Dusan Vlahovic has denied claims he has been involved in an affair with a teammate's wife
Juventus star Dusan Vlahovic has refuted allegations that an ongoing affair with the wife of a teammate has led to him being a peripheral figure throughout Serbia's FIFA World Cup campaign in Qatar.
The 22-year-old, who has bagged nine goals in just 18 appearances for his country throughout his still-developing international career, was not selected for Serbia's starting lineup for either of their first two games in Group G - and didn't even make it off the bench in their 3-3 draw with Cameroon on Monday.
Vlahovic's apparent blacklisting from first team affairs has led to a string of queries as to why one of Serbia's talismen has been absent throughout most of the team's efforts to emerge from their group.
According to Serbian media at least, the reason for Vlahovic's prolonged absence is allegedly down to the fallout of an affair he has supposedly been having with the wife of reserve goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.
But speaking in a press conference ahead of his team's crucial clash with Switzerland on Friday, Vlahovic rubbished claims that an extramarital issue is to blame.
"I am sorry to have to start the press conference in the World Cup this way, but I have to talk about it because this is my name being bandied about," he told the media in Doha.
"What we all read and hear about, there's no need to comment on something so absurd. Evidently these people are bored and have nothing better to do because they are frustrated or angry, but working against the national interest of the team at the moment is obviously their main job right now."
Vlahovic added that he has been subject to unfounded allegations in the past, and suggested that the rumors are little more than media publications looking to stir controversy.
"It's not the first time this has happened, I would've hoped that people would support the team before such an important match, but instead we are forced to talk about things that have nothing to do with it," he said.
Ana Cakic, the wife of Predrag Rajkovic, also took to social media to deny the claims and said that she has been caring for her ill son in hospital when the supposed affair is said to have taken place.
"We've survived worse, believe me," she wrote on social media. "Thanks to all the journalists who ignored me and didn't publish anything about Tadija's health condition, and the other people who think it's best to attack a wounded lion got a little carried away, because the pack is defending it!"
Vlahovic, who has scored 65 goals in 144 games throughout his career in Italy with both Fiorentina and Juventus, also explained in his pre-match comments that he hasn't been selected so far in the tournament because he has been struggling with his match fitness.
"I didn't play because I was not ready enough, but I feel better now and am completely concentrated on the next match," he said.