Danijel Ljuboja celebrates a goal for Paris Saint-Germain

Euro Stars: Danijel Ljuboja (Serbia)

Euro Stars: Danijel Ljuboja (Serbia)

Publish on 06/06 at 23:00 - E. DEVIN


The combative striker was a hit in Strasbourg and Paris and played for six different clubs in France, scoring more than a hundred goals in all competitions

Dozens of players of Serbian origin have graced the pitches of Ligue 1 Uber Eats, dating back to the 1930s. The legendary Ivan Curkvoic was arguably the most successful of these, winning four Ligue 1 titles and reaching the final of the European Cup with Saint-Étienne. More recently, Nemanja Matic has rolled back the years at the base of Olympique Lyonnais’ midfield, helping Les Gones secure European football, while Stefan Mitrovic helped Strasbourg secure a surprising Coupe de la Ligue title in 2019.

Few players, though, can compete with Danijel Ljuboja in terms of being a cult hero, having helped clubs both earn promotion and avoid relegation with regualrity. While his record for the national team was somewhat less than sparkling (19 appearances with just one goal), Ljuboja’s gritty play and hard work made him a fan favorite at each of the six clubs for whom he featured in France. Born in the Croatian city of Vinkovci to Serbian parents, he spent time with the youth teams of several of that country's biggest teams, including Red Star Belgrade, before making his way to France.

There, he joined Auxerre, then playing in Ligue 2. After a middling first season, 1999/2000 saw Ljuboja burst to life, scoring sixteen goals and finishing as the league's second-top scorer. With Auxerre failing to win promotion, however, he wanted a chance at the top flight, and found a willing suitor in RC Strasbourg. While his first season in Alsace ended in in a the Pyrrhic double of a Coupe de France title and relegation, he helped the eastern side bounce back at the first time of asking, scoring 15 goals.



Back in Ligue 1, Ljuboja continued to impress for Racing, and after two more seasons at La Meinau, he left for the French capital, joining Paris Saint-Germain. He would struggle for playing time there, with the competition from Pauleta limiting his chances, and decamped to Germany, where he played for giants of the game like Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Stuttgart, all without really establishing himself. When Grenoble sought his services in 2009, he eagerly made the move back to France, and scored ten goals for the team in Ligue 1. It wasn't enough to avoid relegation, but he would soon move back to the top flight with OGC Nice.

Les Aiglons barely avoided relegation that season, finishing 17th, scoring the third-fewest goals in the league. After that disappointment, Ljuboja joined Polish side Legia Warsaw, his time in France seemingly over. But after two seasons, he would make a momentous return to France, joining RC Lens as they sought promotion. With Ljuboja an integral part of the team with eight goals and six assists, Lens finished second, and Ljuboja retired, having been vital in helping another of France's storied clubs to win promotion.

Read more:

>> Danijel Ljuboja returns to Strasbourg

>> Euro Stars: Pauleta