The Borussia Dortmund defender is one of the key players in the Serbs' plan to reach the World Cup finals, and at Hampden Park tomorrow he has the chance to show why Chelsea offered £17m for him last winter.
Subotic is more at home speaking English and German than his native dialect, but the 24-year-old is eager to deliver success for the country he signed up for three years ago to honour his father, Zjelko, who took three jobs to keep the family alive after they fled war-torn Yugoslavia in 1990. The Subotics were homeless when they first moved to Germany, and were so poor that they lived above the local football team's clubhouse.
Zeljko Subotic was actually a professional in the old Yugoslavian league, but when he saw things turning sinister around their home in Banja Luka, in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, they made their escape to Germany. There they settled in Schoemberg, a small town in the Black Forest, and as refugees with few options, the Subotic family moved into the clubhouse attic of a local team his father had joined.
"We lived there because we had nowhere else to stay at that moment," said Neven. "So with the football field right in front of the door, it all started. I was always playing with my dad, and I always watched when he played with the team. Whenever I wanted to kick around, I could find someone to play with."
At primary school, football was a religion for young Neven. "We played before school, during school, in breaks, and after school," he said. "There was also a religion class at school, and when it took place a few other students and I had to go to another empty classroom, because we were of another religion [than] the one being taught. There we would play soccer with a tennis ball until the class had finished and we could return."
Neven enjoyed his life in Germany, but had to leave because their residence authorization expired when he was 11. The family moved to the America in 1999 and the English classes Neven had taken in Germany paid off in the US. Helped by a daily diet of American children's programmes on television, Neven was fluent in three months.
The Subotics spent 18 months in Salt Lake City but then moved to Florida, so that his sister, Natalija, could attend the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy – and that put Neven on the road to discovery. The family lived right across the street in Bradenton from the IMG sports academies, which are home to the US under-17 youth side. With no-one else to play with, Neven either played on his own in an adjacent park, or with his father Zeljko – and the classy defender was soon spotted by a US coach.
"My parents were hard workers who had three jobs to keep us alive," Subotic says. "I always saw that my mom and my dad were constantly working hard and I think this quality of never giving up even though things are difficult is something I've taken into life and into football. It is something very important to me and helps me still now."
Neven quickly climbed the ladder on the US national youth set-up, being capped by the under-20s at just 17. He should have been a cornerstone of the American team, but they foolishly left him out of the squad for Under-20 World Cup finals in Canada in 2007 and Subotic began making plans to play for Serbia, instead.
He also won a trial with German side Mainz. Initially the tall teenager played in the reserve side but impressed the coach, one Jurgen Klopp, so much that he made his debut at the age of 18 against Bayern Munich. A year later, in 2008, when Klopp moved to Borussia Dortmund, the new coach paid £4m to bring Subotic with him, and now they are both on Germany's A list of football glitterati.
Dortmund have just won consecutive Bundesliga titles and the club had to fend off a £17m from Chelsea for Subotic last winter. Neven insisted however, that he would stay loyal to Klopp: "I would not be where I am now without Jurgen Klopp. He brought me from America and I signed my first deal with him and Dortmund is now my home."