title in 24 years. Vranjes’ no-nonsense, physical way of playing the game offered AEK vital strength and determination, a component which they desperately lacked in the 2018/2019 season.
The Bosnian international grabbed an unlikely hat trick- the first of his career - in a 4:0 beating of Xanthi at the OAKA too:
Towards the end of the season, there had been strong rumours linking Vranjes with an Anderlecht transfer, and AEK duly let him go for three million euros in the summer.
Vranjes’ Anderlecht spell was a pure disaster. At the start of the season, he performed without reliability in the back line, and he was ostracized from the team in November having only played in 14 matches for the Belgian giants.
Yes, Vranjes can be a hindrance if he loses his discipline, but he will give AEK more bite, passion and toughness as the Greeks aim to get back on track after a tricky 2018/2019 season. According to the media, newly installed AEK boss Miguel Cardoso wasn’t keen on signing him initially, but he changed his mind after speaking with the club management.