Pulling the strings: Will Vujicic persuade Žižić to come?


He was in negotiations with Maccabi Tel Aviv, then made a farce and went for Real Madrid’s big money, and suddenly came back with it, now that he is still before a decisive decision. What were the reasons that led Ante Žižić to consider giving up almost half of his salary? The answer may lie in his connection to Nikola Vujicic.

With your permission, we go back to 2014, when the affair between the Zizic family and the professional manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv began. While his older brother, Andrea, was signed as a replacement for the injured Sean James at the Heichal – the young Zizic , Then only 17 years old, has already begun to attract attention in the uniform of Cibona Zagreb, and not just the attention of the one who pulls the strings of Maccabi’s compatriot Nikola Vujicic.

In fact, everything was already set and ready for Žižić: he was supposed to go through the same trajectory as Dragan Bender – a long-term contract, brewing in yellow and moving to the NBA for the buy-out amount. More than that, Žižić has already visited Israel, posed for pictures near the doors of the Yellows’ academy, trained with the team and only the final document separated him from the yellow-and-blue shirt – but it was the big brother, the one who played for Maccabi only a year earlier, who threw veto. The same Andrea, by the way, was also part of the negotiations this time.

“It is not possible to share foreigners in a youth group in Israel, it is a limitation that makes it difficult for him to bring foreigners to Israel, such as Bender and Zizic,” Vujicic explained at the time to Shai HaOzman, on the “One on One” program. “In general, there is negative energy in the country regarding bringing in foreigners, but Maccabi made money on the project – despite all the talk.”

Thus, in fact, the initial connection between Zizic and Maccabi Tel Aviv was missed. The Croatian continued with Cibona Zagreb, scoring 7.4 points per game in the media when he was not yet 20 – which arranged a contract for him at Drushpaka, with the same David Blatt who managed to do some training in Israel. For the first time in the Euroleague and scored 9 points per game, and in 2017 he was selected 23rd in the draft by Boston and was immediately transferred as part of Kyrie Irving’s trade to Cleveland.

Now, the same Maccabi Tel Aviv has entered the picture again, much thanks to the situation in Real Madrid, which is still “stuck” due to the uncertainty about the future of Pecondo Campasso. “Real need to resolve the Campaso issue, that’s why he’s been under massive pressure for a few days now. Zizic wants to play in Madrid, but we’re already in August and the market is in a frenzy, teams are already closing.”


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