The annual drain of talent from the Bundesliga has once again been in evidence this summer with the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland lured away from the German top flight. Another top talent moving away is Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic, who has signed for Italian giants Juventus. While Lewi and Haaland were always top drawer and destined for greater thing, this wasn’t always the case with the Serbian winger.
After helping Frankfurt to win the Uefa Cup last season, Kostic has sealed a moved to Serie A and the Bianconeri for around €18 million. Now seen as a ‘top drawer’ player, it is a far cry from his early days in the Bundesliga, where he was seen as an egotistical relegation jinx.
From the Balkans to the Bundesliga
Kostic began his career in his Serbian homeland with FK Radnicki turning out for the first team from 2010. Within two years the flying winger had helped the club from the third tier to the Super Liga. This brought scouts from outside the borders of Serbia and in the summer of 2012 Dutch Eredivisie side Groningen paid €1.25 million for the then 19-year-old.
After a quiet first season mainly as a reserve, Kostic made the breakthrough the following year becoming a fixture in the side scoring nine and providing eight assists as Groningen finished seventh. After just one full season, Kostic was outgrowing the Dutch league and attracted the attention of Sporting Director Fredi Bobic at VfB Stuttgart, who were looking for a replacement for Borussia Mönchengladbach-bound Ibrahima Traoré. A €6 million fee was agreed and Kostic was a Bundesliga player.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire
His upwards trajectory however stuttered in Germany. He struggled to find his form and with Stuttgart wallowing at the bottom end of the table for much of the season, it was a surprise when they narrowly avoided relegation. Three goals and six assists were the return on his debut Bundesliga season.
Things however got worse the following season even though Kostic improved his figures to five goals and seven assists. VfB Stuttgart were relegated after another poor season. A second crack at the German top flight was provided however with Hamburg making him their record signing at the time paying €14 million for his services.
History however repeated itself with HSV struggling (despite some promising signs from Kostic) and it was only on the last game of the 2016-17 season that Hamburg managed to save themselves from the drop. Kostic scored the first against VfL Wolfsburg and provided the assist for Luca Waldschmidt to secure safety.
It was a case of déjà-vu the following season with die Rothosen relegated for the first time in their history. Kostic scored five and added just one assist.
Time to fly with the Eagles
An old friend came calling once more in the shape of now-Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Fredi Bobic. With nobody prepared to pay HSV his market value, Frankfurt took Kostic on loan with an option to buy.
Adler coach Adi Hütter had the brilliant idea of employing Kostic in a less advanced position as one of his full backs in a 3-5-2 formation with Danny da Costa marauding on the right and the Serb given more space in front of him on the left. With the dream team od Sebastien Haller, Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic banging in the goals, Kostic revelled in his new role scoring six league goals and providing eleven assists.
May 2019 saw the loan made permanent with a €6 million fee paid to Hamburg. Although Frankfurt couldn’t hold on to their star players with Haller, Jovic and Rebic all moving on, Kostic remained and kept on providing a regular source of goals and in particular assists from crosses on the left. He provided a whopping 17 assists during the 2020-21 season.
Last summer saw predictable interest in the Serbian with a bizarre incident in which Frankfurt seemingly purposely scuppered a move to Lazio by giving the Roman club a false e-mail address to which to send their offer. Kostic was duly incensed and refused to train in order to force through a move. Tempers were cooled however, and last season saw him back in the fold helping Eintracht to an historic European triumph in Seville. His two-goal winning display against Barcelona at the Nou Camp will live long in many fans’ memories.
Frankfurt’s acceptance that he wants to move this summer is an appreciation of the player and a realisation that a Kostic deserves the chance to shine on the biggest stage at a club like Juventus. Speaking at a press conference ahead of Frankfurt’s European Super Cup clash in Helsinki with Real Madrid, coach Oliver Glasner admitted having “a tear in one eye” lamenting Kostic’ imminent departure.
“I said to him last year: ‘If you ever leave Eintracht Frankfurt, you should leave it as a hero’. That’s why I also have to smile.”
From relegation regular to Bundesliga assist-king, Filip Kostic enjoyed quite the journey in the German top division and will be a big loss.