Marko Arnautovic: Austria’s Volatile Striker Is All Grown Up at Last

Floridsdorfer AC won only four games this season in the Erste Liga, Austria’s second division, and were rooted to the bottom of the table from the first matchday on. The club has been relegated back to the regional league from which it emerged in 2014. With the smallest budget in the league, none of this was a surprise.

Floridsdorfer could have done with some help from their most famous son: Marko Arnautovic.

The Stoke City winger’s path from a kid at Floridsdorfer to a talisman for Austria, a potential dark horse for Euro 2016 in France, has not been a simple one.

Floridsdorf is a district in the north of Vienna described by locals as “a village in a city.” Most of Vienna’s population lives south of the Danube, so those in the north—known as Transdanubians—are seen as a little bit different.

Arnautovic’s father, Tomislav, worked in the stadium canteen at Floridsdorf. Marko spent hour after hour playing with his elder brother, Danijel, on the caged pitch on Hopfengasse, just behind the nearby sports club. Those hours did not go to waste.

Arnautovic is a true Floridsdorfer. He is different. His temperament as a kid and problems with authority almost cost him his career, which began at FAC in 1995 when he was six. He spent three years there, then three at Austria Vienna before spending a year each at First Vienna FC, back at Austria Vienna and then Rapid Vienna.

Reliant on his talent, entitled and unwilling to work, he proved impossible for any of them to handle. According to Austrian magazine Ballesterer, he was labelled “untrainable.”

He was 15 when he returned to FAC and was in the last-chance saloon.

“Every coach had said that you cannot work with him,” Othmar Larisch, a youth coach at FAC at the time, told Ballesterer. “But no one understood how to treat Marko. He came back to us because he knew me and knew that I appreciated him.”

At 16, Arnautovic was already playing for the under-23 side and helping it win its league’s title.

“He is probably the most talented player we’ve ever had,” Larisch said.

“Opinions in Austria used to be divided about Marko because he had very high expectations to live up to,” Floridsdorfer general manager Mathias Slezak told Bleacher Report. “But his performances in England for Stoke City and playing for the Austrian national team have increased the respect there is for him. He is an idol for the young players here even though they are too young to have seen him playing for FAC.”

Dutch club FC Twente wanted to take Arnautovic on trial at the end of the 2005-06 season. After discussing the move with Tomislav, Larisch and his assistant, Walter Kuensel, agreed that Arnautovic should go to the Netherlands. The Enschede club gave him a contract after just two days of a two-week trial.

“It was clear to me very quickly that this was a different type of football, but I really wanted it,” Arnautovic told Ballesterer.

The youth team romped to the Dutch title as Arnautovic scored 27 goals in 32 games. …

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