Sheffield United: International defender reveals his toughest opponent - literally

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Anel Ahmedhodzic says facing the likes of Chelsea and Juventus in the Champions League last season influenced his approach to the game, teaching him to respect possession and the importance of the “small details” Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom believes will decide this season’s race for Premier League football.
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Heckingbottom’s marquee summer signing, Ahmedhodzic has quickly become one of United’s most influential players since arriving from Malmo where he won two Allsvenskan titles. The first of those enabled the Swedes to book a place in Europe’s blue-riband club competition, which saw them travel to places such as Stamford Bridge and Turin.

“Kai Havertz of Chelsea, a top player,” said Ahmedhodzic, who is expected to recover from illness to face Cardiff City this weekend. “I remember him kicking me, so he’s not as quiet as people think. It was a dream come true playing in the Champions League, hearing the music beforehand. The only thing that was disappointing about the whole experience is that the song, the tournament anthem, does not sound as loud when you are down there on the pitch.”

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“The thing I took away with me is that you can not give the ball away,” he added. “You have to do the things you are good at, you have to be aggressive. But you can’t give it away because, against people like that, you might not see it again for five minutes and then it becomes very hard, very difficult. The attention to detail is very important, the small details.”

Ahmedhodzic spent the second half of his final season at Malmo on loan at Bordeaux, with United exploiting the French side’s financial implosion to bring him to Bramall Lane. The switch to Ligue 1 enabled Ahmedhodzic to pit his wits against a footballer even more renowned than Havertz; Paris St Germain’s Lionel Messi.

“I could not believe my eyes because the only time I’d played against him before was on FIFA,” Ahmedhodzic laughed. “He was on my side of the pitch. To mark him was amazing. I think he went past me only once. He walks and then switches, runs at you, with so much pace.”