Saturday, 28 April 2012


Hajduk Split look set for another gruelling summer, after rarely challenging in the title race for the Croatian Championship. Dinamo Zagreb have ran away with the league yet again, leaving Hajduk under threat from a much improved Slaven Belupo for the runners up slot. Besides losing their coach Krasimir Balakov to the lure of the Bundesliga, Hajduk look likely to transfer all their top players who are well over due. Defender Mario Maloca needs to leave in order that he can advance, similarly does Ante Vukusic who is wanted in Ukraine, whilst Anas Sharbini is a target of VdE Hanover and has also been in HNL1 far too long.

Hajduk will still however have Mato Neretljak, Drago Gabric, Ivan Lendric and Srdjan Andric as a basis for new their side. Frustratingly Marijan Buljat, Hjorve Vejic, Josip Barisic, Kreso Ljubicic, Goran Jozinovic, Ivan Vukovic and Ahmad Sharbini make up a long list of players they no longer want, but can hardly afford to pay off. Jozinovic and Ahmad will find new clubs fairly easily in Croatia. Both are wanted by Istra 1961 who managed to keep their top flight status. Jozinovic is also a target of Zadar, who in Ivan Santini and Marin Tomasov have two players from which they can make money in order to re-recruit. Barisic meanwhile was a cheap and unneccessary signing from Sikori Briceg and is likely to command small wages for any new suitor.

Hajduk have had particular trouble paying off their former captain Hjorve Vejic, who is really ready to retire and normally would be in line for a coaching position. Arguably using Vejic as a squad player and not wasting money on Portuguese defender Ruben Lima and Japanese international Inoha would have made financial sense for Hajduk who after all departed European competition in the very first stage. A similar scenario has effected Ahmad Sharbini who many commentators say was not a player for Hajduk Split and should have been left alone with HNK Rijeka where he was a folk hero. Their are a number of players who fit perfectly in the Croatian league, but are unsuited to life abroad or in the big two. Ahmad is one of these such players alongside Zadar's Zelimir Terkes, Osijek's Goran Ljubojevic, Inter Zapresic's Mario Grgurovic and Istra's Asim Sehic. However once Hajduk signed Ahmad in such a league it would make sense to use the player in hope of making a sale. Hajduk once again poorly mismanaged by adding another under performing striker Ivan Vukovic to their squad, who they will also struggle to do anything with.

For this league Hajduk really should have looked at safe signings, who are high callabre at this level. Ivan Leko has been outstanding in Belgium and encouraging him back for one last forey would aid the teams midfield. In attack striker Mate Bilic is capable of firing over 20 goals in this level and at one time was more than happy to come. Sasa Bjelanovic is also a trusted performer with promotion seeking Italian Serie B clubs and would be potent in the Croatian league. Hajduk also missed the boat with obvious domestic players Mehmad Alispahic and Ivan Krstanovic when they were both available. Krstanovic especially has had a very good first season with Hajduk. Hajduk have also not really helped their young players with Franko Andriasejvic, Dinko Trebotic, Mario Ticinovic all finding themselves farmed out on line.

Hajduk however arent the only side to find themselves having made mistakes. Rijeka have had hard fixtures, but when they signed Ivan Bosnjak and Dino Drpic they didn't envisage relegation could be on the cards. Drpic is fine in centre back, but Bosnjak may be short on fitness for the forward line. Valentin Stepcic and Armando Mance are useful squad players, but have not been capable of giving Rijeka the much needed firepower. Ilija Sivonjic has also been injured for three quarters of the season. If Rijeka stay up they would be advised to re-sign Ahmad Sharbini and hope Bosnjak's conditioning improves for next season. Their Slovenian recruits Damir Cehic and Uros Pablirk appear to be mistakes and may return their former clubs at the end of the season. The club do have an asset on which they can rebuild. Damir Kreilach has been outstanding in midfield and may attract a offer over a 1 million Euro's. Rijeka wish Jurica Vranjes to replace him. The midfield and defence have been solid and two forwards seems where Hajduk need to find form. January target Bojan Golubovic would have been their answer, but transfered to Peatra Neamt in Romania and has scored 5 times, with 2 assists in just 9 matches. Lecha Gdansk banished forward Josip Tadic could provide a worthy gamble.

Osijek's season has also tailed off after such a fine start. Strikers Goran Ljubojevic and Josip Barisic both were sold in January leaving the team without their experience. Anton Maglica and Ivan Milicevic are promising, Tomislav Sorsa, Vedran Jugovic and Dino Gavric all performed well this season. However the team may well go back in for Ljubojevic to give them a cutting edge as he looks set to leave Targu Meres in the summer. Osijek had spoke of re-signing big reputation players such as Vranjes, Tadic and Josip Mikulic but don't have the financial clout to make that happen. More likely bringing back Jurica Pranjic, Josip Knezevic and Valenin Babic could prove worthwhile.

Inter Zapresic's sacking of coach Ilija Loncarevic and replacing him with Borimir Perkovic may suggest a change of tact. Loncarevic had held governance over team affairs for a long while and often his closeness to Dinamo Zagreb had helped the team become financially strong benefitting from the sales of Dodo, Antun Palic and Ilija Sivonjic all in recent years. At the same time Zapresic can take credit for aiding the careers of Dejan Lovren, Eduardo, Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka. In recent times however Dinamo have not needed Zapresic so much and have turned to Lokomotiva Zagreb to nurture their young prospects. Zapresic do still have a closeness, despite appearing to go it alone when doing deals for Matej Delac and Aleksandr Trajkovski. If anyone it would appear Zapresic need to sign up experienced players. Zapresic may have the answer for reviving Ilija Sivonjic, who has been trouble by health and injury problems. Dario Zahora could also prosper down here if Zapresic sell Arber Abilaljaj.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


After three fairly successful seasons at Bolton Wanderers, Ivan Klasnic is likely to leave the Lancashire club in the summer. However Owen Coyle's team in the bottom three of the English Premiership, it appears time for Klasnic to leave his mark on the club if the team is to avoid relegation. Klasnic is the teams top goalscorer with 9 goals. Kevin Davies and David Ngog however have struggled severely and Tuncay has been afforded little opportunity.

Klasnic is unlikely to start all of the remaining fixtures. But it is hoped he will make a telling contribution as in his crucial winner against QPR when the time is needed. Klasnic, also still has a unexpected chance to make Croatia's Euro 2012 squad with Eduardo and Niko Kranjcar struggling with injury. Nikola Kalinic and Mladen Petric appear to have fallen out of favor with Slaven Bilic, who may look at Klasnic should he save Bolton.

Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic and Nikica Jelavic also seem to have found their form just at the right time to secure their places in Croatia's squad. Ivica Olic's Champions League strike for Bayern Munich against Marsielles also showed he still has enough to be considered and should play for his country in his last tournament this summer. Palermo's Igor Budan also could not have done more to turn Slaven Bilic's head. However Bilic has been conservative in his approach to management with Croatia in recent year and is unlikely to plump for the 31 year old, despite his 7 goals.

In midfield Tomislav Dujmovic, Ogjnen Vukojevic, Dario Srna, Daniel Pranjic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic all look to have done enough. However Hamburg's Ivo Ilicevic and Koln's Mato Jajalo look likely to miss out after quiet second half to the season. Dinamo Zagreb's Milan Badelj and Sammir look to stand a chance should injurys strike. Marin Ljubicic has also done well with Tavria and Ivica Vrdoljak has enjoy a good couple of season as captain of Legia Warsaw and will stake their claim if Croatia lose a defensive midfielder.