37-year-old Goran Pandev wrote himself into North Macedonian folklore last month with teammates chanting his name between bouts of jubilant tears after the final whistle had sounded in Tbilisi.
🥜 Pandev in a nutshell
19 years after making his international debut, captain Goran Pandev's goal against Georgia was a rare moment of quality in an otherwise forgettable football match. But the result will live long in the memories of Macedonian and global football fans alike. They're going to a major tournament for the first time ever.
Amazingly, Pandev was winning a European treble with Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho back in 2010 but the left-footed attacker has spent the majority of the following decade in relative obscurity. Before all of that, he had made 192 appearances for Lazio in a five-year spell. Following that glittering spell at the San Siro, Pandev spent three years in Naples with Napoli where he picked up two Coppa Italia titles, making him a five-time Italian Cup winner in total. Now he's with Genoa via Galatasaray.
All of this represents a staggering amount of mileage clocked by a player who's never spent any prolonged spells in the limelight or on the front of newspapers. Nomadic & unusual, he's never really fit into conventional football moulds.
🏆 Pandev's glorious spell at Inter
Throughout the spine of the brilliant 2010 treble winners Inter Milan, there were fierce competitors who put their bodies on the line to win football matches for their manager. For all of their aggression, however, this Inter Milan side possessed a bit of silky skill too and Goran Pandev was one of the men who delivered in that department.
Four Argentines, three Brazilians, a Romanian, a Cameroonian icon, a Dutch genius and a man with a wand of a left foot from North Macedonia (a country whose population was around two million people at the time) had conquered European club football. Only a handful of them, at best, were fashionable stars a decade ago, and now they all reside in football history books for eternity.
That infamous European treble in 2010 was completed when Mourinho's Inter beat Bayern at the Bernabéu with Pandev flanking Diego Milito and Samuel Eto'o in an unorthodox but highly effective front three. That Nerrazzuri team was a special, once-in-a-lifetime group of individuals built-in José's image.
Pandev's versatility, coupled with his pace, technical gifts and tenacity, made him a perfect Mourinho player. His partnership with Milito and Eto'o made up a formidable attacking trident possessing pace and power that Bayern Munich simply couldn't cope with on the night.
✈️ Pandev's club journey
2010 was undoubtedly the climax of Pandev's club career, but his success before and after speak volumes for the longevity and consistency that he has brought to the party over so many years. As you can see, he has made Italy his second home:
- 🇲🇰 FK Belasica
- 🇮🇹 Inter
- 🇮🇹 Spezia (loan)
- 🇮🇹 Ancona (loan)
- 🇮🇹 Lazio
- 🇮🇹 Inter
- 🇮🇹 Napoli (loan)
- 🇮🇹 Napoli
- 🇹🇷 Galatasaray
- 🇮🇹 Genoa
🥇 Club accolades
- 🏆 UEFA Champions League
- 🌍 FIFA Club World Cup
- 🇮🇹 Serie A
- 🇮🇹 5x Coppa Italia
- 🇮🇹 2x Supercoppa Italiana
- 🇹🇷 Süper Lig
- 🇹🇷 Turkish Cup
🇲🇰 Pandev's North Macedonia timeline
- 🗓 2001: International debut
- 🗓 2004: Named North Macedonian Player of the Year for the first of five occasions
- 🗓 2009: Becomes the nation's all-time leading goal-scorer
- 🗓 2019: Wins his 100th cap
- 🗓 2020: Scores the goal that sends his country to a major tournament for the first time in its history
We'll be watching how Genoa gets on this season in Italy, and of course North Macedonia's quest at the Euros.
What a player. And now, beyond the shadow of any doubt, an icon in his homeland.