Matija Sarkic is an impressive individual, who presents a calm, confident figure.
In an exclusive interview with the Express & Star, the Wolves goalkeeper was not afraid to talk a big game and did a sterling job of finding the right balance between confidence and arrogance.
What was most impressive, however, was his communication skills. Born in England to a Montenegrin father and English mother, he moved to Belgium as a youngster and came through at the Anderlecht academy.
It was there that the 24-year-old – who turns 25 tomorrow – honed both his football skills and academic prowess. “There’s so many different cultures and nationalities (at Wolves), but I’m used to that having travelled a little bit when I was younger,” he said.
“I speak a few languages so it’s not a problem for me to integrate myself into the team. I speak English, French, Dutch and Montenegrin. I was in London and then moved to Brussels in Belgium where there’s French and Flemish, or Dutch. I went to a French school where I learned French and did all my studies.
“The second language in school is Dutch, so I learned that as well.
“On the Montenegrin side, that’s my dad’s side and I picked it up from playing for the national team.
“There’s always someone who will speak a language that I speak, so it’s easy to get along.”
From a personal perspective, speaking four languages is certainly an important skill, but it is easy to underestimate how useful it can be in football. The modern game is worldwide and Premier League sides come across so many different cultures. As a goalkeeper, with the whole game in front of him, Sarkic has the ability to shout commands to those who struggle with English – and he has more plans to expand his knowledge.
“I speak to Rayan (Ait-Nouri) in French if there’s something he doesn’t understand on the pitch.
“Sometimes I have to shout a few things in French and English, and sometimes try a bit of Spanish for Yerson (Mosquera) too.
“I’m now thinking whether I should learn a bit of Portuguese as well to complete it all.
“Communication is a dying art, it’s really important and the manager wants it as well.
“In a team where there’s so many different languages, it’s important to have someone who can link it together. That’s something in my favour.
“I think Petr Cech went and learned a few languages when he was playing, so it’s something I’m thinking of.
“Right now everyone’s English is pretty good, apart from maybe Yerson and Rayan. With Rayan it’s fine because I can speak to him in French but with Yerson, I need to learn a few words and football phrases in Spanish. I know ‘left shoulder’ or ‘right shoulder’.”
As a full international, Sarkic has made five appearances for Montenegro.
He is fighting for a place in the Wolves starting XI, but he has big aspirations to fulfil with his country that he hopes can drive on a new generation.
He added: “We’ve never qualified for a major tournament. We’re a pretty new national team, so that’s one of our aims, whether it’s the Euros or World Cup.
“I also want to be the first Montenegrin goalkeeper to play in the Premier League.
“Those are aspirations. It’s going to take a lot to get there, as we’re a small country, but we’re ambitious and have some good players. If you believe, you can do it.
“I only want to bring everything I learn here, over there, and try to help people there as well.
“I just want to help football improve over there. It’s a big sport there, and we’re a sporting country.”
Going back to his time before Wolves, Sarkic was brought back to England by Villa where he had a handful of loan spells before arriving at Molineux on a free transfer in 2020.
The shot-stopper was eager to clear up his Villa departure, too, as he looks ahead to a brighter future with Wolves.
He said: “This has been a bit of a weird one. It was mistaken that I’d decided not to sign, but that wasn’t a case, I just wasn’t offered a contract.
“I was released from Villa and Wolves were interested, so it was a no-brainer for me. Wolves are, and were, in a better position so for me it was a step up.
“Sometimes the better thing to do is to leave and you need a fresh start somewhere with fresh eyes. You can have a fresh start and be yourself again, in a way.
“I think it was a really good opportunity for me.”
Now, fresh off a new three-year contract with Wolves and a place in the first team up for grabs, Sarkic is concentrating on gold and black.
He impressed for 90 minutes in the 4-0 friendly win over Alaves this week, making one key save and making himself heard from his area.
Since being at Wolves he has not had a chance to show the supporters what he can offer, having enjoyed two good loan spells.
But when asked what fans can now expect from him, he said: “They can expect someone who is loud and has a presence.
“That’s something that’s a bit striking when you come to watch me play, you can hear me from the sidelines and I’m quite present on the pitch.
“I’m an organiser and like to make sure everyone is doing their job. I think that helps the team quite a lot.”