Sunday, 23 January 2011

STARS OF 2010/ 11

The diminitive playmaker of Tottenham Hotspur needs little introduction these days, but this season Modric has finally proven himself a class act in his rightful position in central midfield in arguably the most physical league in the world. Modric has been showing some classy moments in supply to Aoran Lennon, Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart this season which has made Spurs one of England's most watchable sides. In keeping with his character, Modric still only 25 refuses to get carried away and is signed to a long term contract.

Lakic is a lesson for any young Croatian that leaves the domestic league early and finds his first season hard going that he can bounce back. Lakic had a unnoteworthy first season in Hertha Berlin after being signed from Kamen Ingrad. However a impressive spell out on loan at unfancied Dutch side Heracles did Lakic the world of good and he was snapped up by Kaiserslautern. Now in his third successful season with them he has been taking the Bundesliga by storm with 18 goals in 20 games in all competitions only half way into the campaign. For Croatia Lakic's arrival brings a new dimension to the forward line with a player of his kind having not been seen since Dado Prso and Tomislav Maric retired from the game. Arguably with such playmakers and crossers as Daniel Pranjic, Mladen Petric, Eduardo, Dario Srna, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric a player like Lakic (plus Jelavic) with ariel prowess was the missing ingrediant. Lakic's teammate Ivo Ilicevic has also had a fine season and has edged in front of Drago Gabric to gain a place in the squad.

A player who would have gone unnoticed by many in Croatia is Tomislav Puljic who has been highly successful since his switch from Lokomotiva to FC Luzern. The only surprising thing is how this 27 year old with experience escaped the attention of Dinamo Zagreb. Puljic is a outright first choice centre back for the league leaders and has also contributed 3 goals in his 18 games so far. Puljic had been set to sign for Karlovac, but will be glad to have changed his mind as looks to have a career ahead of him abroad.

The price tag and stature of right sided defender Mario Baric has absolutely rocked in the last 12 months having firstly impressed at Karlovac leading to his switch to Belgian side AA Gent for a mere £264,000. 22 games on with appearences in the Europa Liga Baric is a important part of Gent who are currently placed 4th and now have Baric rated as a one million pound player. Baric is now 25, but looks set to join the likes of Ivan Leko and Tomislav Mikulic in forging a decent career for himself in Western Europe.

Leko himself has been in impressive form this season, somewhat surprisingly at the age of 32. The Lokeron man has 5 goals and 6 assists and this may indicate this could be the man to stabilise Hajduk following Senijad Ibricic's departure. However Leko is not going to want to leave Belgium whilst still in this kind of form and has a contract till 2013.

With still a year left on his contract at Shakthar Donetsk, the Croatian international star is still giving it his all to the Ukrainian club who are topping their domestic league and reached the last 16 of the Champions League coming up ahead of Arsenal in their group. For so long now it would be hard to think of there not being a Shakhtar Donetsk which continuously attacked down the wings through Dario Srna and Ravtzan Rat going on to feed the majestic Brazilians Jadson, Fernandiniho and Wilian. For Srna there is no real need to move. Whilst many Croatians have tried bigger clubs and leagues only to fall from grace, Srna has guarenteed himself 30 plus matches a season and is Croatia's second highest all time scorer to boot from his position on the right midfield. At 29, approaching 30 years of age next year, Srna may allow himself one last chance at a stronger league in Italy, England, Germany or Spain having little to lose. However only a Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan type club is likely to entice him.

It seems ridiculous how long Croatian Under 21 coach Drazen Ladic took to notice this exciting young attacking midfielder who compares in playing style to Mikael Ballack and Frank Lampard. Perisic is already a huge talent and is now in the second outstanding season in Belgium and is being cited by Everton as a replacement for Steven Pienaar. However agreeing a fee for a midfielder who scored 12 goals in half the season already and is contracted till 2015 will prove difficult. Bruges may be kind and let the player go for around 6m, but could be grossly undervalued in the long run. For Croatia, Perisic is currently a player Slaven Bilic insists on wasting and which indicates to the negative side of the HNS that many fans find distasteful that a misfiring Mario Mandzukic and struggling Dinamo Zagreb prospect Milan Badelj could ever be considered to be playing better than Perisic at the moment. Adding Perisic who can play in attack and midfield to a squad featuring the already proven Kranjcar, Rakitic, Srna, Pranjic and Modric is exciting for many Croatia fans. With Jelavic and Lakic, also joining the likes of Ivica Olic, Mladen Petric, Eduardo and Nikola Kalinic as options in attack the whole position in the Croatia National Team looks brighter.