PROFILE: Fresh start awaits Rashica at City after Bremen woes
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He may arrive after a painful relegation in Germany but Milot Rashica heads to Norwich City with a very respectable Bundesliga record shortly before his 25th birthday.
The speedy winger will be enjoying a slice of birthday cake on Monday as he prepares for the move to England and the start of pre-season with the Canaries early next month, having shown he has an eye for goal while at Werder Bremen.
Rashica has 21 goals and 17 assists to his name from 87 appearances in the German top flight, since joining from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in January of 2018 for a reported fee of around £6million.
The attacker looked to be on the move last summer, when German newspaper Bild were reporting that Bremen had rejected a deal worth around £15million from RB Leipzig because they were holding out for a package worth more than £20m.
AC Milan, Hertha Berlin and Aston Villa were all among the clubs linked with Rashica after a narrow escape from relegation, edging past second-tier side Heidenheim in a play-off on away goals after a 2-2 draw on aggregate.
That came at the end of a season which had seen the Kosovo international score 11 and assist eight during 34 matches – including goals against German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
His move didn’t materialise and now Rashica is set for a fresh start with Norwich, looking to regain some confidence and show what he can do in the Premier League.
With 12 months left on his Bremen contract, it's believed that City have paid around £8million initially for a player that can help fill the Emi Buendia void, and it’s understood additional fees could see the deal reach around £11m eventually to become the Canaries’ record purchase.
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Let’s take it back to the start though. Rashica is from Vushtrri in northern Kosovo, a country terribly affected by war in the region in the 1990s as Yugoslavia broke apart. Kosovo eventually declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and was recognised as a sovereign state by the United Nations.
In football terms, it wasn’t until 2016 that Kosovo was admitted to Fifa and Uefa. Prior to that official acknowledgement, Rashica had already made his debut as a 17-year-old for hometown club Vushtrria and helped them win the national Super League title in his second season.
Interest from Belgian side Gent was scuppered by injury and it was in 2014 that a trial at Vitesse Arnhem proved successful, eventually signing during the second half of 2014-15 as an 18-year-old - where he would later be team-mates with former Canaries striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
In fact, Rashica crossed for van Wolfswinkel to score the opener as Arnhem beat AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Cup final in 2017, with midfielder Marvelous Nakamba also in that Vitesse side before moving on to Club Brugge and Aston Villa.
Rashica would arrive in Bremen six months after that cup triumph, with Transfermarkt crediting him with 15 goals and 24 assists during 100 games with Vitesse.
He made a relatively quiet start to life in Germany, with one goal in 10 appearances as Werder finished safely in mid-table.
Things hadn’t quite kicked into life during the first half of 2018-19 either but after the winter break the wide man really started to show what he could do.
Eight goals and four assists from the final 16 games of the Bundesliga campaign helped steer Bremen to eighth place – and very nearly a place in the German Cup final.
Having scored in the cup wins over Dortmund and Schalke, Rashica set up one and scored the other as Werder came from 2-0 down to draw level with Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. Poland superstar Robert Lewandowski would spoil the party at the 42,000 capacity Weser Stadium though, with a winner in the 80th minute.
Then it was on to the 2019-20 season that was disrupted by coronavirus, with Rashica contributing plenty personally as relegation was avoided in a play-off, with transfer talk not culminating in an exit.
With injuries disrupting the first half of this season, the forward continued on a barren run of just one goal in 34 league games until he converted a penalty during a 4-1 home defeat to title-chasing Leipzig in April.
That was swiftly followed by the opener in a 4-1 loss at Borussia Dortmund and was added to by another goal in a final-day defeat to Gladbach, making it three goals and four assists in total during the final 16 matches of the campaign as Bremen slumped to relegation.
Both goals in a 2-1 friendly win over minnows Malta at the start of this month offered a fillip for the Kosovan ace, taking his international tally to six goals in 32 games for his country.
Prior to Kosovo’s international recognition in football, Rashica had represented Albania throughout the youth age groups and had won two senior caps.
He plays alongside teammates including former Swansea and Ipswich midfielder Bersant Celina and former Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu, with World Cup qualification already looking unlikely after defeats to Sweden and Spain in their opening games.
Two matches against a City colleague potentially await though, with Greece and Dimitris Giannoulis also in Group B of European qualification.
All of which brings the lively forward to England with over 200 top-flight club appearances and 32 international caps, ahead of his 25th birthday, with a point to prove and plenty already achieved.
To help the Canaries deal with Buendia’s absence he will need to adjust to the Premier League swiftly but with the opening four fixtures bringing a mixture of excitement and dread for Daniel Farke’s promoted players, their first summer addition will no doubt be relishing the prospect of a full pre-season as he tries to make an impact.