Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Hajduk Split have continued their reassessment of the squad by once again listing midfielder Dario Jertec and right back Marijan Buljat. Hajduk's fixation on offloading the former Dinamo Zagreb duo has baffled many as the administration struggled to supply a reason for the move. Although Jertec has found himself frozen out and needs to move on, Buljat is the only recognised right back at the club and was a key part of last seasons side which challenged Dinamo for top spot. Hajduk are still awaiting big money bids for Senijad Ibricic before agreeing to terminate any of their players contracts, with Ivan Rodic also at the exit door.

Zvonimir Deranja looks to be up for grabs this winter after being made available on a free transfer thanks to Excelsior Mouscron withdrawal from the Belgian Juperliga due to financial problems. Arguably the move puts 30 year old Deranja out his misery after making just seven appearences all season. His previous season was even worse playing in only 4 matches and just 5 in the 2007/08 season. As Deranja had just got fit it is likely he will continue his career elsewhere and it would be hugely surprising if the former Hajduk Split star fails to return home to Croatia after such a lean time abroad.

Varteks hopes of mounting a bid to stay in HNL1 when the season resumes in February recieved a setback this week after coach Drazen Besek and legendary midfielder Miljenko Mumlek left the club to join Miroslav Blazevic at Shanghai Shenhua. Varteks have already lost striker Goran Mujanovic on a free transfer and it would appear that any financial salvation rests on the sale of Matija Smrekar and Igor Prahic.

Monday, 28 December 2009


Many Croats would argue that whilst consistent title challenges and European representatives Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split may be excused entering the market for foriegn players, it is detremental for arguably Croatia's third club HNK Rijeka to be overloading with misfiring foriegners. Rijeka had experienced some success with the recruitment of Serbian keeper Dragan Zilic, Bulgarian hotshot Georgi Ivanov, Montenegrin Radomir Dalovic and former German international Fredi Bobic. However recent free transfer buys have proved far less useful. Apart from Ramon Fernandez who has been outstanding, Rijeka's decision to buy midfielder Jonathan Germano, Slovenian playmaker Nastja Ceh and Bosnian midfielder Miroslav Karoglan this season has brought no success of any kind, whilst Johann Smith appears the worst purchase of all with fans continuing to praise his speed but not his footballing ability. It would appear Ceh and Karoglan are way short of match fitness having seen little action following their release from Khimki and Zilina respectively.

Nastja Ceh himself can go down as a potential Balkan star who seemed to lose his way in the game. In 2004/ 05 season Ceh had been the star attraction in the Belgian league firing 11 goals in 28 games and assisting 5 times. However Ceh chose the rather bizarre route of joining Austrian Vienna rather than move to a stronger league and despite assisting 15 times in 2005/06 it was all downhill from that period. Switches to relegation threatened Khimki and Panesekeros failed to boost the player who lost his place in the Slovenian national team and arrived in HNL1 in the Autumn.

Ceh has the talent to help Rijeka, but with no goals and already 1 red card in just 3 starts in 7 appearences it has been a disappointing opening to his HNL1 career. Ceh and Karoglan may experience their revivals when they eventually return to Slovenia or Bosnia. However it appears Rijeka would be best served recruiting younger Croatian players from stronger clubs that can be rejuvenated or young players of their own. This has been the policy of Slaven Belupo, Cibalia and Sibenik who all seem to have took advantage of Rijeka's poor recruitment policy.

Rijeka continues to be a platform from which Croatian players can either transfer abroad or relaunch their career as shown from the sales of Luka Vucko, Davor Vugrinec, Anas Sharbini, Igor Novakovic and Mikael Mikic. With Dario Jertec, Ivan Rodic, Ante Tomic, Filip Marcic, Marin Tomasov, Goran Ljubojevic and Marko Maric all desperate for this kind of rebirth, Rijeka have more than just a few possible options available to them. Croatia certainly needs a prosperous Rijeka and hopefully the management will make the right moves during this winter break.


It would appear Jurica Vranjes long wait for first team action could soon be over as Hajduk Split prepare a package to bring the former Croatia international back to Croatia. Vranjes left Osijek for Bayer Leverkusen way back in 2000 and stayed in Germany for the next 9 years. Vranjes status as a useful squad player never changed during spells with Bayer, Stuggart and lastly with Thomas Schaff's Werder Bremen. Although Vranjes achieved a respectable amount of action, he also endured long periods of frustration as a substitute and never fulfilled his potential after being tipped as a big player for Croatia's future by Mirko Jozic when he took him to the World Cup in 2002. This summer the 29 year old was eventually ditched into the reserves and it would now appear the midfielder wishes to return home in order to play.

At present any move for Vranjes depends on the sale of Senijad Ibricic, who is believed to have several admirers and should soon become the object of a bidding war. Hajduk already have Mario Ticinovic, Florin Cernat, Marin Tomasov aching to step in for the Bosnian international playmaker, but could also switch to 4-4-2 allowing Oremus and Anas Sharbini to patrol the wings. Centrally Vranjes could partner either Srdjan Andric or Josip Skoko, up until Skoko departs for Australia in the summer.

Hajduk have a long list of players up for sale, which begins with striker Ivan Rodic. Rodic has had an unhappy time at Hajduk, but could be taken this winter by Sibenik, Rijeka or Slaven Belupo. Its imagined Belupo would prefer to offload striker Bojan Vrucina for some nominal fee before embarking on any new signings. Filip Marcic and Goran Mujanovic have been highlighted as primary targets. Czaba Csizmadia was given his release, however with a number of players such as Kruno Jambrusic, Igor Gal eager to step in its unlikely Belupo will buy.

Hajduk have sent Brazilian's Paraiba and Thiaquinho back to Gremio after unsuccessful loan spells at the Poljud. Both players are surplus to requirements and the termination of their loans helps to decrease staff numbers. Hajduk seem eager to retain Ahmad Sharbini whilst bring on youngsters Duje Cop and Ante Vukusic, and Paraiba's departure now gives room for a new forward. Hajduk may however wait to see what kind of funds are available once they sell Ibricic. Thiaquinhio meanwhile was a redundant right back, which is covered by the presence of Marijan Buljat and Goran Rubil in emergancies. Hajduk also expect to have Mladen Pelaic back in the spring, whilst Ivo Smoje and Jurica Buljat also provide defensive cover.

At Dinamo, Croatian media have already sited midfielder Ivica Vrdoljak, defender Etto and striker Mario Mandzukic as players Zdavko Mamic is looking to let go in order to bring new funds into the club. With Mandzukic having a average first half to the season, it would appear Dinamo have decided to cash in on any existing interest. Werder Bremen are once again expecting to offer a proposal. As yet no bid has emerged for Vrdoljak or Etto, however Dejan Lovren has been linked with a move away from the Maksimir. The move is not believed to be in Dinamo's plan, but it is likely they would take silly money for the Croatia defender.

Monday, 21 December 2009


The 2009/10 season has seen a rapid improvement in the performances of a number of Croatian players, which promises to put the national team in a healthier state than 12 or even 6 months back.

Vedran Runje 19 appearences/ 24 goals conceded for Lens

Tomislav Mikulic 9 games played for Germinal Beerscott - 6 goals conceded
Hjorve Cale 13 appearences for Trabzonspor
Josip Simunic 16 appearences for Hoffenheim
Ivica Krizanac 18 appearences/ 2 goals for Zenit
Dejan Lovren 23 appearences/ 1 goal for Dinamo
Andre Mijatovic 18 appearences/ 2 goals for Bielfeld
Domogoj Vida 15 appearences/ 3 goals for Osijek
Vedran Corluka 20 appearences/ 1 goals for Tottenham
Dario Knezevic 11 appearences for Livorno
Mladen Bartulovic 17 appearences/ 8 goals for Krivbass
Gordan Schildenfeld 19 appearences for Strum Graz

Ognjen Vukojevic 23 appearence for Dinamo Kiev
Darijo Srna 23 appearences/ 2 goals for Shaktar
Tomislav Dujmovic 26 appearences/ 3 goals for Lokomotiv Moscow
Ivo Ilicevic 14 appearences/ 3 goals and 3 assists for Kaiserslautern
Luka Modric 5 appearences/ 1 assist for Tottenham
Niko Kranjcar 18 appearences/5 goals/ 4 assists for Tottenham
Ivan Rakitic 14 appearences/ 1 goal/ 2 assists for Schalke
Ivica Banovic 18 appearences/ 4 goals/ 2 assists for Frieburg
Drago Gabric 14 appearences/ 3 goals/ 2 assists for Trabzonspor
Daniel Pranjic 18 appearences/ 1 goal/ 2 assists for Bayern
Ivan Perisic 19 appearences/ 7 goals/ 6 assists for Club Brugge
Nikola Pokrivac 18 appearence/ 4 goals/ 3 assists for Red Bull Salzburg

Eduardo 16 appearences/ 4 goals/ 3 assists for Arsenal
Ivan Klasnic 19 appearences/ 9 goals/ 1 assist for Bolton & Nantes
Ivica Olic 17 appearences/ 8 goals/ 4 assists for Bayern
Mladen Petric 16 appearences/ 8 goals/ 1 assist for HSV
Nikica Jelavic 30 appearences/ 18 goals/ 7 assists for Rapid Vienna
Daniel Cesarec 13 appearences/ 9 goals/ 1 assist for Asteras Tripolis
Mate Bilic 14 appearences/ 4 goals/ 1 assist for Sporting Gijon
Igor Budan 15 appearences/ 5 goals/ 1 assist for Palermo
Mario Mandzukic 23 appearences/ 11 goals/ 5 assists for Dinamo Zagreb

Disappointing Seasons
Ante Rukavina 12 appearences/ 3 goals for Panathanaikos
Dino Drpic 15 appearences/ 1 assist/ 21 conceded for Karlsruhre
Jerko Leko 2 appearences/ 0 goals for Monaco
Marko Babic 10 appearences/ 0 goals/ 1 assist for Real Zaragoza
Stipe Pletikosa 5 appearences/ 6 conceded for Spartak Moscow
Mario Galinovic 9 appearences/ 7 conceded for Panathanaikos
Andrej Keric 18 appearences/ 2 goals/ 3 assists for Slovan Liberec
Darko Bodul 14 appearences/ 1 goal/ 2 assists for Sparta Rotterdam

Promising Seasons
Mato Jajalo 13 appearences/ 0 goals for Siena
Mario Budimir 8 appearences/ 3 goals for Ergotelis
Leon Benko 15 appearences/ 5 goals for Kortijk
Mario Carevic 14 appearences/ 4 goals/ 6 assists for Lokeron
Nikola Kalinic 14 appearences/ 2 goals/ 2 assists for Blackburn Rovers
Manuel Pamic 24 appearences/ 1 assist/ 18 conceded for Sparta Prague

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Former Croatia internationals Mato Neretljak and Mihael Mikic completed their first season in Japan's J League on Saturday. The league was ultimately won by Kashimir Antlers by two points ahead of runners up Kawasaki Frontale. Mikic's Sanfreece Hiroshima finished in fourth position with the 30 year old right midfielder playing in 25 of their matches providing 8 assists.

Neretljak also played a prominent role with 13th place Omiya Ardia scoring 8 goals in 33 matches which is a outstanding contribution for a central defender. Neretljak is highly likely to stay on for another year as he is contracted till January 2011, although will no doubt recieve offers from bigger clubs. Mikic who is at lot newer to experiences in the Far East has had a prosperous first year and is also contracted for one more season.

Meanwhile Bosko Balaban scored his 7th of the season in Pananios's 2-1 defeat to OA Kavala. Daniel Cesarec also found the target moving onto 9 goals for the season in Asteras's excellant 2-0 win over AEK Athens.

Friday, 18 December 2009


December's One to Watch rightly goes to Rapid Vienna's Croatian international hotshot Nikica Jelavic, who fired his 18th and 19th goals of the season in his side 3-3 draw with Celtic in the Europa Liga. Jelavic's form has been nothing short of outstanding and he has now stole a march on Dinamo Zagreb's Mario Mandzukic and Blackburn Rovers Nicola Kalinic to put himself in contention to be a regular in Croatia's squad in 2010.

It has been a rapid rise for Jelavic, who failed to impress during is formative years in HNL1 with Hajduk Split leading to a even less enjoyable time at Waregem in the Belgian Juperliga. He spent last season out on loan with Vienna however and enjoyed a better time of it, scoring a modest 7 which despite some hesitation ultimately lead to a permanent transfer. The retiremement of Mario Bazina and sale of Stefan Maierhoffer to Wolves left space for Jelavic to lead the Rapid forwardline and the goals immediately flowed both in the league where he has 8 times and in the Europa Liga where he hit the headlines with strikes against Aston Villa, Hamburg and Celtic. When Slaven Bilic selected Jelavic for international duty in October there was again eyebrows raised, but he was on target in a friendly against Qatar and now looks like he's there to stay.

Many Croatia fans would welcome the introduction of Jelavic which should eventually break a policy of selecting HNL1 prospect's purely to increase the chances of a future big money transfer for their domestic club. Jelavic's form has been extraordinarily better than that of Dinamo's Mandzukic. So it would be a huge surprise if Mandzo continued to hold his place in the wake of Eduardo, Ivica Olic, Mladen Petric, Ivan Klasnic, Mate Bilic, Igor Budan and Ivan Perisic's presence in addition to Jelavic.

With January's transfer window approaching could Jelavic's season get even better with a move to a stronger foriegn club outside of Austria's Bundesliga. On his current form that is highly possible.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Dinamo Zagreb have gone out of the Europa Liga after victory for rivals Anderlecht against Ajax guarenteed the Belgian side a safe passage to the next phase. The 3-1 victory for Anderlecht in Amsterdam rendered Dinamo's match at home to Timisoara largely irrelvant. Dinamo finish in third place after recording 2 wins and 4 losses.

Dinamo played their final game, once again without their supporters and on a pitch which was frozen as the cold winter snap hit Croatia. Coach Krunoslav Jurcic kept with his usual eleven with Miroslav Slepicka and Mario Mandzukic up front and Sammir contreversially chosen ahead of Ivan Tomecak. Dinamo's board didn't send the most convincing message to the players prior to the match as they began their winter clearout by making of two of their most recent signings Leandro Cufre and Dmitrios Papadopoulos available for transfer. Pre-match talk also centred around Mario Mandzukic needing a performance to transfer abroad and Dejan Lovren also stating a desire to leave the Maksimir Stadium. Miroslav Slepicka also seems to be far from on speaking terms with members of Croatia's press after walking out of a recent interview. Dinamo's lack of unity seemed evident for much of the game as they ambled through the match despite dominating possession.

Despite half chances for Slepicka, Mandzukic and Sammir all were passed up, whilst Dejan Lovren fluffed his lines when presented with a opportunity from a Pedro Morales corner. Timisoara also had their moments and Gigel Bacur broke the deadlock in the second half on 67 minutes. The goal for the visitors finally caused Jurcic to act as Tomecak was thrown into the action along with Ilija Sivonjic and Andrej Kramaric. Sivonjic immediately made an impression as his shot was turned into his own net by Christian Scutari. However it took only four minutes for the Romanian side to jump back into the lead as Dorin Goga netted with 5 minutes left of normal time. Despite a lack chance for Mandzukic, 2-1 was the way it stayed on a disappointing night for HNL1's current league leaders.

Dinamo will spend another season without reaching the knockout phase of the competition and will be trying once again to make changes to their roster. Dinamo have agreed to allow Papadopoulos and Cufre to leave should they find a new employer during winter break. In the case of both this could be possible as are both ex internationals with Greece and Argentina respectively and their is already murmurings of a transfer for Cufre to Italy's Bologna. However any new suitor will need to attempt to match the high wage demands.

Cufre's and Papadopoulos's departure as well Miroslav Slepicka's disatisfication with criticism of his performances indicates to a internal conflict within Dinamo of whether to recruit foriegn players or bring through home grown talents. Whilst Ivan Tomecak, Andrej Kramaric, Filip Loncaric, Tomislav Barbaric and Milan Badelj have shown promise this season, Dinamo most important players has been Pedro Morales and Standard Liege's recent interest in Luis Ibanez was immediately rebuffed by Mamic. Dinamo have continued their policy of signing foriegn players in last three seasons following the success of Brazilian's Etto, Sammir and most notably Eduardo Da Silva who played important roles in Dinamo's domination in the Croatian league. However most recent purchases have proved far less successful leading Dinamo to think again.

As for new arrivals in the winter Dinamo definitely appear interested in signing Osijek defender Domogoj Vida, but are once again ruling out a move for Bosnia Herzegovina striker Ermin Zec due to Sibenik's high asking price. Whilst Dinamo's foreign investments have yet to bring full reward, they may also be cautious about signing recommended Balkan prospects as neither Emmanuel Villa or Dalibor Pandza have impressed whilst sent on loan to Lokomotiva Zagreb. Loko may however present Dinamo with a few answers to some of their problems.

As for depatures it appears Ante Tomic, Carlos and Argentinian midfielder Guillermo Suarez have no future at Dinamo. Suarez has struggled back in his homeland with Tigre and is likely to be first player to leave. Denis Glavina is also expected his loan deal from Ukrainian side Poltava to be terminated with immediate effect. Like Cufre, Glavina is another player who has passed through the Maksimir without the fans seeing what he can do. Recent comments coming out of Dinamo also seem to suggest that every player at Dinamo has insecure status exempting Barbaric, Loncaric, Tomecak and Kramaric with the club even considering proposals to cash in on Morales, Badelj, Lovren and Mandzukic.

At this moment Dinamo would be more than lucky to get top money for any of there prize assets as only Morales has peaked this season in form. Lovren and Badelj have also only shown flashes of their quality. Dinamo's most well known star Mario Mandzukic, meanwhile has lost his way in recent months and is unlikely to transfer unless Dinamo recieved a substantial offer. The player appears in need of a strong second half of the season in order to gain a transfer.

All in all it is likely to be a eventual winter at Dinamo which will be far from simplified by tonights events.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Ivan Rakitic's position at Schalke has been a regular topic for discussion during CSR's Croatians Around Europe feature. Only weeks ago Rakitic's stats this season were 1 goal in 7 Bundesliga matches, having made just four starts, during which he was subbed at half time on three occasions. However the last month has better for Rakitic and he reports his relationship with Felix Magath to be improving. Rakitic has undeniable talent and at 21 still has a big career ahead of him. Rakitic has already made 24 appearences for Croatia and scored a respectable seven times. Rakitic has regularly been linked with a move away from Schalke, but it is unlikely we will see Rakitic turning out for the previously mentioned Inter, Juve or Arsenal in the new year. A midtable Serie A club looks very possible though with Palermo and Everton also rumoured to be very keen. Don't count out Rakitic staying with Schalke until at least the end of this season. Possibility: 20%

Although Igor Budan describes his relationship in Palermo as excellant, the forward may be tempted to switch clubs in the winter with many lower level Serie A sides very interested in offering the player regular first team football. Budan has appeared 15 times scoring five goals for Palermo, but has started only four games. It is believed Palermo would now like to step up to the next level to become a competitive top flight side and may be willing to part with their 30 year old striker. Bari wanted the player in the summer, but Livorno are now also believed to be tracking the player. Budan is not under great pressure to transfer in order to secure his national team place, so it is possible the player may stay contented with his bit part role till the summer. Possibility: 20%

Jerko Leko's status within Monaco has been so bad that he may be calling on the help of old friends this winter to achieve a transfer. The 29 year old is no longer trusted by Monaco's Guy Lacombe and has now been dumped from the national team by Slaven Bilic. Having spurned good offers in the summer from English Premiership clubs Stoke City, Wolves and Portsmouth, Leko's hope of a transfer now appears to rest either in Germany, Austria or via a move to the Russian Premier League. However as the player has no serious football since last season his fitness levels may be brought into question. A rumour linking Leko with Chelsea was reported on Eurosport, but it appears this came as a consequence of a recommendation which Chelsea are unlikely to act upon. Possibility: 100%

Jurica Vranjes's status compares to Jerko Leko's in that he is out of the plans of the first team coach of his club. However as Vranjes plays with a much stronger side in Bremen, he is more likely to attract a move. Vranjes in fact was said to be furious that he could not get out of Bremen before the transfer window and heated words with coach Thomas Schaff soon followed. It is likely Vranjes and his agent would have been getting something ready for this winter. Vranjes would prefer to stay in the Bundesliga possibly with former teammate Zvonimir Soldo at Koln. It is also possible however that this could be the new signing of Hajduk Split in the winter. Vranjes is known to be a fan of Hajduk and almost returned to Croatia from Bayer Leverkusen when he was a Croatia international. Possibility: 100%

It is hard to know the plans of Dario Simic at age 34. It appears obvious the player would like to retire at the end of the season and expressed hope of playing the next six months with Dinamo Zagreb. Dinamo appear less enthusiastic however, purely due to the fact they have no idea where to fit him in or any real cause to make the signing. Dinamo appear to be more keen to continue with youngsters Ivan Tomecak and Tomislav Barbaric rather than effect their progress through signing Simic. Dinamo are also carrying another old timer in Robert Kovac on their roster along with Igor Biscan and definite first teamer Dejan Lovren so cannot find room for Simic. Simic himself appears disinterested in a move to any other Croatian club and six months living in Monaco would not be the most galling way to finish his career. If Simic were to transfer a move to a smaller French club or Greece looks the only realistic option for a guy who is really already in retirement. Possibility: 60%

Disaster would be the only way to describe Andrej Keric season so far. This coming only months after becoming the top scorer in the Czech League with Slovan Liberec during the 2008/09 campaign. The 24 year old has bizarrely played 18 games scoring just 2 goals leaving his hopes of stepping up to the next level in tatters. Keric, however is at a small club and it may be that the pressure of being relied to lead the team has took its toll on the player. A move to a better side in Croatia or in another country may be all that is required to get Keric firing again. It is hard to believe that a player who scored 21 in 51 games so recently for Slovan could suddenly have gone cold overnight. Possibility: 20%

It appears that football fans will once again be exposed to the schinanigans of the Drpic's this winter. It is not likely that writing for German newspaper Bild, whilst Dino plays unsuccessfully with midtable second division side Karlsruhre will keep the Drpic's happy for long. This winter its hugely likely Dino Drpic will make a bid to transfer from his club. Most ideal for the player would be if a top flight Bundesliga club took him on. Several clubs including HSV, Hertha Berlin, Bordeaux were linked, but nothing materialised. Drpic transferring to Hertha wouldn't be out the question. It is hardly likely Drpic will be willing to stay in Bundesliga 2 which does little for his hopes of international football. From the perspective of Dinamo looking back it was a great move to shift Drpic off their books. Possibility: 50%

Whether Ante Rukavina transfers or not will depend on the players desire for first team football. Despite being at a big club, Rukavina has yet to convince the coaching staff of his ability to start matches. Rukavina played 25 matches for Pana last season scoring 7 goals, but had just 8 starts. Despite that coach Henk Ten Cate plays just one striker he signed Djibril Cissie rather than turn to Rukavina and it is believed Dmitrios Salpingdis is his second preferred option. For Rukavina it will be interesting to see if he makes a gamble and transfers or plods along with Panathanaikos till the end of the season. So far Croatia fans have not seen enough of Rukavina at Hajduk or Panathanaikos to understand if he will become a potential national team star or not. It would appear the 23 year old needs to drop down to a smaller club in order to move forward in his career. Possibility: 10%

Mladen Bartulovic has been the one beacon of light during a poor season for relegation threatened Ukrainian Premier League side Krivbass. The Croatian international has been on loan from Dnipro for a second time having signed during half of the 2008/09 campaign. Bartulovic's form has been so good in the last few months that he was fielded by Croatia coach Slaven Bilic in the countries most recent friendly with Leichenstien. The wideman has scored a sparkling 8 goals in 17 matches and made 5 assists. Now back at Dnipro he is desperate for a transfer during the winter break to a stronger club. At 23 Bartulovic still has time to realise the potential he showed at Hajduk Split which earned his transfer to Dnipro in 2006. It is not certain why he was allowed to go on loan considering his current form, but it appears best for the player to transfer into another country. It is not expected Bartulovic would return to Croatia. However the player would make a more than worthwhile signing for either Dinamo or Hajduk who could both afford the compensation Dnipro would be asking, believed to be in the region of 1m Euro's. Possibility: 30%

The plight of until very recently Croatia's undisputed first choice keeper has been startling. Capped 79 times, Pletikosa had appeared an unrivaled starter for Spartak Moscow at the beginning of the season after an impressive Euro 2008 for Croatia's national side. A few average games however in Russia and a unsteady showing in Croatia's 4-1 loss to England was all that it took for Pletikosa to find himself out in the cold and went three months without any competitive football. In response Pletikosa attempted a last ditch transfer before the deadline, but suffered ligament damage in training with Spartak scuppering any possible deal being reached. Having missed the rest of 2009, if fit Pletikosa will make another bid to find a new club in January. Spartak Moscow justified their decision to give Soslan Dzhaneyev the gloves as they finished runners up in the Russian Premier League. It is unlikely coach Valeri Karpin will change his mind. Croatia coach Slaven Bilic on the other hand is willing to offer Pletikosa a way back should find a new team in 2010. Possibility: 30%

A winter transfer would be fitting with Nikica Jelavic's astronomical rise. Since Rapid took a gamble on signing the 23 year old striker from Zaregem after scoring just 7 goals during last seasons campaign, Jelavic has never looked back. Jelavic has gone on to nestle the ball 19 times into the back of opponents net between the months of July and December leaving Rapid Vienna with a dilemma. With the players valuation having rocketed since they bought him for a measely couple of hundred thousand, Rapid may consider a sale. Jelavic's form has been so good that his status in the Croatian national team would also have improved even rivalling a revitalised Ivan Klasnic and a tried and trusted Eduardo for a shirt. Possibility: 50%

Having scored his ninth goal of the season in just 14 appearences it would be high time to announce the name of Daniel Cesarec to CSR Reader. Cesarec sits top of the Greek league scoring charts alongside French hotshot Djibril Cisse. Cesarec is already 26 and may be unfamilar to Croats having left the Balkan state way back in 2002 signing with Sparta Prague from Marsonia. The Czech's never saw the best of him despite staying long enough to claim nationality and he moved across to Greece with Akratitos. A strong 2004/05 season with them led to switches to Egaeleo and then to Asteras. In 2009 Cesarec has finally found his best form and could be about to finally step up his career to a higher level. With his contract due to expire in the summer Asteras may be forced to cash in on the striker. It will be interesting to see what 2010 brings for Cesarec who could appear in a Croatia shirt should his form continued in the not too distant future. Possibility: 50%

Dario Srna continues to be linked with every Western European powerhouse going, but once again it remains only speculation as to where or if he will transfer. Srna still seems more than satisfied with his status as captain of Shaktar, which solidifies his position in the Croatian national team in the face of competition from Ivan Rakitic and Drago Gabric. His very high transfer valuation believed to be somewhere in the region of 15m to 18m Euro has also put off numerous big clubs. Chelsea is the latest to be linked as the English Premier League side consider replacements for the currently injured Jose Bosingwa allowing Branislav Ivanovic to be used as a utility defender. Possibility: 20%

The form of Niko Kranjcar for Tottenham gives rise to the possibility that Harry Redknapp may consider a major substantial offer made for Luka Modric. Rumours of Manchester United and Inter Milan moving for the player circulated in the summer and it would seem unlikely Spurs would reject a Champions League club. Redknapp has also been told he need to raise funds if he is to bring in any new player, but would prefer to offload the likes of Alan Hutton, Roman Pavyulchenko, Gareth Bale, Giovanni Dos Santos and David Bentley, before mulling over any transfer of Modric or Jermaine Jenas. Modric's brief for 2010 may be to dislodge Tom Huddlestone from the centre of Spurs midfield in order to break back into side, should Kranjcar continue to shine. Possibility: 10%

After a very successful loan spell in the Czech Republic with Sparta Prague, Manuel Pamic's one year loan deal has now expired. He returns to Red Bull Salzburg where his status as of this moment is unclear. Dinamo Zagreb have already made it clear they admire the player and he was believed to be their primary target in the summer. However Pamic could well have done enough in Sparta to attract a stronger foriegn club or to break into the Red Bull side. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pamic during January. Possibility: 30%

Sunday, 6 December 2009


Nikica Jelavic continue to show outstanding form in the Austrian league with his 8th league goal of the season in Rapid Vienna's 3-1 win over Kapfenburg. Jelavic showed excellant predatory instincts powerfully heading home from a cross following a counter attack. There also goals for Ivica Banovic (Frieburg 2 Wolfsburg 2) and Drago Gabric (Trabzonspor's win over Ankaraguca).

In Serie A Igor Budan fired his 5th of the season and third in the league in Palermo's victory over Cagliari. Leon Benko was also the matchwinner for Kortrijk as they defeated Zulte Waregem 1-0. Its was Benko's 5th of the season, ending a minor scoring drout for the ex Standard Liege player.

In Greece Pananios striker Bosko Balaban is showing he still has his goalscoring instinct, firing his 5th goal of the season in his 11th outing of the season against AEK Athens. The 31 year old scored the third goal in a 3-1 victory. Pananios are now up to fourth place in the table.


The sad death of promising Colombian striker Herman Cordoba on Saturday, brought back memories of many players in recent years whose lives and football careers prematurely ended. Cordoba a 20 year old forward had contributed to firing Huila to the top of the Colombian first division with 7 goals. It was even rumoured that Werder Bremen were showing an interest in the player and that he would soon be turning out for his countries national side. Cordoba died in horrific circumstances when his car crashed into a bus and caught fire. Midfielder Mario Beltran also died in the incident.

The feeling in Colombia will be sympathised particularly in Spain and Croatia who have had to let go of young talents due to tragic circumstances. Seville's talented left footed midfielder Antonio Peurta died in 2007 after collapsing in a match against Getafe in the Premira Liga. Espanjol were next to suffer such pain as their captain Dani Jarque was found dead in his hotel room in Italy during a preseason tour. Both players suffered heart attacks. Following the tragedies Spain's highly talented Real Madrid midfielder Ruben De La Red looks unlikely to return to the pitch after being diagnosed with a heart condition. The 24 year old scored a stunning strike against Greece in Spain's successful Euro 2008 campaign and compares in playing style to Croatia's Niko Kranjcar. However after the midfielder blacked out hitting the deck in the early round's of the Coppa Del Rey the player admits it could be over for him.

In Croatia, Slaven Bilic arguably may have another striker and another right midfielder on his roster if not for two fateful days in 2002 and 2003. Daniel Popovic was a striker of NK Osijek, who was causing a huge sensation in HNL1 scoring 4 goals in the first 10 games of the season. He also impressed partnering Ivica Olic in Croatia Under 21's match with Estonia netting once in a 2-0 victory. Everything seemed set for a highly promising career when the player lost control of his car in Borova and hit a street light. Croatia can only think of what might have been. Silvestar Sabolkci, succumbed a year later in Varazdin in the early hours of the morning.

Sabolkci, aged 24 was a player who had already achieved notable success as part of a Varteks side which featured Sasa Bjelanovic, Daniel Hrman and Ivan Rezic. Sabolkci was known as a right sided Daniel Pranjic who was emerging at the same time period. Blessed with excellant pace and excellant crossing ability. He was played 17 times in Croatia's Under 21 side before being given his full debut in 2001 against Greece. Having already played in two European Championships and one World Championship with the Under 21's side, 2003 was supposed to be a pivotal year for the player who played in a friendly match against Macedonia in February. In the May with the domestic season soon to finish he signed up with Dinamo Zagreb and was expected to be a standard first 11 player for the following campaign. However days later the player died in car accident. In addition to signing for Dinamo the player was due to be married, with his fiancee expecting to have their first child.

The death of Hjorve Custic came only a year and a half ago. Custic was the victim of poor conditions in the Croatian National League, where NK Zadar's Stanovi stadium was granted fit for use, despite the existence of a concrete wall within barely a couple of metres of play. Despite an inoccuious challenge for the ball with Cibalia's 17 year old midfielder Tomislav Juric, Custic was sent crashing into the wall leaving him with a fractured skull. The wall has since been removed and it took the death of Custic for inspections to be carried out on all grounds in Croatia. NK Zagreb, Croatia Sesvete and not suprising Zadar was seen to fall short of required standards. Zadar's stadium is a problem of space as nearby flats which overlook the ground limit the club's ability to widen the area, between pitch and terraces. The concrete wall which killed Custic however has now been removed and the club hope to move to a new stadium which they will name after their 23 year old former wide man from the city. Had Custic been playing in Zapresic, Hajduk or Dinamo which contains a huge amount of tracking and grass between pitch and stadium the player would have had nothing more than a casual role on the grass on a Saturday afternoon. Tomislav Juric, who has made two appearences so far this season wears a T shirt bearing Custic's picture under his Cibalia shirt.

Although Custic's career may not have found the level of De la Red, Sabolcki or Peurta, he was still much loved by NK Zadar. Having struggled to break into a NK Zagreb forward line containing Mario Mandzukic and Krunoslav Lovrek, Custic returned home to Zadar for the 2007/08 season and had been an excellant foil for the leagues leader scorer Zelimir Terkes. Custic was also well known to Slaven Bilic and Aljosa Asanovic who capped the player 10 times in their Under 21 side

Saturday, 5 December 2009


During the past week i've been impressed by a Ukrainian born Jewish boxer from Brooklyn, United States named Dmitriy Salita. Tonight he lost out in demoralising fashion to English boxer Amir Khan who took just the first round to defeat Salita. Hopefully this is not the end for Salita, but like Khan's defeat to Bredis Prescott galvanises him for the future. It was noticable the anomosity to Salita fighting in Newcastle who are always partizan towards home sportsman. Khan is also on the cressed of a wave having become world Champion and having defeated a great in Marco Antonio Barrera as well as Andreas Kotelnik to win the WBA International title. Perhaps Salita is in need of such victories to build his own confidence.

Salita's attempt to show Jewish faith in a positive light has been impressive as well as the way he has overcome the difficulties of immigration from a difficult upbringing as a Jew living in Ukraine. Besides losing his mother to cancer. If nothing else the fight with Khan has raised the profile of Salita who may not have been so well known before. Hopefully Salita re-emerges from this loss to a outstanding fighter who may go on to bigger and better things in 2010.


Following injuries to Robin Van Persie and Nikolas Bendtner it was believed Croatian international striker Eduardo Da Silva would finally get a run in the Arsenal side. However disappointing performances against Sunderland and Chelsea has left Arsene Wenger pondering a move for a new striker in the transfer market as his side were accused on being lightweight. In truth Eduardo has performed well alongside the tall more powerful Bendtner and Van Persie, but struggles to fill the role when used up on his own.

Eduardo goals have not flowed as much as he'd liked this season with just the 2 in 10 league appearences. The 26 year old has been reduced to cameo roles which with Wenger under increasing pressure to deliver a trophy could be the maximum he can hope for. Youngsters Carlos Vela and Jay Simpson are also keen to make a breakthrough into the first team and are currently blocked by the presence of Eduardo. There is no question Eduardo still has the talent to deliver for Croatia and for any club of the size of from Tottenham to Sevilla and Porto, but Eduardo's recent struggle could encourage Wenger to move for a player of the standard of Bosnia Herzegovina's Edin Dzeko or Brazil's Luis Fabiano who both possess the physical presence which Wenger is looking for.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Dinamo Zagreb will go into their final Europa Liga group match with Timosoara with a chance of progressing to the next stage after defeating Anderlecht 1-0 in Brussells. After recieving 3 points back on the board from UEFA's Disciplinary Review panel, Dinamo went into their game with Anderlecht with something to play for. With Ilija Sivonjic, Leandro Cufre and Igor Biscan absent, Dinamo coach Krunoslav Jurcic kept faith with Luis Ibanez, whilst Miroslav Slepicka was passed fit to lead the forward line with Mario Mandzukic. Robert Kovac was back in the defence, but keyman Pedro Morales only made the subs bench after a short lay off.

In a even first half few there was few opportunities to speak of for either team. Slepicka made a nice run before hitting a shot past the post, whilst Ivan Tomecak was making some excellant moves from right midfield. Anderlecht themselves struggled to carve out openings as Robert Kovac and Dejan Lovren stood firm. In the second half Romel Lakuka had his first sight of goal for Anderlecht, but shot straight at Tomislav Butina. It was a sign for Dinamo to step up their game and on 57 minutes the goal came. Sammir found Tomecak in space, who supplied Czech striker Slepicka to head past Silvio Proto. Anderlecht again struggled to make headway as Jurcic gambled throwing on Papadopoulos for Slepicka. However there was little cause for Dinamo to panic as the best chances continued to fall their way, first for Vrdoljak before Badelj shot straight at Proto in the dying moments of the match. This was a fantastic win for Dinamo, who have improved dramatically in defence from their earlier Euro displays. Kovac once again rolled back the years and looked fresh after his recent lay off from HNL1 matches. In attack Mandzukic again struggled to find his best form, but the set up of the team looked more controlled with Slepicka helping to give the team shape.

The Czech striker has showed in recent weeks signs of improvement earning special mentions during games against Sibenik and Karlovac. Slepicka would need to improve on his 6 goal tally, but his overall scoring record with Dinamo is respectable having bagged 6 goals in 9 games last season. In Slepicka, Dinamo could have the player they need to see them gain victory in the Timisoara match, but are counting on Ajax to beat Anderlecht. Ajax are qualified after defeating Timosoara in Romania tonight.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


After weeks of struggling to close the gap on the teams above them in the relegation zone, Zagreb finally made headway after their 3-1 victory against Zapresic. Igor Stimac's men are now just 3 points off fourth bottom Medimurje and 4 points from 5th bottom NK Zadar. The contribution of Davor Vugrinec has been little short of remarkable in recent weeks and he was once again on target with his 8th goal in his last 8 match and his 10th of the season. Vugrinec's form has also woken up partner Ivan Kristanovic who netted his fourth in six games on 36 minutes. Zapresic's Brazilian striker Dodo pulled one back just before half time. However Vugrinec was once again there to seal the game with the matchwinner in the last 10 minutes of the match. In the week, Zagreb announced the identities of the two North Korean youngsters brought to the club. An Il Bom is captain of the countries Under 17 side, whilst Jong Il Ju also arrives.

Hajduk Split look finally to be making progress up the league after their latest victory over out of form NK Zadar. Edoardo Reja could once again count of Hjorve Vejic and Ivan Strinic and gave a start to youngster Duje Cop who has performed well in recent Cup matches. Mario Ticinovic and Marin Tomasov were also recalled. Hajduk got the start they were looking for when Stjepan Skocibusic put through his own net. Duje Cop got a second before, Antonio Mrsic pulled one back in the second half. Hajduk stay in 6th place, but are just a point behind Slaven Belupo in 5th and Karlovac in 4th. Hajduk did a big favour for Igor Stimac, as NK Zadar are a side who are being chased down by his in form NK Zagreb side.

Karlovac made light work of defeating HNL1's canon fodder Croatia Sesvete to further improve their status in the division. The win keeps them ahead of Hajduk Split and rounds of a outstanding first half of the season as they start their winter break. Karlovac made a great start to the match as Josip Jerneic found the net inside two minutes. Jurica Karabatic extended the lead on 28 minutes, before Zvonko Pamic scored the third from the penalty spot. Karlovac move into fourth place, just a point above Hajduk Split.

Lokomotiva continue to be in a healthy state in HNL1 after their latest win coming this time over relegation strugglers Istra. It was however Istra who took the lead on 7 minutes when Goran Roce netted the opener. Lokomotiva were back level within minutes however through Tomislav Puljic. They then took on the lead just before half time thanks to a Ivan Peko strike which proved to be the matchwinner. Lokomotiva move above Rijeka into 8th place. Istra's situation appears more desperate with several players set to leave in the winter including Tonci Kukoc. Khallilou Traore also looks on his way out of Croatia as he is attracting clubs in Belgium and Russia. Istra are now second from bottom following Zagreb's win on Friday.

Slaven Belupo won a good point which keeps them ahead of Hajduk Split after drawing with Cibalia. Zlatko Dalic's men took the lead just before half time through Hungarian defender Csaba Csizmadia heading in from a free kick. Cibalia got back into the game not long into the second half when defender Petar Tomic met Tomislav Pavlivic cross. Despite chances for Bojan Vrucina and Ivica Baraban it stayed that way for the remainder of the match. The point secured a top three position for Cibalia going into the winter break. Belupo may be active in the transfer depending on the striker Vrucina who with only 5 goals in 17 appearences this season appears to have drop in value.

Rijeka drop down to ninth place after throwing away the lead on two occasions in their draw with Varteks. The game started well for Nenad Gracan's men as Montenegrin international striker Radomir Dalovic scored twice in the first 15 minutes. Robert Puncec reduced the arrears for Varteks before the ageless Miljenko Mumlek struck home from distance. Ramon Fernandez, however found Sandi Krizman to edge Rijeka back in front before half time. Dalovic spurned an opportunity for a hatrick messes up a one on one situation, before Dino Skvorc pounced on 83 minutes to snatch an equaliser for Varteks. Rijeka look certain to enter the transfer market in January. However Varteks have no such opportunities as have struggled to pay their players in recent weeks. The situation is expected to be resolved in the coming months.

This was seen as a clash of two of the strongest teams in the league and Osijek aim to take full advantage of the absence of Sibenik's two best players Mehmed Alispahic and Ermin Zec. Osijek made their breakthrough midway through the first half when Croatian under 21 defender Domogoj Vida struck. Vida was also inspirational in the scoring as he crossed for Josip Barisic to despatch into the back of the net. Subsitute Vedran Nikisic scored the third to wrap up a comprehensive win, which moves Osijek up to fourth place. Tomislav Steinbruckner will be extremely pleased what he has seen from his young side in the first half of the season, which has given the club at lot to look forward to in the near future. Sibenik have also had a fantastic season so far, but will need to find a replacement for Zec as Jusuf Dajic and Ivan Bozic came up slightly short this evening.

Dinamo moved six points clear at the top after coming from behind to defeat Medimurje. Dinamo coach Krunoslav Jurcic had Dejan Lovren, Ivan Tomecak and Tomislav Barbaric absent, but Pedro Morales was back after a short lay off. Dominik Picak made his first start in the Dinamo goal, whilst Greek striker Dmitrios Papadopoulos started alongside Miroslav Slepicka. Despite early chances for Dinamo, it was the Cakovec club that took the lead through marksman Marian Vuka. Jurcic responded by withdrawing Papadopoulos for Andrej Kramaric at half time and Dinamo were quickly back on level terms thanks to top scorer Pedro Morales. Kramaric then set up Slepicka to put Dinamo into the lead on 55 minutes, before scoring himself to make it 3-1. The youngster grabbed his second, his ninth of the season in all competitions on 80 minutes. Such form may encourage Dinamo to part with Mandzukic, should Wolfsburg move for the striker as replacement for Edin Dzeko. Dinamo have just one match to play in the Europa Liga against Timosoara before going off to their winter break.

13. Pedro Morales (Dinamo)
11. Davor Vugrinec (Zagreb)
8. Mario Mandzukic (Dinamo), Ermin Zec (Sibenik), Nino Bule (Lokomotiva)
7. Senijad Ibricic (Hajduk), Bojan Golubovic (Medimurje), Asim Sehic (Istra), Milan Badelj (Dinamo)

Sunday, 29 November 2009


As Croatia looks to the future and to the 2012 European Championship Qualifying Campaign, several younger players will be looking to step up into the first team. 35 year old Robert Kovac has been the first to step aside, though striker Ivica Olic, Ivica Knezevic and Josip Simunic will stay on as are still important to the team. A number of the elder fringe players may not have a future in the Croatian national team. So who should stay and who should go?

IVAN KLASNIC, Bolton Wanderers, Age 30
39 caps, 12 goals
Klasnic's goal at the weekend against Europa Liga qualifiers Fulham shows he is still the killer in the box which made him a much loved player at Werder Bremen. Klasnic now only plays an occasional support striker role at club and international level, but is likely to come under huge competition for his jersey from Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic and Mate Bilic which could cause his removal from the squad. With 12 goals for Croatia, Klasnic has been more than useful for the national. Klasnic was widely regarded to have been wasted by Otto Baric riding the pine during Euro 2004, but did play during the 2006 World Cup under Zlatko Kranjcar. However this was only a year before serious illness resulting in kidney failure which led to two transplant operations. Klasnic made a remarkable return to high level football scoring 7 times for Werder Bremen during the second half of the season and then cracking in important strikes during Croatia's Euro 2008 campaign. During 2010 World Cup qualifying Klasnic was again arguably wasted 5 times mainly as substitute scoring 1 goal. 2012 could possibly be a step too far for a player whose speed his decreased as a consequence of his illness and period spent out the game. If Klasnic is willing he could be of use to Croatia during periods of injury, but due his natural decreased level of workrate Klasnic could lose out to the more agile Mate Bilic and Jelavic in the forthcoming games.

IGOR BUDAN, Palermo, 30
6 caps, 0 goals
Whilst illness has impacted on Klasnic, Croatia has never managed to get Igor Budan fit. Currently Budan is one of few Croatian success stories in Serie A having performed excellantly with Atalanta, Parma and Ascoli. Budan's issue however has always been his injury problems which has left him with no real international career worth mentioning. This season is the first season where Budan has been properly fit in two years and the player when years continues to remind Croatia of his quality. Budan is a robust forward which Croatia do not possess in Eduardo, Petric, Olic and Mate Bilic. Budan is excellant in the air, but also neat on the ground. It is likely Budan may need a spree of goals to get him back in contention. However by the time Croatia play their first serious qualifying matches the player will be into his 30's and it may not be possible for Budan with the injuries he's had to play both club and international football. Budan's Croatia career looks likely to pass without the country really seeing what he can do.

IVICA BANOVIC, SC Freiburg, Age 29
1 caps, 0 goals
Although Croatia are on the hunt for back up to Luka Modric, it appears Ivica Banovic has made his move just a little too late to enter the national team. Banovic is a first team regular in the side of Bundesliga 1 club SC Freiburg and is performing well in the central midfield scoring 3 goals so far and making 14 appearences. Although Banovic rise is probably more impressive then that which got Nenad Bjelica a late call up for the Euro 2004 squad, coach Slaven Bilic is looking for younger players and has sited Ivo Ilicevic, Ivan Perisic and Milan Badelj as more preferable options. Banovic has made a decent career in Germany with Nuremburg, Werder Bremen and with his current club. Banovic probably has not hit the heights however which he could have done and is likely to continue to have a good end to his career without international representation.

JERKO LEKO, Monaco, Age 29
59 caps, 2 goals
Jerko Leko has been the first casualty in Croatia's attempt to revamp their squad following failure to reach the 2010 World Cup. The all action midfielder infuriated many by failing to transfer despite being transfer listed by Monaco in the summer. Whilst Nikola Pokrivac came under huge criticism for failure to provide any creativity or defensive solidity in the absence of Luka Modric, it was in fact the more experienced Jerko Leko who should have been stepping in. However with no club action before him, Bilic was left with his hands tied and has now removed Leko from Croatia's squad. It is possible Leko could force his way back in. The player has huge experience in Champions League football with Dinamo Kiev and has been called up to every tournament squad Croatia qualified for since Euro 2004. However it is going to require consistent first team action and an improved attitude from the player to put the checked shirt back on again.

MARKO BABIC, Real Zaragoza, Age 28
49 caps, 3 goals
Whilst the forementioned players could struggle to find their way into Croatia's squad, Marko Babic is in the opposite situation. Babic was left out by Slaven Bilic for the Euro 2008 campaign and the 2010 qualifiers having lost form at Real Betis and Hertha Berlin. Babic however has already been sited for a potential return should he continue his improvement at Real Zaragoza. Babic is attempting to steal a march on Bayern Munich's Daniel Pranjic and Schalke's Ivan Rakitic who are both experiencing difficult seasons in the Bundesliga. Babic who was Croatia's best player in the 2006 World Cup still has the physical attributes and quality to make a return. He has seems to have a coach willing to give him a chance and it will be interesting to see the response of left midfielder as the season progresses. Babic has a lot of experience having played with Croatia in the 2006 World Cup and 2008 Euro qualifiers. He also has plenty of games behind him playing Champions League football with Bayer Leverkusen.

IVAN JURIC, Genoa, Age 34
5 caps, 0 goals
Whilst Ivan Juric's popularity remains in tact at Serie A side Genoa, the defensive midfielder struggled to win over Croatia fans during the 2010 qualifying campaign. It is likely that at 34 Juric has played his last match for the national team. Juric's call up appears to have just that bit too late in his career which started way back in 1994 with Hajduk Split. Juric disappeared of the radar for a long time during his 20's playing in Serie B and Serie C with Crotone, before his transfer to Genoa. Juric was inspiration in their promotion and they duely rose to fourth place in the top flight last season, with Juric at the heart of things. His performance in the match in which Croatia dropped two decisive points at home to Ukraine did little to inspire Croatia fans still looking for their new Niko Kovac. With the younger Ognjen Vukojevic, Nikola Pokrivac and newly capped Tomislav Dujmovic on board it appears there is no longer room for Juric who is likely to nevertheless stay for another season with high flying Genoa.

VEDRAN RUNJE, Lens, Age 33
12 caps, 0 goals
International recognition was a long time coming for Vedran Runje, who during the peak of his career with Standard Liege, Marsielle and Besiktas could not anything to get a call up into the Croatian national team missing every tournament from Euro 1996 to the 2006 World Cup as Miroslav Blazevic, Mirko Jozic, Otto Baric and Zlatko Kranjcar all overlooked him. It was only when Slaven Bilic took charge for the Euro 2008 qualifiers that Runje moved him up the pecking order to replace the injured Joey Didulica and retired Tomislav Butina. Runje did not make a good start Croatia's defence look a shambles in the 4-3 win over Israel whilst deputising for Stipe Pletikosa. Although called up for Euro 2008 he played just once in the match with Poland, but was introduced in place of a out of practice Pletikosa in 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. Opinion is divided as to whether Runje did a good job. Since Runje's arrival in the team Croatia looked decidedly edgy from crosses and conceded 9 goals in the matches he played against England, Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine. Although he was a star performer in the Belarus match and made saves against England, he also caused moments of panics and his misskick in the England match is seen as the darkest moment in Croatia's ill fated campaign. Ultimately Croatia's defence experience meltdown with Vedran Corluka losing his cool and getting himself red carded and centre halfs Simunic and Krizanac being sent home prior to their last match against Kazakstan. Whilst Pletikosa, Mario Galinovic and Joey Didulica continue to play second choice at their clubs, Runje remains in the Croatia squad. At 33, soon to be 34 in February Croatia will be looking for a replacement as soon as possible.

Saturday, 28 November 2009


28 - 11 - 2009
New Australian league franchise Melbourne Heart are checking on Hajduk Split midfielder Josip Skoko in hope of signing the former Wigan midfielder at the end of the season. Skoko will not be renewing his contract with the Croatian club and looks set to leave on a free transfer. The club's general manager Joey Didulica, may also pursue the signing of his brother Josip who is currently second choice stopper at AZ Alkmaar. Other news coming out of Hajduk is that out of favour striker Ivan Rodic is set to be released by the club after failing to meet expectations. The 23 year old will be a free agent and would welcome a move back to his former club HNK Sibenik who will be searching out a replacement for Bosnian hotshot Ermin Zec

Sasa Bjelanovic scored his fourth goal of the season as Vicenza moved up to seventh place with a 2-1 win over Padova. The 30 year old former Croatia international is in good form having also netted in midweek win over Frionese. Mario Budimir was also on target as Ergotelis defeat Irakilis 2-0. Budimir is having another strong season in the Greek league, this being his third goal in the league. In the Czech league Slovan Liberec's Andrej Keric will be hugely relieved to be back amongst the goals as his side defeated Mlada Boleslav 3-0.

Tomislav Dujmovic will play Europa Liga football next season after helping his club Lokomotiv Moscow to finish in fourth place in the Russian Premier League. The 28 year old Croatia international play 28 times in the heart of Lokomotiv's midfield and scored 3 goals. 2009 marks a bright season for Dujmovic who has been sited by Slaven Bilic for selection in the national side next year.


Istra 1961 0 Dinamo 0
Dinamo missed an opportunity to extend their gap at the top after they were held to a goalless draw by Istra 1961. Dinamo were without Robert Kovac, Miroslav Slepicka, Ilija Sivonjic and Pedro Morales for the trip to Pula, so gave a start to Sammir, with Andrej Kramaric supporting Mario Mandzukic in attack. Istra however proved difficult to breakdown and coped admirably as Dinamo struggled to make chances in the first half. Papadopoulos entered the game at half time, but failed to improve things as Istra had the best opportunity from the penalty spot. However Asim Sehic's weak penalty was stopped by Butina. Istra who were beaten 7-1 by Dinamo on the opening day of the season have now picked up four points from three games under new coach Valdi Sumberac. Dinamo face Anderlecht in the Europa Liga in midweek and will hope to get Morales back as soon as possible. Elsewhere ex Dinamo defender Mirko Hrgovic is due to once again be a free agent after being sacked by German Bundesliga 2 club Greunther Furth. The 30 year old is due for talks with the club over the termination of his three year contract this week.

Hajduk Split 1 Osijek 0
Hajduk showed their first signs of recovery at the weekend after bypassing a tough Osijek side at the Poljud. Hajduk coach Edy Reja was without Hjorve Vejic and Srdjan Andric so turned to Marijan Buljat finally appearing at right back, with Goran Rubil pushed into midfield. Marin Tomasov dropped out to be replaced by Mirko Oremus with Ahmad Sharbini playing the lone strikers role. The first real chance fell to the visitors as Josip Knezevic's shot went inches past Subasic's post. Further opportunities for Hajduk's Ibricic and Ahmad Sharbini then came and went as the sides went in goalless at half time. Reja immediately changed Ticinovic in place of Oremus. The youngster immediately got in the action with a few sighters at Kardum's goal. It was Senijad Ibricic who came to the fore however. First supplying a chance for Maloca, before sealing the win from the penalty spot after Vedran Jugovic had handled on 85 minutes. Hajduk are now starting to make in roads and are just 3 points from Osijek in fourth. There is still a long way to go to catch Sibenik, but Reja's team are making steps in the right direction. Osijek will be happy to see Karlo Primorac return to the action as a late substitute, whilst Reja gave a first league appearence as a late sub to Dario Jertec.

Šibenik 2 Sesvete 0
Sibenik closed Dinamo Zagreb's lead at the top of HNL1 to just 3 points after a comfortable win over relegation favorites Sesvete. With Ermin Zec returning from suspension, Sibenik were able to make light work of the match taking the lead of 39 minutes through Ivan Bozic. With January transfer window Zec was eager to add to his tally and recorded his 8th of the campaign on 84 minutes to seal the victory. Sesvete look all but doomed as ten points adrift of four bottom Medimurje. Sibenik's hope of Europa Liga football however still look good. With one match to go till winter break attentions will soon turn to find a replacement for Zec.

Cibalia 2 Zadar 0
Cibalia moved into third place after another solid performance against out of form NK Zadar. Branko Karacic's men took the lead on 37 minutes when Josip Lukacevic struck from 15 metres. Then a moment of significance in the second half when substitute Tomislav Juric fired in a beautiful goal only minutes after coming on in the second half. Juric, was the young midfielder involved in the collision that resulted in Zadar's Hjorve Custic suffering a fatal head injury two years ago. It was only Juric's fifth match of the season and his first goal. By this stage both sides were down to ten men after red cards for Sime Maruna and Edin Husic. Cibalia continue to look good for a top 4 place, whilst Zadar urgently need a victory to stop their slide down the table. Zadar have been fending off questions in midweek over allegations last season's match with Hajduk Split was fixed. Zadar dispute the claims pointing to Marin Ljubicic's red card as a deciding factor in the game.

Lokomotiva 3 Rijeka 0
Lokomotiva showed their top flight credentials with a excellant 3-0 pounding of HNK Rijeka. Whilst Lokomotiva is brimming with youthful promise, it was a couple of old heads that stole the show. Former Borrusia Monchengladback defender Zjelko Sopic opened the scoring driving home a free kick for a much deserved lead. Nino Bule was then on hand to grab his eighth of the season in the second half turning home a cross by Bajto. Lokomotiva piled straight in from the kick off for a third and it came on 81 minutes when Alen Pamic turned passed his own keeper whilst trying to fend off Bule. Rijeka's dismal afternoon got no better as Slovenian Nastja Ceh went for an early bath after a straight red for a bad challenge. Lokomotiva have now moved level on points with Rijeka in 9th place and are still looking good for survival. Rijeka however could be looking to overhaul the squad in the winter after failing to challenge for the top 5 in the first half of the campaign.

NK Zagreb 3 Slaven Belupo 3
This was the game of the day in HNL1 as NK Zagreb pulled off a remarkable come back to draw 3-3 with Slaven Belupo. Belupo looked comfortable for much of the match and took the lead from the penalty spot from Srebrenko Posavec. Defender Kara Rogulj got the second just before half time struck in a crowded penalty area. With Zagreb attempting to reduce the rears, space was left for Belupo to counter and they grabbed their third when Under 21 international Mateas Delic beat Zagreb keeper Marin Skender. With only 20 minutes remaining it appeared the game was over, but the rejuvenated Ivan Kristanovic headed home on 74 minutes to set up a interesting last 10 minutes. Zagreb got their opening on 85 minutes when Kristanovic headed down Jethron long ball for Davor Piskor to score. It was then Jethon himself who grab the important morale boosting equalising goal in the last minute of the match when he fired home from 16 metres. Zagreb remain six points adrift of fourth from bottom Medimurje, but have lost ground on Varteks whose victory took them up to 11th place.

NK Zagreb have already begun their search for reinforcements and are close to signing four foriegn players - two unnamed Brazilians and two players with the North Korean National Team. The club should have also tie up the purchase of Krunoslav Lovrek when the Croatian league comes back from its winter break in February.

Karlovac 2 Međimurje 0
Karlovac put a immediate stop to their slide into midtable with a excellant 2-0 win over Medimurje. In form striker Enes Novicic got the opener when he followed in after Stefancic's shot was saved by Banovic. That's the way it stayed for a long period of the match until Ivan Latjman showed some real quality in the last minutes of the match to fire home a second. Igor Pamic's match stay in sixth place, but have put some breathing space between themself and 7th place Hajduk Split who are attempting to chase them down. Medimurje are now the team position fourth from bottom who Zagreb and Istra 1961 are tracking. However with 20 goals already to their name this season Medimurje can still be helpful of moving back into midtable.

Varteks 2 Inter 1
Varteks recorded a crucial win over fellow strugglers Inter Zapresic to move themselves six points clear of the relegation zone. However it was Zapresic who drew first blood Miroslav Saric scored from the penalty spot, but the lead lasted no more than a minutes when Matija Smrekar showed his quality to equalise after being set up by Goran Mujanovic. It stayed that way until midway through the second half when Smrekar was felled by Tomislav Saric. Miljenko Mumlek stepped up to the spot and dispatched the penalty with ease. Zapresic welcomed back Matej Delac for the match who has spent a short time away with Chelsea upon recovery from illness.

HNL1 Top Scorers
12. Pedro Morales (Dinamo); 9. Davor Vugrinec (Zagreb); 8. Mario Mandzukic (Dinamo), Ermin Zec (Sibenik), Nino Bule (Lokomotiva); 7. Bojan Golubovic (Medimurje), Asim Sehic (Istra), Milan Badelj (Dinamo)

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Following Croatia failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup coach Slaven Bilic has looked to a new crop of players to come into the first team for the campaign for the 2012 European Championship qualifying. Mate Bilic, Tomislav Dujmovic, Nikica Jelavic, Dario Knezevic and Ivan Perisic have already been drafted in the set up. But who are the other names pushing for international recognition based on their performances during the first half of this season.

At 29, Andre Mijatovic is hardly a new face. However the Arminia Bielfeld defender has been in good form as his side aim a quick return to German's top flight. Dinamo Zagreb's Dejan Lovren is also pushing hard to take over from his club teammate Robert Kovac in the international set up. Lovren performed excellantly in Croatia's final World Cup qualifying match with Kazahkstan. He is also hugely versatile able to play all across the backline. Slaven Bilic will also be pleased with the development of Osijek's robust defender Domogoj Vida who struck the winner in the Under 21's victory over Slovakia to put them top of their European Championship qualification group.

In midfield Drago Gabric played a solid match in the recent friendly with Leichenstien and offers an alternative to the talents of Dario Srna, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Rakitic and Daniel Pranjic in the wide positions. Gabric's recent form for Turkish club Trabzonspor should see him step ahead of Hajduk Split's Anas Sharbini in the pecking order. In central midfield Croatia have long been looking for an alternative to Luka Modric, who is widely regarded as the heartbeat of the team. Kaiserslautern's Ivo Ilicevic has sited as a potential national team player and is having his best season to date with the German Bundesliga 2 leaders. The 23 year old is hugely talented and creative and hopes to step up this term when Croatia need him. Ilicevic however will receive fierce competition from Milan Badelj who along with Pedro Morales has been Dinamo Zagreb best player this season. Badelj has been trained in the same way as Modric, playing in the centre in a 4-4-2 system with the ability to run at opponent and supply defence splitting passes.

New young strikers have been few and far between for Croatia. In the Under 21's Nikola Kalinic is employed largely on his own whilst partner Perisic is regarded as a midfield player rather than a striker. With Ivan Klasnic, Igor Budan and Ivica Olic having now turned 30, Croatia will be looking for fresh faces in the forward line. Daniel Cesarec will come in contention should he keep up his form with Asteras tripolis. However Mario Mandzukic, Kalinic, Darko Bodul, Ahmad Sharbini and Bojan Vrucina all appear to have gone backwards in their progress, allowing Cesarec and most notably Nikica Jelavic to come to the fore. Jelavic has scored 15 goals already in all competitions and is set for continued inclusion in the squad for the upcoming matches.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Croatian Soccer Blog wishes to begin a competition to guess who will be the highest scoring Croatian player playing in a foriegn country. This excludes any players playing in the Croatian national league or players in lower than second tier football.

It is in interesting competition as it includes goals scored in Cup competitions as well as the league. Something helpful stats will be put up along the way, but all guesses must be made by the end of 2009.

There is no prize as of this moment. Its all for fun.

15 - Nikica Jelavic
9 - Mladen Petric, Daniel Cesarec
8 - Mato Neretljak
6 - Ivan Perisic, Ivan Klasnic
5 - Mladen Bartulovic
4 - Eduardo, Bosko Balaban, Nikola Pokrivac, Sasa Bjelanovic, Igor Budan
3 - Tomislav Dujmovic, Mate Bilic, Niko Kranjcar, Ivo Ilicevic, Tomo Sokota, Mario Carevic, Ivica Olic, Mario Budimir, Andrej Keric
2 - Dario Srna, Andre Mijatovic, Ivica Krizanac, Ante Rukavina
1 - Vedran Corluka, Drago Gabric, Tomislav Busic, Zdavko Popovic

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Following Hajduk's unimpressive performance in front of goal in the first half of the Croatian Championship it is likely the Whites will hunt for a new striker to fill the boots of Nikola Kalinic. Kalinic left the Poljud in the summer for 6m Euro and thus far Ahmad Sharbini, Ante Vukusic or Paraiba have failed to delivered the same quantity of goals to fill the void.

Although Hajduk spent some of the Kalinic money on Anas and Ahmad Sharbini from Rijeka, they should still have a sizable amount for signings in the winter. Should Hajduk cash in on Senijad Ibricic this should also raise funds in case they move forward with plans to terminate players they regards surplus to requirements. Such players include Dario Jertec, Ivo Smoje and Ivan Rodic.

In the Croatian national championship there is few strikers that stand out who Hajduk may move for. For the past two years Sibenik's Ermin Zec and Slaven Belupo's Bojan Vrucina have stood out amongst the rest. Vrucina has just returned from injury, however Belupo appear to be preparing for life without the 24 year old who was targetted by FK Moscow in the summer. Zec will be high on both Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk's wishlist after another impressive season this year. However the player is unlikely to transfer for less than 2m Euro's and Hajduk may struggle to prize the Bosnian international away from a rival for the Europa Liga spots.

Osijek's Ivan Milicevic, Slaven Belupo's Mateas Delic and Varteks Matija Smrekar would fit the category of strikers with potential. However having got their fingers burnt when signing Rodic, Hajduk may be wary of making any deals based on early promise. Hajduk may therefore look abroad for a striker playing well in another foriegn league or a player with experience that can aclimitize quickly to the Croatian league. Vicenza's Sasa Bjelanovic would fit into this category after forging a decent career in Italy with Chievo, Ascoli, Torino, Lecce and Genoa. Similarly Palermo's Igor Budan and Slovan Liberec's Andrej Keric have proven themselves abroad.

Following Dinamo's unsuccessful purchase of free agent Dmitrios Papadopoulos and Rijeka's far from inspiring recruitment of American journeyman Johann Smith, it would appear unlikely Hajduk would enter into the free transfer section of market. It is likely free agent Goran Ljubojevic or Excelsior Mouscron's Zvonimir Deranja make interesting purchases for Hajduk anymore having spent far too long away from the field.

In Autumn, Slovenian Under 21 international Etien Velikonja (pictured) was mentioned and this would have been a done deal if the player had not recieved an injury which is likely to put him out for the rest of the season. It is certain Vukusic, Duje Cop and loanee Paraiba will continue to be part of Hajduk's plans, however Rodic definitely seems on the way out and a question mark hangs over Ahmad Sharbini's future as the player may gain overtures from former club Rijeka in the winter if he stays out in the cold.



Croatia is becoming well known for its late bloomers. Dado Prso, Tomislav Maric, Ivan Juric and Tomislav Dujmovic were all relative unknowns until experiencing a upturn in fortunes during their mid to late 20's. Add to that list Asteras Tripolis striker Daniel Cesarec. It is likely few Croats would have heard of this 1.84m centre forward who currently leads the Greek Superleague's national scoring charts with 8 goals in 10 matches.

Cesarec first arrived in Greece back in 2005 from Sparta Prague on loan at Akratitos. He eventually signed for Egaleo, but endured two lean years there scoring just 5 goals. He moved across to Asteras in 2007 and has performed significantly better netting 16 times during his first two seasons. This season his eight goal haul in the league, nine in all competitions is his best tally to date. Aged 26 and born in Slavonski Brod, Cesarec is a native of Croatia and began his career with Marsonia. With Slaven Bilic on the hunt for new players to add competition in the Croatia national team, Cesarec has every chance of putting on the red and white checks before the end of the season should he remain prolific. The forward has a number of attributes being physical strong as well as mobile. He is also blessed with a powerful shot and is also dangerous in the air.

Cesarec is also eligible to play for the Czech Republic having spent three unsuccessful years in the country playing with Sparta Prague and Pribram. Despite his disappointing form at Sparta, the player could still be courted by the Czech Republic who are looking to revamp their side after a poor showing in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. However as the player has already play three times for Croatia Under 21's its more likely Cesarec will play for Croatia.


MARIO MANDZUKIC Aged 23; Dinamo Zagreb

How good is the word of Dinamo Cheif Executive Zdavko Mamic is what will be asked around Croatian Media during the winter, as Mario Mandzukic is once again likely to attract interest from clubs abroad. Werder Bremen saw good offers in the 8 million Euro region rejected. There were also rumours of interest from Tottenham to take Mandzukic as replacement for unsettled Russian striker Roman Pavyulchenko. The other hot possibility could be Wolfsburg as Edin Dzeko seems destined for a big money transfer in the winter or the summer. So what is all the fuss regarding this 1.86m mobile striker. Mandzukic started his career with Marsonia, before transfering across to NK Zagreb in 2005. A couple of fine seasons under the guise of Miroslav Blazevic saw Dinamo pay around £1m for the player in 2007. That has however been a bargain as Mandzukic improved year after year, scoring 12 in his first season, 16 second time out and so far 8 in total in this campaign. Mandzukic is also not just a penalty box scorer as has provided 22 assists in his first two seasons in HNL1. For Croatia he netted his first goal in the 4-1 defeat to England as a late substitute. He has since been called up to every other squad by Slaven Bilic, who uses him regularly. For Dinamo fans the question remains if Mamic will keep his word that he will not transfer the player till the end of the season.

ERMIN ZEC Aged 21; HNK Sibenik

HNK Sibenik are infamous in Croatia for driving a hard bargain, but stunned everyone when they sent the best of the Bundesliga along with Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo and Hajduk packing when in pursuit of their star striker Ermin Zec during the summer. The reason being for the confidence of this modest Croatian side is that they contracted Zec to a contract that won't run out till 2011. Sibenik believed their Bosnian Under 21 international would justify the £2m price tag they put on him in his second season and he has duely done that, leaving Dinamo particularly in a situation where they may just pay the cash to fend off bigger rivals. If Zec continues his form however he will be an asset to Dinamo and becomes a direct and arguably more polished replacement for the sometimes wayward Mario Mandzukic.Zec is actually only 21 and doesn't turn 22 till June 2010. Since arriving at Sibenik from Iskra Bugojno in 2007, Zec showed his promised with 7 in his first season. He was rewarded with a first team place last year and netted 14 times. This season the goals have continued with 5 in 7 matches. Zec accepted Sibenik's decision to keep him in the summer, but in the winter will be granted his transfer. It is certain Dinamo will want the player and may have the financial muscle to compete with clubs abroad. However it is unlikely Sibenik who give them any favours. From Sibeniks point of view, they are in the healthiest financial position of their life. Having already done deals with Hajduk Split for Ante Rukavina and Ivan Rodic, the Zec transfer money will take the whole stature of the club up another level. The club has now unearthed another star in Arjan Ademi and with a team that is certain to be strengthened this winter it is likely we will see Sibenik in the top half for many years.

DARIO JERTEC Aged 24, Hajduk Split

Dario Jertec will hope for a resolution to his wayward career thus far during the winter. The 24 year old is likely to be on Hajduk's unwanted list and will be doing everything possible to shift out the player. A return to Varteks Varazdin was mentioned, but they have since revealed that the club are unable to pay their staff wages and are in a poor financial predicament. Jertec also enjoyed a successful loan spell in 2007 at HNK Rijeka and so a return back to the club coached by Zoran Vulic could be highly possible.Any lower level transfer will depend on Jertec and Hajduk agreeing to sever his contract that runs till 2012. Jertec has been with Hajduk since they signed him last season on a free transfer from Dinamo. However the player played only 15 times and upon refusing to reduce his wage was sent to the reserves in July. Hajduk see no potential in making something of the player as Mirko Oremus, Mario Ticinovic, Seinjad Ibricic, Florin Cernat and Anas Sharbini all blocked his access into the first team.

IVAN RODIC Aged 23, Hajduk Split

Ivan Rodic's time with Hajduk has not been the happiest for the player since he arrived in the summer from HNK Sibenik. With his agent and the club far from on speaking terms Rodic has decided the best thing for all concerned would be to transfer. With Rodic only having scored 9 goals in 27 matches during his very first top level experience at Sibenik, Hajduk perhaps should have waited a little longer to see if this mobile forward met their expectation level. Rodic has fallen way down the pecking order at Hajduk and joins Hajduk's Split grow list of out of favour players.For Rodic, at 23 leaving Hajduk is far from the end of the world. Besides this is his best pay packet to date Rodic still potentially can turn around his career. Should Bojan Vrucina transfer from Slaven Belupo a forward of Rodic's quality would be high on their priority list. Once again HNK Rijeka could come courting with Sibenik also perhaps considering a cheeky punt on signing their ex player back.

SENIJAD IBRICIC Aged 24, Hajduk Split

It seems impossible to believe Senijad Ibricic could stay with Hajduk Split into next year. In contrast to Nikola Kalinic and Drago Gabric, Ibricic arguably has the biggest case for signing with a strong foreign based club. The 24 year old is on the brink of the becoming a first team regular for the Bosnia Herzegovina national side having already been capped 18 times scoring 3 goals and is now into his fourth high quality season in the Croatian First Division. Fortunately for Hajduk this is one player who will not hold them to ransom as he is contracted to 2012 and has left his football do his talking. Ibricic's transfer will most likely happen naturally and interest from German and England will lead to the player, playing in a level that he deserves.Ibricic was hot property ever since scoring 12 goals in 31 games in 2007/ 08 season for NK Zagreb. A big money transfer to Hajduk Split followed and Ibricic has not disappointed. Last season he fired 12 in 30 games and at times provided rare moments of light in Hajduk's poor start to this campaign. Ibricic's transfer is expected to compensate for money being flittered away on high player wage costs and transfer fees as Hajduk attempt to rebuild, whilst remaining financially secure. Ibricic is now a slight luxury to Hajduk whoever already have plenty of players to cover his position and would more than likely grant him permission to move up his career to better things. Out of all the promising young Balkan talents this could be the next big star to shine in a big league.


If Hajduk Split move for midfield destroyer Marin Ljubicic they may be willing to take the player through the back door. The 21 year old had been a Hajduk Split player who advanced through their youth team to make 20 appearences in the 2007/08 season. Rather than being loaned out, Hajduk allowed the player to join Zadar on a free transfer and he has since been impressive. Ljubicic played 24 times and scored 4 goals last season. His strong start to the new season has attracted Dinamo Zagreb who may move for the player if they sell Ivica Vrdoljak and advances for Jerko Leko do not materialise. Ljubicic is seen as one the best midfielders in the division and should be available for a decent fee.

MIROSLAV SLEPICKA Aged 27, Dinamo Zagreb

Is it the end of the road for Miroslav Slepicka 12 months on from his arrival in Croatia from Sparta Prague. Slepicka was signed in to replace the outgoing Bosko Balaban and Tomislav Sokota, but has struggled to command a first team place. Despite scoring 8 goals in 15 league games for Dinamo, Slepicka's figures are made somewhat deceptive by the fact he scored in only four of those matches, two of them hatricks. His history in the Czech Republic would also suggest he is not a natural goalscorer, more a withdrawn striker with good technical ability. Slepicka's international coach is hardly likely to be impressed by the forward's lack of playing time this year and Slepicka may therefore decide its time to move on. Slepicka still has the stats to attract a Bundesliga 2 club or side in Austria or Russia, but Dinamo will have to take a loss on the player they paid over £1m for. If Slepicka continues with Dinamo and offer him more minutes, then they will consider loaning out Andrej Kramaric.

IVICA VRDOLJAK Aged 26; Dinamo Zagreb

At age 26 Ivica Vrdoljak has reached a key stage in his career. The player either will remain a central member of Dinamo's team long term as the club appears to match his level or he will transfer abroad in hope of becoming a Croatian international one day in the near future. If Dinamo need to sell to keep the finances in a continually healthy state it is more likely they'd sell Vrdoljak in order to delay Mandzukic's transfer. Both Cologne and Red Bull Salzburg showed an interest in Vrdoljak in the summer. He has since put in some half decent displays in Europe and been consistently strong in HNL1. Zdavko Mamic was even considering letting the player go in the summer, but decided Adrian Callelo and Matias Chago were not sufficent to take his place. The question of his transfer will most likely raise its head once again a bid possible from Turkey, Germany, France or Austria.

JURICA VRANJES Aged 29; Werder Bremen
Vranjes may seem a surprising player to appear with respect to HNL1. However Dinamo and Hajduk Split are infamous for rescuing one Croatian star from abroad every season. Vranjes has been linked with a return to the Croatian league once before whilst with Bayer Leverkusen, but a loan transfer to Hajduk failed to materialise. It is not out the question for Hajduk to make this transfer this time. The logic behind it would be to replace Josip Skoko who has already stated his intention to leave Europe in the summer and return home to Australia. In truth Vranjes is far from old legs looking for more playing packet. Vranjes has spent so much time warming benches in his career that he admittedly that he snapped early in the season when he attacked teammate Said Husejinovic. Vranjes is clearly a player who needs returning to the field of play for his own good and may be capable of a revival. Vranjes was tipped for great by Mirko Jozic when he called him the 2002 World Cup squad and has been capped 26 times for Croatia. Despite tenures with big clubs like Leverkusen, Stuggart and Bremen he was unable to become a regular and couldn't dislodge Croatia's Niko Kovac from the national side. If not for Vranjes, Hajduk's may alternatively move for Dinamo Kiev defender Goran Sablic to replace the aging legs of Hjorve Vejic.

STJEPAN POLJAK Age 26, Eskiserispor

Should Stjepan Poljak enter the market then it could create one of the biggest scraps for a players signature. The 26 year old remains hot property in Croatia after a excellant 2007/ 08 season with Slaven Belupo. Despite playing 29 times last season for Eskiserspor, the Turkish club attempted to release the player during the summer. Poljak however stuck to his guns and has since made an appearence back in the first team. The player himself may decide things aren't working out due to lack of playing time and a return home may be best for all parties. Poljak's signature will be of interest to most of the teams in Croatia excluding Dinamo and Hajduk. A deal with Slaven Belupo will most likely only occur in the summer as their midfield is currently over occupied.

MARIN TOMASOV Aged 22, Hajduk Split

A year ago things couldn't have been better for Marin Tomasov. Having played excellant football in the Croatian Under 21's he transfered from NK Zadar to Hajduk Split. Ante Mise took an immediately liking to him and employed him 15 times scoring 1 goal last season. At the start this season Mise hoped to bring the player forward in his progress, but a poor standard to the campaign appears to have destabilised the player and he now finds himself out of favour. With Anas Sharbini patrolling the left wing it seems unlikely Tomasov can get his place back. Mario Ticinovic also seems to have jumped ahead of him for a place on the bench. It'd be highly doubtful Hajduk will terminate the contract of the player or sell him cheaply to another HNL1 club. However a loan move this winter may be the best thing for Tomasov to rebuild his confidence. Having released Marin Ljubicic, Hajduk wouldn't want to be bitten twice so will still hope Tomasov can find his form.

FILIP MARCIC Aged 24, Free Agent

After breaking his contract with Danish Club Mitylland, Filip Marcic will be hugely sought after back in his native Croatia. Marcic began his career as a trainee with Hajduk Split, before moving across to Bordeaux. However having failed to make the grade there he returned to Hajduk, but was once again farmed out to HNK Rijeka. One season here proved far more successful and a transfer to Denmark followed. Injuries has restricted him to just seven appearences in two seasons, leaving Marcic disatisfied. Marcic is the type of player which many HNL1 coaches have been sounding out in recent months and a transfer to a Croatian club could be hugely possible.