Thursday, 3 October 2013


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

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

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

Sunday, 29 September 2013


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, 19 September 2013


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

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

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

Saturday, 14 September 2013


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


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

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


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

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

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

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

Friday, 30 August 2013


RNK Split appear to be finding their form with their second straight win on Friday night over Hrvatski Dragovoljac.  All appears well after Ante Rebic's move to Fiorentina secured the club financially for the year. Whilst Stanko Mrsic, would have liked to see Rebic in a Red Shirt for a little longer, the team are now seeing the best of Henri Belle who was played out of position in early season.  Belle is now back alongside Mate Bilic and performed a lot better. Should they wish Split could strengthen in central midfield by signing a player from another club.  However they are currently happy to play safe, moving Denis Glavina to left wing and awaiting the return of key player Ante Vitaic.  Mario Carevic continues to be touted as a possible recruitment in the meantime and will make a decision on his future in the coming week.

HNK Rijeka are also expected to make a decision in the coming week on Leon Benko, the clubs best goalscorer who has an offer from Germany. The club have already agreed a deal with Andrej Kramaric as replacement, but have sold Drazen Pilcic to Luka Koper to reduce the forward line. Daniel Cesarec is expected to be involved when he returns from injury. However Ivan Krstanovic and Josip Tadic's future at the club is dependent on whether Benko stays. Goodness Ajayi is currently performing well when called upon and Matejz Kek could arguably release both Krstanovic and Tadic to find new clubs.

Hajduk Split showed they have every intention of keeping with young players this season, by allowing Mirko Oremus to join Bnei Sakhnin and Goran Blazevic to Levski Sofia. The club also rejected Catania's offer for Mario Pasalic, 18 and signed Georgian striker Giorgi Ilirudze and Haris Bukva, 25 to back up the squad. Hajduk are well set up for the season, but are highly dependent on Franko Andriajsevic and striker Anton Maglica staying fit, as have already lost Mijo Caktas and Jack Kouassi to injury. Hajduk's defeat to Osijek however was a set back and possible indication that this year may be a struggle to retain a European spot.

Dinamo Zagreb also have no real problems at present.  The club may still yet sell Alen Halilovic before transfer deadline to make up for the loss of failing to qualify for the Champions League. The Croatia international is not in Dinamo's starting line up as Sammir, Junior Fernandez, El Soudani and Said Husjenovic are all preferred ahead of him. The player must decided whether to remain with Dinamo or make a deal to move to Tottenham Hotspur where he could be loaned out to receive more playing time. Sammir and Fatos Bequiraj are the main beneficiaries of the coaching change, but Zvonko Pamic and Ante Rukavina may see less playing time, but are expected to stay in contention. Istra 1961 have released 5 players in the last two weeks and may enquire with Dinamo about loaning Pamic who has fallen behind Arijan Ademi, Marcelo Brozovic, Jerko Leko and Bakary Sare in central midfield. Pamic is the son of Istra coach Igor who both suffered the family loss of former Standard Liege and Rijeka midfielder Alen Pamic (Zvonko's elder bother) who died aged 23 this summer. A return to Pula may benefit father and son.

At the lower end of the table Slaven Belupo took the opportunity to kickstart their season with victory over Zadar. Ivan Katalinic added Dominik Glavina to his midfield in the week, but are still in need of a goalscoring centre forward as are heavily reliant on Enes Novicic. Ahmad Sharbini, Andrej Keric, Josip Tadic, Ivan Krstanovic are all available and capable of improving Belupo's attack, but whilst the club won't take a gamble they could be in for a hard season. Zadar themselves may consider dipping in for new players as wins for Osijek and Belupo have pulled them back towards the relegation places. Departures of quality forwards like Ivan Santini and Stipe Perica have left them a little short in that area.

HNK Cibalia are yet to agree a move for former Croatia international Ivan Bosnjak, 34. However they have completed the signing of Andrea Ottochian from Istra 1961. The team looks good to fight NK Zagreb and Inter Zapresic for promotion who have already stated their intentions of a swift return to HNL1. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Whilst RNK Split issues seem at an end following Ante Rebic's transfer to Fiorentina, attention has now fallen on HNK Rijeka and Dinamo Zagreb who are attempting to resolve team harmony by offloading unhappy players within their over capacitated dressing rooms.  During Zoran Mamic's tenure as deputy coach Montenegrin Fatos Bequiraj and playmaker Sammir have returned to the starting line up. Marcelo Brozovic has also done his case no harm, with Zvonko Pamic and Ante Rukavina dropping down to the bench. However Andrej Kramaric has been the main player to suffer and looks set to transfer.

HNK Rijeka are interested in Kramaric, but all depends on whether key striker Leon Benko stays or transfers abroad to Germany.  The unnamed club must produce one million Euro's for the teams most important player.  Ivan Krstanovic is also believed to be unhappy with his lack of opportunities at Rijeka and along with Josip Tadic could be made available for transfer.  With little time remaining it will be hard for both players to find a new club as are both under contract. The top HNL1 clubs are all well set up in the striking department with Lokomotiva (Lendric, Situm, Misic, Peko) and RNK Split (Bilic, Belle, Roce, Vojinovic) unlikely to make any kind of move.

Istra 1961 are also satisfied with Jo, Srdjan Radonjic, Ivan Milicevic and Sandi Krizman, so both Krstanovic or Tadic may have to look abroad or to Slaven Belupo. Belupo are in need of a centre forward of such calibre, but have so far shown no urgency. Whilst Matteo Roskam has impressed in Bosnia with Sikori Briceg, he has not taken to life in Croatia's top flight leaving Ivan Katilinic over-reliant on Enes Novicic.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


With transfer deadline approaching in just a week, all eyes in Croatia have been on RNK Split striker Ante Rebic and his likely destination.  The 20 year old was once again called in Croatia's national team squad to face Serbia, ahead of in form Atalanta striker Marko Livaja.  Roma, Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City and Middlesborough all have interest in him.  Roma especially have the finances to make a move having sold Italian international Oswaldo, but it appears Fiorentina are set to sign Rebic as replacement for Stevan Jovetic who transferred to Manchester City. Split are ably acquitted in the forward line with Mate Bilic in form and Goran Roce, Aljosa Vojinovic and Henri Belle as support. Rebic's transfer gives them strength to address the inbalance in their midfield. Mario Carevic and NK Zagreb playmaker Besart Abdurahimi may both interest them.

Split are keen to find consistency to stay in touch with the leading pack. Lokomotiva Zagreb's latest win against Zadar is of concern to Split who are falling behind Tomislav Ivkovic's men in the race for European places.  Dinamo, Hajduk and Rijeka having already stated their intentions to challenge for the title from the onset and Rijeka's victory against Stuggart especially shows their strength with Leon Benko, Ivan Tomecak, Nikola Pokrivac and Zoran Krzvic making excellant starts to the season. The club have however attempted to trim their squad selling Drazen Pilcic to Slovenian club NK Koper and have allowed Ivan Krstanovic to leave after only a month. Matejz Kek has Daniel Cesarec to return, whilst Goran Mujanovic and Goodness Ajayi have made the biggest impression as support forwards. The club have no intention to sell their leading striker Benko for less than 1 million Euro's which seems unlikely at age 30 and have taken alternative measures to trim their forward line. Should Benko move before the transfer deadline, Rijeka intend to raid Dinamo for Andrej Kramaric, who has fallen out of favor.

Dinamo have changed their coach, parting with Krunoslav Jurcic in a desperate attempt to make the Champions League, however they still have a strong squad.  Dinamo now look set to keep Montenegrin international Fatos Beciraj after the player was brought back into the fold by Zoran Mamic and took little time to impress alongside Duje Cop and Junior Fernandes.  Hajduk are already out of Europe but are ticking along comfortably in the domestic league with their young players improving by the game.

Further down the table Osijek are still searching for much needed funds and reliant on former players to help the club. Midfielder Karlo Lulic has been a strong point in the early part of the season, whilst the club finally gain the papers from Naft Tehran for Goran Ljubojevic to strengthen their attack alongside Josip Barisic. The most mystifying club in early season has been Slaven Belupo who are rock bottom with two points and still find goals hard to come by. Its yet to be seen how long the club remains patient with coach Ivan Katilinic, who has been critical of his players pointing out poor form that began midway through last season. Goalscoring appears the weakest element however which has not been addressed. Despite a wholesale clear out which has seen Tomislav Busic (Solin), Davor Vugrinec, Mario Jelavic (Bochum) and Martin Saban (Pomorac) all leave, Matteo Roskam and Dzenan Haracic have not impressed so far as replacements. Belupo clearly need to do something and may look to Rijeka where Ivan Krstanovic, Josip Tadic and former player Ahmad Sharbini are all available.

Istra 1961 have not been as shy in adjusting their squad parting with four players in the last week and loaning Dinamo Zagreb's Mario Baric and Pomorac's Armando Mance. Igor Pamic will be especially pleased with a number of summer signings such as Srdjan Radonjic, Jo, Woon and Ivan Milicevic. 

Monday, 19 August 2013


Croatia internationals Ante Rebic and Alen Halilovic look the most likely to make their moves out of the Croatian league with transfer deadline looming.  RNK Split would be happy to part with Rebic, whilst the player is under contract and ably supported in that area Mate Bilic, Henri Belle, Josip Mrsic, Goran Roce, Ivica Baraban and Aljosa Vojinovic.

Rebic, scored 10 times for Split last season and although he started the season slowly due to injury he is now finding his form and scored his debut goal for Croatia in midweek.  Rebic is targetted by Swansea City, Parma and Spurs, but Fiorentina look set to make Split an offer of around 3million Euros.  Split would be sensible to take such an offer with Krunoslav Lovrek's collapsed move to Deportivo due to injury and Sibenik's haggling over Ermin Zec a prime example of what can go wrong.

Rebic's transfer would secure the club who already have enough replacements especially proven striker Mate Bilic and would allow them to go out a recruit a central midfielder after losing key playmaker Ante Vitaic to long term injury. Meanwhile Halilovic, of Dinamo Zagreb is the subject of transfer negotiations with Tottenham Hotspur, who themselves are discussing Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid.

Dinamo it is believed are happy with the fee and the player is currently struggling for first team football under Krunoslav Jurcic who prefers Said Husljinovic and Algerian forward Soudani ahead of him.  With Sammir likely to return back to the first team, Halilovic is likely to move on the English Premiership to fulfill his potential and could be loaned out such as Stipe Perica, who will play with NAC Breda this season borrowed from Chelsea.

There appears unlikely to be few big transfers out of Croatia in the next few weeks.  Arjan Ademi and Duje Cop are playing the best football of their careers, but are both settled at Dinamo.  The club do however need to settle the status of striker Fatos Bequiraj who did not come cheap to Dinamo from Buducnost Podgorica, but has fallen out of favor.  Loaning Junior Fernandes from Bayer Levekusen has not done much good for Bequiraj and Dinamo similarly are unlikely to buy the Chilean international who is beginning to find form. It all spells money lost the Montenegro striker who was the leagues leading scorer two seasons ago.  A one million Euros bid from PSV Eindhoven is unlikely to impress Dinamo who should be selling this asset at a higher price.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


After following his younger brother Anas to Saudi Arabia, elder brother Ahmad Sharbini is keen to return back to Croatia with the in form Rijeka forward.  Sharbini's hope of signing with Rijeka looks unlikely as Matejz Kek's side have more than enough strikers and are already struggling to find a place for Ivan Krstanovic, Danijel Cesarec, Josip Tadic and Drazen Plicic in their line up.  Ahmad netted three times in Saudi Arabia with Al Wahda, but has been suffering a hang over from spending long periods on the bench at Hajduk Split.  Ahmad needs a run of games.  Slaven Belupo could prove a suitable fit as are the one side in need of a striker, although the player may also interest Dragovoljac.

At 32 years of age and out of sequence since leaving Al Faisaly, Asim Sehic may be suited to a deal with a Croatian second division side to find his form.  However with numerous teams chasing promotion in a new and improved second tier, Sehic could give the edge many such teams need.  Sehic, is best known from his time with Istra Pula 1961 and a return to his former club may not be out the question.  Whilst Sandi Krizman. Srdjan Radonjic and Ivan Milicevic have started well Brazilian Jo and Mario Sacer still have a point to prove. Sehic is more likely to drop to the lower division however.

Once tipped for greatness and with talent in the style of Aljosa Asanovic, Carevic has disappointed to reach the heights expected of him and at 31 years of age finds himself a free agent.  Some good form in Belgium with Lokeron and Kortrijk will not have impressed many in Croatia where he was expected to be one of the leading players in the national team with Niko Kranjcar.  Although Carevic has interest from OV Leuven it may be a time to return home, with RNK Split desperately in need of a midfielder with his creativity.
UPDATE: Carevic could sign for RNK Split following Ante Rebic's transfer to Fiorentina.

Off the field problems has overtaken the career of Dino Drpic who is once again a free agent and searching for a employer.  After playing in Singapore, having been released by Rijeka some even doubt whether the 31 year old former Dinamo Zagreb skipper will even make a come back.  HNL2 could be an option, with DPMM teammate Ivan Bosnjak.  Once they made the sale of Mislav Orsic, Zapresic may be in position to make a deal for such players at Drpic. Since leaving the Maksimir Stadium, Drpic impressed in the Bundesliga with Karlsruher for half a season, but its been downhill since then in AEK Athens, Volyn of Ukraine and with Rijeka who were almost relegated before their revolution began.
UPDATE: Ivan Bosnjak set to sign a one year contract with former club Cibalia in HNL2

Following the impressive sale of Stipe Perica to FC Chelsea, NK Zadar have room for one more striker to add to in form Josip Ivancic and the evergreen Zelimir Terkes.  Dragan Blatnjak, their former player who has enjoyed a strong career in Russia with Rostov and Khimki could be readied for a return to his former club, especially due to his association with agent Rene Sivoncic.  Blatnjak played last season with NK Osijek, but failed to score and will need a run of games, but can also play in midfield.

Rubil's promising spell at Hajduk Split led him to a move to the Greek club Asteras Tripolis.  However the defender, who can also play central midfield was seriously injured there and was released last season.  Rubil may attract teams in HNL2, but at 32 is coming to the latter part of his career.  Rubil began his career at Nantes and was a promising Croatian Under 21 international, but his spells abroad in France, Japan and home in Croatia with Rijeka have been a struggle.  Rubil has not really had a run of games at the clubs he's played for.

Along with Mario Carevic, Zdravko Popovic is probably the most attractive free agent available for Croatian clubs and it is still very possible he can gain a contract abroad.  Still only 30, Popovic is a player who can provide goals, often of the spectacular nature and would boost most of the teams in HNL1.  Slaven Belupo is essentially in need of a player like this.  Ivan Katalinic is currently plodding on with the same strikers in hope of a turn in fortunes, but Popovic and possibly Ahmad Sharbini are the only two proven Croatian strikers out there that can give them the lift which Leon Benko provided when they signed him two seasons ago.  A return to Greece or Cyprus is also possible for Popovic who scored six times last season for Simurq and has 21 goals from his time in Greek football.  Popovic also scored 51 times in 62 games for Croatia Sesvete last time he was in his home country.
UPDATE: Popovic signs with reformed Greek giants AEK Athens in Greek Third Division.

At 38, it appears there is no longer interest in HNL1 all time leading scorer Davor Vugrinec.  There has been talk of a return to the newly reformed NK Varazdin, alongside former midfield teammate Miljenko Mumlek. Nevan Vukman, Ivan Rezic and Gordon Vuk have all accepted offers to return the club formerly known as Varteks. Vugrinec could also find a place in the improved Croatian second division with clubs such as Inter Zapresic and former side NK Zagreb still in need of goalscorers.

Former Varazdin striker Filip Skvorc is not counted on by Lokomotiva Zagreb this season and may be suited to dropping down to the Croatian second Division with Inter Zapresic a possible suitor for his services.  Alongside Ivan Peko, he is need of regular first team football as Lokomotiva are looking elsewhere with Mario Situm, versatile Petar Misic, Ivan Lendric and Ante Budimir their preferred strikers for this season.

33 Year old former Croatia international striker once again finds himself a free agent after suffering injury and health problems last season at Mainz where he scored 1 goal managing just three appearences. Klasnic's best spell in his career came during his time with Werder Bremen where he was considered one of the most deadly strikers in Germany. However after two kidney transplants, Klasnic had to reinvent himself as a penalty box finisher. He signed for Nantes, before showing better form in the English Premiership with Bolton Wanderers. Klasnic's spell in Mainz may turn off a number of top clubs, however he could give the edge to a number of ambitious German Bundesliga 2 club such as Koln, 1860 Munich. Klasnic alternatively could pursue a final swansong in the United States with a Croatia recall now looking unlikely.

Monday, 8 July 2013


Slaven Belupo are hunting for a new number nine after new head coach Ivan Katilinic conducted a clear out following dissatisfaction with his squad, which tailed away towards the end of the season.  Borislav Filipovic (Istra), Ante Batarelo (Istra), Alen Maras, Mario Baric (Vojvodina), Martin Saban, Davor Vugrinec and Mario Jelavic have all been cut from the roster.  Elvis Kokalovic (Konjaspor) and Igor Bubnjic (Udinese) have meantime moved abroad to stronger clubs allowing Belupo to strengthen. So far Belupo's forward line of Mateas Delic, Enes Novicic and Matteo Roskam does not appear to be strong enough.  Katilinic needs to find one experienced finisher to avoid Belupo being pulled into a relegation battle with Dinamo, Hajduk, Rijeka, RNK Split and Lokomotiva already showing their intention to fight their own battle at the top.

Krunoslav Lovrek and Sasa Bjelanovic are two proven goal scorers but are set to slip through the net of HNL1 clubs.  Lovrek, played little for FC Sydney last season making four appearences.  Despite being 33 Lovrek should still have enough in the tank, but has chosen to sign with NK Sesvete in the improved and revamped Croatian second division.  Sasa Bjelanovic, 34 is similarly proven but is close to a transfer to Serie B with Crotone and Varese chasing his signature. Bjelanovic has enjoyed a rich career in Italy with Como, Chievo, Ascoli, Genoa, Torino, Verona, Atalanta and with greatest effect at Vicenza. Bjelanovic recently expressed a desire to play his last season in Zadar, who themselves, sold one huge asset in Croatia Under 19 forward Stipe Perica to FC Chelsea.  The deal allows Zadar to bring another forward with former player Dragan Blatnjak waiting in the wings as potential replacement for Perica.

Ahmad Sharbini also is a proven scorer despite falling on hard times since his moved from HNK Rijeka to Hajduk Split and is currently with Al Wahda. Belupo need to act quick to contract a forward as their are seemingly less players of the standard of Leon Benko who they were able to bring back to Croatia from Belgium and is currently the leagues top striker with Rijeka.  Osijek who were in similarly needed snapped up Goran Ljubojevic and are assessing Vedran Niksic's situation with NK Zagreb.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Experienced forwards such as Davor Vugrinec, Nino Bule, Tomislav Erceg, Ivan Krstanovic and Robert Spehar to name just a few have often thrived on returning to Croatia and it appears the answer for many HNL1 clubs next season is to fetch themselves a experienced goalgetter.  Lack of goals proved NK Zagreb's undoing last season despite being one of the more established Croatian top flight sights.  The 10 teams that make up HNL1 this season will not want to fall in the same trap.  However there are a number of such players on the market

SASA BJELANOVIC - Bjelanovic is now 34 and with a wealth of experience behind him including playing against some of the toughest defenders in Serie A successfully for Ascoli as well as enjoying spells with Chievo, Genoa, Torino, Vicenza, Hellas Verona, Atalanta and playing Champions League with Cluj.  Bjelanovic certainly has enough left in him for two more seasons, should he choose to want them in Croatia having shown no sign of losing his ability to score and may still recieve offers from abroad.  Slaven Belupo particularly need a player like this for next season, however Bjelanovic should be considering by Hajduk Split who lack a experienced goalgetter.

ASIM SEHIC - After a fairly unproductive spell in Al Faisaly, Sehic will be keen to return back to Croatia and to his former club Istra 1961 where he was a key part of the promotion to the top flight and staying up in their first two seasons.  Sehic has also scored goals in Neuchatel Xamax and Slaven Belupo.

KRUNOSLAV LOVREK - Similarly to Bjelanovic, Lovrek is a high established goalgetter who has last season played alongside Allesandro Del Piero with FC Sydney.  His spell in Australia did signal that Lovrek needs to return home to Croatia with Slaven Belupo are very possible destination as the club was desperately short of goalscoring threat in the second half of the season, with key goalgetter Davor Vugrinec now 38 years old.  Belupo will be ill advised to miss out on such a forward as Lovrek who enjoyed title winning success with Jeonboek in South Korea.

DINO KRESINGER - Kresinger had a productive spell with Western Sydney last season, however he was part of this summers clear out and will be hunted by clubs in the Croatian league where he impressed with Cibalia.  His former club has dropped down to HNL1, but Kresinger will be a target for Istra 1961, Zadar and Osijek.

DRAGAN BLATNJAK - Should Dinamo Zagreb signed promising 17 year old Stipe Perica from Zadar it is likely, the club will move for their former Bosnia Herzegovina international forward Blatnjak.  Blatnjak has enjoyed successful spells at Hajduk Split, Khimki and FK Rostov, but returned to NK Osijek in the Spring on a short term deal and is a available on a free transfer.

GORAN LJUBOJEVIC - It is unknown whether this player is available after netting twice in 10 matches in Naft Tehran where he may be offered another season.  Should Ljubojevic be made available his likely destination is to return to the Gradski Vrt in Osijek where he has enjoyed two successful stints.  Ljubojevic is the type of forward Osijek need to help the promising Antonio Perosevic, despite being close to bringing Josip Barisic back to the club.  Ljubojevic again may become the target of Slaven Belupo who need a experienced goalgetter having allowed Davor Vugrinec to leave.

KARLO PRIMORAC - Although scoring goals for fun in Daarby Sime the standard of the league is not good and Primorac may be encouraged to return to Croatia.  Hrvatski Dragovoljac need a forward and could be encouraged to move for Primorac.  Former club Osijek may also see Primorac as a cheaper option  as they are strapped for cash and have little to spend of wages.

DARIO ZAHORA - Until his move to Ergotelis, Zahora's career looked to be going firmly off the rails having failed to gain enough matches at Osijek and Lokomotiva to win a long term contract.  Former club of Mario Budimir Ergotelis, however offered the player a year with them in the Greek second division and Zahora has impressed helping the club to regain promotion as the teams top scorer.  Zahora may be offered another year but if not he would be attractive now for HNL1 sides having proven himself at a similar level.
* Zahora signs for Greek club Irakilis.

Other players available include Al Wahda's AHMAD SHARBINI whilst Dragovoljac or aspiring HNL2 sides may be alerted by the availability of DAVOR VUGRINEC, MARIO JELAVIC and MARTIN SABAN.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Dinamo Zagreb have moved quickly to acquire new players ahead of next season, by signing Argentine goalkeeper Pablo Migliore, Chilean striker Junior Fernandes on loan from Bayer Leverkusen and most impressively Algerian winger Al Arbi Soudani who netted 9 goals for Vitoria Guimares this season.  The club also announced Domagoj Antolic, will be recalled from Lokomotiva and will compete in a already crowded midfield with Alen Halilovic, Sammir, Ivan Tomecak, Luis Ibanez, Jerko Leko, Nikola Pokrivac, Marcelo Brozovic, Arjan Ademi, Zvonko Pamic and Said Husljenovic all on the books and unlikely to transfer.  Dinamo also revealed they have had no offers for Croatia playmaker Sammir and their is no decision on the future of Andrej Kramaric, who could spend another season on loan despite scoring 14 times.

RNK Split and HNK Rijeka also aim to continue their progress by recruiting new players.  Having tied up Anas Sharbini, Rijeka have strengthened their forward line by signing Josip Tadic from Melbourne Heart.  Tadic, 25 proved squad player scoring 20 goals whilst with Dinamo Zagreb. Spells with Grenoble, Lechia Grdansk, Omonia proved unsuccessful and short lived.  However Tadic scored 6 times last season in Australia's A league and also impressed at Arminia Bielfeld.  The club announced they also hope to renew Danijel Cesarec's contract, whilst HNL1 top goalscorer Leon Benko will remain having netted 18 goals.  Tadic, is expected to prove more clinical that outgoing Belgian forward Andrea Mutombo, who can find a new club along with Drago Gabric, Mato Neretljak and Lukasz Mierzejewski.

RNK Split are looking to pick up Istra 1961 midfield Mislav Andreljkovic and Osijek defender Ivan Ibriks.  Both Slaven Belupo, Split and Istra themselves will also be alerted by the news of Dino Kresinger's release from Western Sydney. Kresinger, 31 impressed at Cibalia, before joining the Austrialia A League side last summer scoring 2 goals.  Osijek meantime have appointed new coach Tomislav Steinbuckner and hopes to make Frane Vitaic his first signing.

Thursday, 30 May 2013


It is hard to know what to make of the Croatian domestic league season just past.  As with Varazdin, Karlovac, Sibenik and to a less extent Medimurje and Croatia Sesvete in previous years more teams seem to be falling by the wayside for financial reasons and thus forfeiting their ability to compete.  NK Zagreb having sold Ivan Krstanovic, Vedran Celjak and Matteo Pavlovic for decent sums, have less excuse for the dismal season. However Cibalia have impressed in recent seasons and are certainly a victim of financial hardship.  Their team containing the likes of Dino Kresinger, Ivica Baraban, Zjelko Malcic, Davor Bagaric, Josip Milardovic and Marijian Antolovic is unlikely to have struggled as badly. Tomislav Mazalovic, Dario Zuparic and Mladen Bartolovic have still shone this season and may move to bigger clubs, but on the whole its now a rebuilding process for Cibalia, in what is going to be a increasingly competitive HNL2.

It is hard to know where to look when laying the blame for NK Zagreb's blight. This is no longer the club which ended Dinamo and Hajduk's domination of the Croatian league under Zlatko Kranjcar over 10 years ago.  The last time the club appeared to be going the right way was when Ivo Susak was appointed three seasons ago.  However president Drazen Medic felt the need to interfere and change coaches and its been downhill from that point on.  A series of disappointing signings have left the club with what is a HNL2 standard side, but is nevertheless one capable of getting promoted.  Most disappointing has been the clubs forward line which turned to a winger Besart Abdurahimi in desperation towards the end of the season.  He is at least an asset, but Medic needs a proven goalscorer to get this team back up.  With Davor Vugrinec and Mladen Bartolovic's contracts up at Slaven Belupo and Cibalia respectively these are such players as Zagreb will need.

NK Zagreb's mismanagement is not too far a case that has been happening with Hajduk Split and this season the club has suffered finishing in fourth place.  Should Zagreb's Abdurahimi end up with Dinamo Zagreb to be loaned out for the benefit of Lokomotiva or Inter Zapresic it will be symbollic of what is happening in the Croatian league and most notably Hajduk Split.  A number of talents have been swiped from under Hajduk's noses most notably from what was Hajduk's closest neighbours Sibenik.  Mehmed Alispahic, Arijan Ademi both would have appeared obvious Hajduk Split signings, but were taken by Dinamo, along with Krstanovic who was suited down to the ground to Hajduk.  If truth be told Hajduk have struggled to get their hands on many of HNL1's best talents in recent years. Thankfully this season this has given some of their own young players a chance which has seen Mijo Caktas and Franko Andriajsevic shine.  The club however has been forced to chuck away Ante Vukusic, Anas Sharbini and Josip Radosevic too soon just to be able to afford to keep running.  Vukusic is currently in limbo with games in Pescara, although a season in Serie B may well do him good.  Sharbini meanwhile is back in Rijeka picked up on a free transfer however sold him for over 1 million Euro's to Hajduk.  It would appear on the face of it the same may be about to occur with Marijan Maloca for whom another in HNL1 would not do him great harm.

The teams forward line has had to be recreating entirely with Vukusic, Ivan Lendric and Ahmad Sharbini all having left. Anton Maglica has started to find his feet despite injury problems, whilst Ivan Vukovic has been the teams best attacker. Jack Kouassi and Antonio Jakolis could prove decent squad players, but the teams really needs an experienced forward.  Mate Bilic would certainly be a gain for this club having proven himself in Spanish football and at a much higher level.  As a free agent and with a decent season with Sporting Gijon behind him this would be the right time to bring in their former forward.

Some quality wide players may also be in order for Hajduk. Filip Ozobic and Sven Tino Susic have done nothing much this season.  The club however would struggle to afford talents such as Ante Rebic of RNK Split and Inter Zapresic's Mislav Orsic.  A gamble that would have little to lose would be to bring back Drago Gabric, who is not the same since his car crash in Turkey, but under the right rehabilitation is cheap enough to be worth it.

The teams to have stole a march on Hajduk this season are HNK Rijeka, RNK Split and Lokomotiva Zagreb.  Whilst the likes of Cibalia, Zagreb and Osijek have fallen on hard times HNK Rijeka have invested heavily and are surveying the cost now the season is over. Third place is not bad.  However some of the clubs big signings not working out. Drago Gabric - who was not properly rehabilitated at the point of transfer and Belgian Andrea Mutombo has not scored a goal. Pole Lukas Mierzejewski was also not required. Mato Neretljak at 34 is also passed his best, but still played his part this season. Why these players were signed to two year contracts without proving themselves first is a financial mistake. Much better has been the signing of the leagues outstanding striker Leon Benko, again a miss by Hajduk Split, as well as midfielder Josip Brezovec and Ivor Weitzer.  Danijel Cesarec, Goran Mujanovic and Dario Knezevic have also played decent roles this season.  Mehmed Alispahic and Vedran Jugovic still have something to prove, especially with the returning Zoran Krzvic and Anas Sharbini providing more of a potential wow factor that the investors are looking for. Jugovic has more of a defensive role to player however now Damir Kreilach has joined Union Berlin.  It is essential for Rijeka to hold onto Benko, however a new forward is needed to learn from his experienced as well as 30 year old Cesarec.

Rijeka have talent spotted at Osijek, just as they did with Slaven Belupo last season.  Belupo will be keen to close the door on Rijeka having made their big sale in the form of Igor Bubnjic to Udinese for over 1 million Euro's.  Belupo however acted in the second half of the season as if they had nothing to play for and this is something Ivan Katilinic will quickly want to change in the summer.  After excellant performances in 2012 little was heard of Mateas Delic, Dejan Glavica and co in the next six months.  Borislav Filipovic, Mario Baric and Igor Jugovic will leave, but Mario Jelavic and Enes Novincic will need to do more next season.  In truth Katilinic needs to make signings.  If ex Croatia striker Davor Vugrinec, now 38 is to leave the club needs a new goalscorer.  Krunoslav Lovrek, Ahmad Sharbini, Bojan Vrucina and the rejuvenated Dario Zahora (8 goals for promoted Ergotelis) is the type of player they need.  Belupo will also need a centre back and midfield players to ensure they challenge Hajduk, Rijeka, RNK Split, Lokomotiva and Dinamo much stronger next season.

All eyes will be on Osijek in the new season.  This is a team that has had no choice, but to throw open the door to youth and may be the fall guys in 2014 purely due to finances.  Under the stewardship of one of HNL1 best coaches Stanko Mrsic Osijek had a strong start to the season.  However in 2013 they shown signs of suffering the same fete as Cibalia, Sibenik and Karlovac with all their strong players refusing to sign new contracts.  Ivan Ibriks, Tomislav Sorsa, Ivan Milicevic, Vedran Jugovic, Zoran Krzvic, Marko Leskovic are part of the exodus from the Gradski Vrt.  Dragan Blatnjak has also not signed on for a second season, but this could be as he wishes to return to NK Zadar where he spent a successful early career.  The clubs bright prospect Antonio Perosevic remains for next season as could come to fore despite what appears a hard couple of years ahead for the club. Its unlikely Osijek have enough quality standard youth players to cope with the number of their experienced squad departing.  Its to be seen if Osijek bring in experience to help their younger players or end up being reduced to assembling a HNL2 level group. Free agents Valentin Babic, Jurica Vranjes, Mato Neretljak and Goran Ljubojevic are all former Osijek men that can do a job in helping the side avoid relegation.

Zadar did well to stay in HNL1 this season and will be looking for more of the same. A lot of the current squad can hold their head high this season, including Stipe Perica who at 17 is a excellant prospect after netting 7 goals. Zadar will also be doing what they can to convince Jurica Buljat to stay. Istra 1961 also got the best out of what they had although will not be pleased to see 10 goal top scorer Goran Roce leave or midfielder Mislav Andrejlkovic. Istra will be in the hunt for another goalscorer to partner Sandi Krizman.

At the top of the league Dinamo Zagreb seem to have a squad that is swelling and even with sending half of it to Lokomotiva is proving too strong for the rest of the sides in Croatia.  The arrival of Chilean striker Junior Fernandes means Dinamo now have far too many strikers.  Fatos Bequiraj, Ante Rukavina, Ivan Krstanovic and Duje Cop has been more than enough to ensure another HNL1 title.  However it is clearly not good enough to compete in the Champions League or Europa Liga.  Dinamo's solution to buy foriegn players have is not satisfying to see. Bequiraj is the main man to suffer.  Having impressed everyone in 2013 by bagging 16 goals as the leagues highest scorer, the Kosovan Albanian striker has lost his way this time out falling behind Cop and latterly Krstanovic from whom Dinamo could not really ask more.  Cop was a free transfer from RNK Split and has scored 9 times.  Rukavina, also may have to go away to a new club as was a expensive buy from Panathanaikos.  Many feel the 24 year old still can have a role to play and Dinamo may well regret tearing up his contract.  Should RNK Split get the money they want for Ante Rebic, they could have the finances to offer Rukavina a deal.

In the midfield is where Dinamo are strongest with Zvonko Pamic and Said Huseljinovic finding their feet in the latter part of the season to add to Ivan Tomecak, Sammir, Alen Halilovic, Luis Ibanez, Marcelo Brozovic, Jerko Leko, Nikola Pokrivac and Arjan Ademi in that area.  Sammir appears to want out, but the player is likely to lose out more than the club with Halilovic waiting to take his place not only at club, but also international level.  Sammir would appear wise to stay put and prove himself until a bid comes along.  In central defence Josip Simunic is passed his best but has another year, so the club really needs a signing for this position.  Tin Jedvaj is a talent, but is only 17.  Many would appreciate Renato Kelic or Hjorve Cale in this area.  Ideally Dinamo need a big signing in centre back. Should Sammir go Dinamo intend to call back Domagoj Antolic. Meanwhile the club has no answer at present what to do with Andrej Kramaric who has had a strong season at Lokomotiva.  Mario Situm is expected to stay with the Loko's as his season has been disrupted by injury.  Its unlikely he will be partnered by Kramaric for a second season, as Kramaric is wanted by clubs around Europe.  Dino Spehar is likely to be next to head down to Lokomotiva. If Dinamo do any further transfer business it will only involve Sime Vrsaljko who is wanted by Bayer Leverkusen, but with the defence already in bits Zdravko Mamic want not take the money for now.  This is because Tonel, Igor Biscan and Domagoj Vida have all left in the last 12 months but were not replaced.