nexa: "I want to prove that I am a great in-game leader, not just a decent one"
The Serbian in-game leader has made clear his ambition following his move to OG.
Nemanja "nexa" Isaković's two and a half year adventure with G2 came to an end in January after the 24-year old moved to OG, swapping places with Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen on the international roster. Now the Serbian leader sets his sights to 2022, taking over the captaincy of a squad that has so far, failed to live up to the expectations set by the caliber of players they hold.
In a podcast with members of the OG organization which included CEO Juan "JMR" Luna, CS:GO head coach Casper "ruggah" Due, as well as Dota 2 player and co-owner Johan "N0tail" Sundstein, the Serbian player talked about his reasoning behind his transfer as well as his goals and the expectations with his new squad.
"I am really glad that I made this move and I'm really glad that I am here," opened nexa. "We've spent a week together and I already got to know everyone inside the team, I think we clicked pretty well and I am really excited to play this season."
nexa's time with G2 was definitely a rollercoaster. Under his leadership, the team experienced several highs, reaching grand finals at eight different events, including the PGL Major in Stockholm at the tail end of last year. Despite their success, the squad was no stranger to inconsistency, even crashing out of group stages at events such as ESL Pro League Season 14, where G2 was eliminated without winning a single game.
"We had our ups and downs honestly, the ups were great but the downs were catastrophic," replied nexa when asked about his two and a half year adventure with G2, to this day his longest and most successful tenure at any organization.
"I think the experience I had there is something that made me grow up, let's say, and take this thing not just like a hobby or playing a video game, but take it like a serious job where you have to put an insane amount of work if you want to stay at the top level and if you want to play and be consistent in the game. It has definitely taught me a lot about life itself in general, how to speak and communicate and be in charge of a group of people, which is not something I was doing previously. I am really grateful for all the experiences and everything I had there, but I felt like it was time for me to move on."
Despite their inconsistencies during the online era, the return to LAN proved to be a blessing for G2 as they improved on their 2021 form with some respectable performances at the last events of the year such as the PGL Major and IEM Winter. But every team has its ceiling, and nexa thought G2 under his leadership had hit theirs. "I didn't really feel I could do anything more or do anything else for the players that were there, I didn't think I could make them into better players than they were already."
Expanding on his time with the organization, the Serbian leader touched on some of the problems which plagued G2 during his tenure there. In particular, he spent some time talking about the mentality and balance issues the European squad faced following the transfer of Bosnian superstar Nikola "NiKo" Kovač in the Autumn of 2020. "I can say that before we got NiKo, we didn't really have a superstar in the team, we were just five guys that believed in each other, and I think we actually were a better team in our previous roster," he explained.
Despite not winning much with the first iteration of the Franco-Balkan squad, nexa was happy with how consistent and harmonious the team felt. "Even though we didn't win anything. we actually were the number one on HLTV for two weeks at least. We had this bond of trust, the relationships between everyone were really good and we really enjoyed playing with each other [...] it made us super consistent."
The arrival of NiKo was certainly one serious injection of firepower, but it did not come without its problems. "When we got NiKo, that's when the balance of the team shifted and we could finish last place and then go into grand finals." nexa certainly welcomed the benefits that someone like NiKo could bring to a team challenging for titles, but held reservations over the team's inconsistency when relying upon a single player to such an extent.
"It [the team's performance] was mostly based on NiKo's performance. He was this mega superstar and he carried the shit out of us, [...] but when he was playing bad then the whole team was playing bad, so I've really preferred the version where we had this team structure and we didn't really need star players at the top," nexa continued.
"We just needed to believe in each other and trust each other to have a good structure built where everyone actually plays and enjoys the game, rather than having one guy with all the resources and everything pushed into this them and then he has the weight of the world on his shoulder, so when he makes a mistake everything falls apart."
nexa made clear the importance of a good team atmosphere and mentality in order to establish a stable and consistent squad. "For me, I was always saying that if you have a really good mood and atmosphere within the team, you are going to perform even better on the server." To achieve his aims, the Serb believed it was necessary to have someone qualified to deal with and help with the issues within a team.
"I really love the idea of having a sports psychologist because it was something we really lacked in G2, and I was trying to push for it because I think one thing that was stopping G2 from being a championship-winning team was the mentality issues that we had, and I think with a sports psychologist we could have easily overcome them. But unfortunately, we didn't get one."
Building trust had always been one of the pillars in the 24-year old's philosophy, even so far as to consider it a more powerful tool than carefully crafted tactics. "Even a bad call that everyone believes in can work better than a perfect call that people are doubting and hesitating." He now hopes to establish his structure and positive mentality in his new team.
nexa's transfer to OG is the start of a new chapter for the Serbian IGL, which plans to return to the very top and prove his worth with a new, younger team. "The first thing I want from myself is to prove that I am capable of winning, that I can win championships and that I am a great in-game leader, not just a decent one," he said.
More specifically, OG's new captain is planning to make the best out of a bunch of young players in the squad, which he believes he can unlock due to his previous experience with younger players in teams such as CR4ZY. "For the team goals, I think I want to help flameZ and mantuu develop because I think they were heavily underused in the previous iterations of the team, and I think I can do way more with them than it has been done before," he states.
"Luckily for me, I am used to be playing with this kind of people, and I am used to being in that type of environment because I have always played with younger people previously, I know how they are. For example, flameZ came from playing FPL and pugs, that's also where I came from basically so I can really relate to him and see that his behavior is my behavior from four years ago, basically the same type of personality."
However, OG is not just a group of young players, and nexa has already stated his intention to work closely with management, the coaching staff, and more specifically Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså. The IGL views his relationship with the Danish star as key to unlocking the team's potential: "You need these two leader-type personalities in the team to be the engines. I really like that idea, and that's how I like to think of my teams as well and that's why I always try to find one guy in the team who I can really create this relationship where he trusts me, and I trust him to be the secondary voice of the team."
During the closing stages of the podcast, nexa also touched on some of the negative experiences from the time spent in other organizations. OG's new captain has been in the CS:GO scene since 2015, beginning his career with iNation before moving on as a journeyman, spending time in several different Balkan and European teams.
"In my own experiences, I had clashes with some shitty orgs in the past and I know how it can be." He began, before going into the specific injustices suffered at the hands of organizations.
"I was brushing it aside like 'it's business, they need this to make money' or whatever. When I signed for G2 they made me pay a part of my own buyout and stuff [...] like taking a higher percentage of stickers or whatever from the players." Going further in the past, he mentioned that he had prize money stolen from him from organizations earlier in his career.
It was due to these experiences that nexa makes a point to note his admiration for the origins and the values of his new organization. "I really love this concept and this idea that you guys did with OG."