Thursday, 3 October 2013


Leon Benko's wondergoal against Hajduk Split and subsequently call to the Croatian National Team is symbollic of his meteoric rise since quitting Belgian side Kortrijk to return to his homeland. Spells with Slaven Belupo and currently HNK Rijeka have gone extremely well and the player is scoring a goal per game. Benko originally impressed with NK Varteks Varazdin, but didn't take advantage of big moves to Nuremburg and Standard Liege. Benko started well at Kortrijk, but faded leading to a switch home to Belupo.

Benko was again being linked in the summer to a move to a unnamed German club, however he is centre of all that is good about Europa Liga qualifiers HNK Rijeka where he is unquestionably the best goalscorer in the division. Benko's change in fortunes is an example to many players transferred abroad to keep Croatian clubs afloat but have not found life easy outside Croatia. Currently Andrej Keric and Bojan Vrucina appear to demonstrate similar signs of Benko's career abroad. Both have found the net in their foreys abroad, but would appear more suited to a return to Croatia. Keric, 27 was a top striker in the Czech Republic with Slovan Liberec and gained a transfer to the best side in the country Sparta Prague, but has been dropped down their B side after losing his form. Keric will be looking for a new club in January and a return to Croatia may do the player little harm.

Bojan Vrucina has less issues at Kaposvari, but needs to find the net more regularly to make a career in Hungary. Ahmad Sharbini meanwhile has joined Ivan Katilinic's ambitious project in Bosnia's second division with leaders Jedinstvo Bihac. Mario Carevic, 31 is still left without a club. RNK Split are crying out for such a playmaker, but have been resistant to make a move with Ante Vitaic still on the treatment table.

Sunday, 29 September 2013


Following Mladen Petric's transfer to West Ham United, Ivan Klasnic is the last high profile Croatian yet to find a new club. At 33 years old and having experienced injury and illness last season with Mainz, Klasnic maybe considering his future. The former Croatia international striker looks unlikely to gain a recall and could be running out of motivation to return to the pitch, especially with a foreign club having found renewed happiness returning to his homeland in Germany. Transfer to Dinamo Zagreb may hold some attraction for Klasnic, with the Croatian Champions featuring in European competition. He would arguably be a reinforcement competing alongside Duje Cop and Fatos Bequiraj for a striking birth. Dinamo however appear reluctant as already pay the wages of squad player Ante Rukavina and don't neccessarily need Klasnic.

Klasnic, may find more enjoyment signing with a club for whom he can play regularly and much of the Bundesliga will not offer this opportunity with Mainz last season being a prime example. Klasnic may find more footballing value dropping down the Bundesliga 2, where 1860 Munich, Kaiserslautern, Koln have strong ambitions and could offer him a decent wage. Such Bundesliga stars as Patrick Helmes, Babacar Sanogo and Mamadou Idrissou have dropped down a level to great success. Having already been relegated twice with Bolton Wanderers and Nantes, Klasnic is unlikely to fancy another relegation scrap. St Pauli would also be more than happy to sign their former player.

If Klasnic chose not to return to the pitch, the player will nevertheless be fondly remember first with Werder Bremen for whom he played his best football earning the nickname 'Killer' for his goalscoring exploits alongside the equally deadline Miroslav Klose and Ailton. Kidney illness caused Klasnic's career to change and he was a less mobile forward in his time with Nantes and Bolton Wanderers. Klasnic's time with Bolton was more successful than his year in France, which arguably did a lot of damage to his career playing for a old and famous French side that was at the time only good enough for the second tier.

Klasnic also bagged a number of important goals for Croatia, helping them qualify for the 2006 World Cup under Zlatko Kranjcar where he has paired up with Dado Prso. Unfortunately Croatia never saw Klasnic in his finest spell at Euro 2004 where himself, Dario Srna, Marko Babic and Jerko Leko watched aging campaigners Ivica Mornar, Diovani Rosso and Nenad Bjelica fail to impress in their place. Had Otto Baric unleash his bright young stars, Croatia may have achieved a different outcome. Klasnic however achieved success with the national team under Slaven Bilic scoring twice in European Championships in Euro 2008 in victory over Poland and almost coming close to taking Croatia to the semi's before a last minute equaliser against Turkey.


Slaven Belupo have appointed Mladen Franic as their new coach following Ivan Katilnic's dissappointed reign was ended. Despite being linked with Krunoslav Jurcic and Roy Ferencina, Belupo turned to Franic whose first act was to reinstall former Croatia international Davor Vugrinec to the squad. At 38 Vugrinec may still be past his best, but Franic is key to have all his players available to use. Belupo are currently struggling in attack where exempting Mateas Delic and Matteo Roskam have dissappointed. Franic will also be keen to get the best out of Dejan Glavica, who lost his form, whilst Filip Ozobic and Dominik Glavina was recently signed by Katilinic. Despite Vugrinec's return, Belupo still lack a potent goalscorer to assist Enes Novicic, but look better equipped that Osijek and Hrvatski Dragovoljac to pull out of the bottom two.

Osijek's 5-0 defeat to Lokomotiva is not only indication of the team from Zagreb who in Mario Situm, Petar Misic, Ante Budimir and Ivan Lendric now have five strikers in form. However it is sad indication that Osijek are struggling. A victory over Hajduk appeared to mask the difficulty of the task facing them to retain their status and are dependent on former players or some new investment into the club. Moves for Marko Babic and Vedran Nikisic could be possible. However it appears Osijek will need to sell star player Karlo Lulic in January with Antonio Perosevic out for much of the season with injury.

Meanwhile, Ivan Bosnjak, Dino Drpic, Goran Rubil and Dragan Blatnjak are also still looking for a new club having struggled to find new employers. Bosnjak 34 is closest to joining Cibalia but interested cooled with the club making a positive start to the season. Blatnjak, 32 is a former player of Zadar and closing connected to agent Rene Sinovcic. More likely to find a new club soon is Mario Carevic, 31 who is interesting RNK Split and Ahmad Sharbini is looking to sever his contract with Al Wahda in Saudi Arabia. Ivan Parlov is also available have left Apollon Limasol after a healthy spell in Austria with Mattersburg.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


NK Zadar are firmly stating their attention to avoid being involved in the relegation scrap this season as they bolstered their squad with the signing of experienced left sided defender Mirko Hrgovic. The 34 year old, who has won titles with Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split played last season with RNK Split. He also spent time in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg and is a former Bosnia Herzegovina international. Zadar currently have a safety buffer between themselves and the bottom three teams.

Zadar have already signed up Mato Neretljak and Josip Tadic from Rijeka and claim to be ready to make one more signing in the coming month. Zadar's decision to strengthen their side follows Stipe Perica's transfer to Chelsea, which has started well as the 18 year old scored his first goal on his debut for NAC Breda for who he is spending the season on loan. The identity of the possible new recruit is unknown however midfielder Goran Rubil, striker Dragan Blatnjak or playmaker Mario Carevic are possible candidates. Carevic, also is interesting RNK Split who appear to need such a player in creative midfield to supply their strong strikeforce.

Newspapers in Croatia report new Dinamo Zagreb coach Branko Ivankovic is dissatisfied with Ante Rukavina, Jerko Leko and Domagoj Antolic and has left them out of recent fixtures. Reports suggest Rukavina and Leko may be on the exit door. Leko however at 33, is in the latter stage of his career and may not be disheartened at his status. He is also Dinamo's only cover at right back should Ivo Pinto pick up an injury. Rukavina meantime is also important in case of injuries as Dinamo currently play a three man forward line and Rukavina has the capacity to play out wide. At present he is unlikely to see any playing time with Duje Cop and Fatos Bequiraj ahead of him. Alen Halilovic also may attract a bid in the January transfer window, in which case Dinamo may move for Karlo Lulic. It is likely Rukavina's unproductive spell at Dinamo may come to a end at the end of the season, unless he can make the most of what opportunities he is afford.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


NK Osijek's plight was demonstrated further during the close of the transfer window as 10th placed Hrvatski Dragovoljac strengthened their side and defeated them to climb off the foot of the table. Whilst Dragovoljac were able to pick up Stipe Bacelic-Grgic and Drazen Jelic on a free transfer, Osijek were forced to sell off Domagoj Pusic to Rijeka.

With Dinamo Zagreb swarming around Osijek for Karlo Lulic, it may be best to take the offer believed to be around 1-2 million Euro's and look to hold out for the rest of the season. Dinamo themselves, may be keen to agree a mega money transfer of Alen Halilovic, now that a more settled Sammir has returned to the fold and left the talented youngster out on the sidelines. Halilovic still has plenty of chances to impress with games coming thick and fast not only in HNL1 but also the Europa Liga.

Such pleasures are just a distant memory for Osijek who may be reliant on former players to do them a favour to avoid relegation. Goran Ljubojevic has returned to the club, but coach Davor Rupnik has delayed placing him in the starting line up with out of form Mihael Pongracic and Josip Barisic preferred to him. Getting the 29 year old match fit and playing from the start seems key. More help is also need in central midfield where much rests on experienced Frane Vitaic and Tomislav Sorsa. Ex Croatia international Marko Babic, 32 may be willing to help Osijek again for half a season and would play in Lulic's position should the youngster be sold.

Concerning however for Osijek is that main rivals Dragovoljac, Slaven Belupo and Zadar have been able to strengthen. Whilst helping them by signing Pusic, Rijeka however did no favors to Osijek by loaning Zadar experienced defender Mato Neretljak and striker Josip Tadic who are two players they can revolve their young and hard working team around. Similarly Slaven Belupo have improved their creative midfield signing Filip Ozobic and Dominik Glavina. Goalscoring remains their key issue however and many are still mystified at coach Ivan Katilinic's decision to outcast the leagues all time highest scorer Davor Vugrinec in favor of Matteo Roskam who is yet to impress since joining from Sikori Briceg and does not appear suited to this level. Vugrinec, 38 may decide to drop down the leagues possibly NK Varazdin or retire.

Few players remain on the market for Osijek themselves to improve their squad. Dino Drpic, 32 and Ivan Bosnjak 34 are more likely to consider joining a ambitious HNL2 club such as NK Zagreb, Cibalia, Inter Zapresic or Sesvete. Ahmad Sharbini is yet to recieve free papers to release him from Al Wahda and could find a stronger club. Such players as Bosnjak and Sharbini could be more of what Belupo themselves may be keen on.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Sparta Prague will not count on striker Andrej Keric and may begin talks to terminate the players contract. The 27 year old has had a unsuccessful stint with the club after signing from Slovan Liberec for whom he impressed scoring 32 goals in 81 games. Keric appears in need of a change of scene and can transfer to the Russian, Isreali or Turkish league but maybe seek free papers from Prague. Keric has spent two seasons on loan at Teplice, but has not found his goalscoring touch.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


NK Zadar and Hrvatski Dragovoljac responded to recent victories by Slaven Belupo and Osijek by strengthening their squad before transfer deadline. Zadar allowed centre back Igor Prahic to transfer to Romanian side Vaslui but signed experienced Rijeka defender Mato Neretljak as replacement. Neretljak had a decent season last year for Rijeka, but was allowed to move on as the club looked to younger options. Neretljak, 34 has had a strong career with Osijek and Hajduk Split before enjoying a spell abroad in South Korea with Suwon Blue Wings and in Japan and also played for the Croatian National Team. Neretljak is known as a goalscoring centre back. Zadar also strengthened their attack, finally replacing NAC Breda's Stipe Perica who they sold to Chelsea in the summer. Josip Tadic, 26 has arrived on loan having spent the early season unable to force his way into the Rijeka line up with in form Leon Benko, Anas Sharbini and Ivan Krstanovic ahead of him. Following Andrej Kramaric's arrival from Dinamo Zagreb, Rijeka decided to let Tadic go. However the former Melbourne Heart striker will enjoy more first team action in Zadar competing only with Zelimir Terkes and Josip Ivancic for a starting berth.

Rijeka themselves have been busy and signed up Osijek defender Domagoj Pusic for 200,000 Kuna and Cibalia's Matej Mitrovic for 100,000.

Hrvatski Dragovoljac have made the biggest moves in the transfer market signing three new players, Drazen Jelic, Matias Zubak and Stipe Bacelic-Grgic. Jelic has a wealth of experience with Sibenik and Split and will bolster the forward line, however Zubak and Bacelic-Grgic in particular are expected to notably improve the team central midfield. Bacelic-Grgic impressed with Istra 1961 last season and left to seek a contract abroad, but with few offers available he has returned to Croatia.

Hajduk Split meantime have sold goalkeeper Goran Blazevic to Levski Sofia and midfielder Steven Lustica to Adelaide United in an attempt to reduce their wage bill. Abroad Mladen Petric has completed his dream return to the Premiership with West Ham United, after struggling to impress last season with Fulham for whom he scored 5 times. Petric, 32 is keen to impress after the East London club gave him a second chance.