Learn more about the dynamic duo that has helped fire the Swedish champions into the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time in more than half a decade.

They are the two players with the most shots on goal per 90 minutes in Sweden. They are the two players with the most goals scored from outside the penalty area in the league this season (according to Wyscout data). And they are the two players that have won the hearts of every Malmö FF fan in Sweden - the dynamic duo that has helped fire the Swedish champions MFF into the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time in more than half a decade.

They are Antonio Čolak and Veljko Birmančević and together they are ready to help Malmö FF make a real go of the Champions League group stages as Europe’s premier club competition kicks off this week.

At a combined cost of roughly €900,000 plus a small loan fee, the Serbian and the Croatian have hit a total of 24 goals in their 22 appearances each for Malmö - nine of them in the Champions League qualifiers - to put the club in a group stage that will see them face Juventus, European champions Chelsea and Zenit St. Petersburg. Simply being there will net Malmö a guaranteed minimum of around €19 million prize money (once you factor in gate receipts, and much more if they manage to pick up the millions available per group phase win or draw).

Less than a million Euros for a nearly 20 times return on investment within nine months - not bad at all.

Though Malmö FF were already champions of Sweden thanks to the work of their impressive manager Jon Dahl Tomasson, these two signings have taken the club to the next level. Together with other bits of smart recruitment, it has led to a much stronger MFF squad that is now equipped to not only fight for domestic titles but be competitive in Europe, too. They are, it is probably fair to say, the two best signings of the season in Allsvenskan and can be celebrated for the remarkable impact the pair have had.

Simply looking at the raw goal production numbers shows you what a fantastic bit of recruitment Malmö have done in signing these two players.

Veljko Birmančević's Player Report on Wyscout.

Veljko Birmančević - 23 years old, 11 goals and 3 assists in 22 games for MFF (league and Champions League qualifiers).

Antonio Čolak - 28 in two weeks, 22 appearances, 13 goals, one assist. Instant success for two players who were not hugely well-known figures in football and were allowed to leave their previous clubs with relatively little fight: indeed, Čolak is currently on loan from Greek club PAOK, where he scored one goal in 16 appearances before being shown the door.

Antonio Čolak's Player Report on Wyscout.

But it’s not just goals and assists the pair bring to Malmö FF. It’s that extra bit of quality on the pitch, the swagger, the at times almost effortless way in which the pair conjure moments of magic that have made the difference in key games, like Čolak’s magnificent double at Ibrox to bring down Glasgow Rangers in their own backyard or Birmančević’s two vital goals against Ludogorets in the final group stage qualifier in a 3-2 aggregate win.

Averaging 1.31 key passes per 90 per Wyscout data, Birmančević is the player with the most key passes per 90 in Allsvenskan. His intelligence on the ball is matched by an ability to execute creative passes, both short and long range, finding spaces between defenders or gaps to exploit with that crafty left foot of his. It is a trait that has led Swedish international Emil Forsberg to describe the Serbian as having “a little bit of everything” in his locker.

For someone who is supposedly a wide player by trade, the penalty box presence the Serbian offers is remarkable. Birmančević averages 4.13 shots per 90 this season in Allsvenskan - 2nd in the league behind Čolak - a remarkable 9.27 dribbles per 90 (1st in Allsvenskan), but also ranks number two in the entire league for touches in the box per 90 (5.85 p90, behind only Gustav Ludwigson of Hammarby).

Add this to his seven goals and 4.54 crosses per 90 (11th in Allsvenskan, minimum 700 minutes played) and you can see why he was described by Swedish TV analyst Hasse Backe as a “€10M player in the future”.

“Burma" has something you do not usually see in Swedish football,” his MFF teammate Oscar Lewicki has raved. “He is very athletic and runs fast and a lot. He is incredible in one-on-one situations and has the special qualities that can really determine matches. He has adapted to the team in a perfect way, works hard in his role and everyone likes him.”

And for teams that think they can just about deal with Birmančević, up pops his partner in crime Antonio Čolak, the teeth of this new look MFF side, a classy customer whose ruthlessness in front of goal has seen him earn a recall to the Croatian national team.

Of his 13 goals so far this season it was the double against Rangers that showed what Čolak is all about. A masterclass in instinctive, quick thinking and decisive, clinical forward play, the two goals should be shown to any young striker trying to learn how to make the absolute maximum out of small openings in the area.

For the first, Čolak receives the ball from a poor pass behind him but swivels his body magnificently to pounce and score from an angle with just one touch.

The second is even better, a moment of pure, simple genius. Čolak receives the ball from a throw-in with his back to goal, two defenders marking him. There looks to be nothing on here. Many strikers would lay it off or lose possession. Čolak though has different ideas.

In one smooth action, he receives, turns and shoots, needing just two touches to produce a wonderful piece of play that stunned a packed Ibrox into silence.

Coming as it did at a time when Rangers were winning 3-2 on aggregate, at home against a Malmö side reduced to ten men by a red card and under intense pressure, Čolak’s two goals spun the Champions League tie completely on its head. It gave MFF a lifeline which they gladly seized all the way into the group stages for the first time since 2015 - a huge boost not only to the club and fans but to the whole of Swedish football.

“I live for this,” said Čolak after that Rangers game, reveling in the fans’ sheer adoration for him. “I just want more and more.”

Juventus, Chelsea, Zenit - you may be heavy favorites against the boys from Skåne but beware the dangerous duo of Čolak and Birmančević, two players we may well hear a lot more from in the months ahead.

Start your Wyscout 15-days free trial now.
Visit Just Football website.
Listen to The Nordic Football podcast.