Wild celebrations, flares and fireworks light up the streets of Sarajevo. It is October 15 and Bosnia have qualified for the World Cup for the first time.
Bosnia narrowly missed out on the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship, both times losing to Portugal in the playoffs and for many in the country they felt their chance had gone yet by virtue a superior goal difference, the Balkan state beat Greece to an automatic spot at Brazil next year.
At the heart of it all is a talented young midfielder called Miralem Pjanic who inspired his country to their greatest sporting achievement since its independence in 1992.
Rewind almost five months and there are similar celebrations in Rome. Lazio had just beaten their city rivals AS Roma in the Coppa Italia Final in the biggest derby of a generation.
On their return, Pjanic and his teammates endured a different atmosphere when they return to the Roma training ground at Trigoria. The team bus was pelted by eggs and bricks. The players were labelled as mercenaries and classed as unfit to wear the famous Giallorossi shirt.
Pjanic was one of the few players singled out. The creative midfielder was bought by Roma in the summer of 2011 and failed to produce the desired impact but he is doing just that now.
At the time of writing, Roma sit at the top of the Serie A table having won their first ten matches – a new Serie A record. The upturn in fortunes for the side from the eternal city has been mirrored by the stunning performances from Pjanic himself.
Pjanic has had many admirers ever since his breakthrough season in 2007-08 at his first professional club Metz. Having attracted the interest of some of the best clubs in the world, including Manchester United, he moved to Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2008.
At Lyon he played alongside the likes of Hugo Lloris and Karim Benzema where he developed into a talented young player. However, Pjanic struggled to hold down a first team place due to emergence of Yoann Gourcuff and decided in the interests of his career that he would move in order the play regularly.
An €11 million transfer to Roma followed yet the Bosnian star failed to deliver. Under various coaches Pjanic was inconsistent, producing a moment of brilliance in one game before going missing in the following three.
However, this season the creative midfielder seems to have turned a corner. With new coach Rudi Garcia giving Pjanic more freedom and Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman in fine form in more defensive roles, Roma’s number 15 has excelled.
It is not just his three goals and three assists in the opening ten rounds of the Serie A campaign that have been so impressive, his movement, delivery of passes and work rate have all been exceptional.
Having been labelled as the new Zinedine Zidane while playing in France, Pjanic is best suited to playing in a role where his fine dribbling and creative skills can be fully exploited.
For Roma this season, he has been the most forward thinking of a midfielder trio. With Roma’s wingers pushing high up the pitch, Pjanic has found room to manoeuvre and has linked up brilliantly with Francesco Totti and co.
There has been widespread rumours that Pjanic could be on his way to Old Trafford, not only in the summer but over recent weeks. He would fit perfectly into United’s system and the pace of the Premier League should he be played in correct position.
United could well have to pay more than £25 million for the player as he is only 23 and has the best days of his footballing career ahead of him.
Pjanic has showed throughout his career that he rises to playing with quality teammates. First at Lyon and then most recently with Roma. The thought of the Bosnian combining with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney on a weekly basis must delight any United fan. Pjanic would also share the burden on Van Persie and Rooney who have impressed this campaign and have carried United in some games while the likes of Ashley Young and Nani have failed to produce consistently.
It is rumoured in the Italian press that Roma are likely to offer Pjanic a new deal to extend his contract for another five years. However, the Rome based side cannot match the bigger clubs in Europe in terms of finance. The recent sales of young talented players such as Erik Lamela and Marquinhos in the summer are proof of this undeniable fact. Therefore should United bid for Pjanic, he would see his pay packet increase significantly should he move to England.
David Moyes tried and failed to sign a creative player in the summer and the most recent transfer window may have shown Moyes and others at Old Trafford that the top players in Europe, for the moment, are out of reach for United. The club could not persuade the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Ander Herrera to join the side but in Pjanic, they could well have a more affordable yet just as effective replacement.