Cult Corner

How Dinamo Zagreb could have lined up if they hadn’t sold their star players

How Dinamo Zagreb could have lined up if they hadn’t sold their star players

Since its inception in 1992, one team has reigned supreme over all others in the Croatian First League – Dinamo Zagreb.

Over the last 26 seasons, Croatia’s biggest club has won an impressive 18 league titles, including all but one – the most recent season saw them dethroned by HNK Rijeka – of each of the last 11.

And it’s not hard to see why they’ve been so dominant considering some of the players that have donned the blue shirt down the years.

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Virtually all of Croatia’s best players over the past couple of decades have at some point turned out at the Stadion Maksimir, whether they have risen through the youth ranks or been signed from smaller clubs across the country.

Sadly, though, whenever a player begins to show a hint of promise for the Blues, they are usually snaffled up by richer clubs in Europe and rarely does one of their prized assets make over 100 appearances before leaving.

Fortunately, Dinamo possesses one of the finest youth academies in world football, enabling them to reinvent their side time and time again to cope with the loss of their most talented stars.

Had they managed to keep hold of all of their best players, though, they would undoubtedly be one of the finest teams on the continent.

Goalkeeper: Eduardo

Age: 33

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 98

Current club: Chelsea

Career transfer fees: £8.08m

Eduardo

The only non-Croatian member of this team, the Portuguese shot-stopper arrived at Dinamo Zagreb in 2014 following a spell in Italy and enjoyed two successful seasons between the sticks, keeping 44 clean sheets.

Eduardo also has 35 international caps to his name and was part of Portugal’s victorious squad at Euro 2016, although he failed to make a single appearance. He signed for Chelsea in August 2016.

Right-back: Tin Jedvaj

Age: 21

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 13

Current club: Bayer Leverkusen

Career transfer fees: £11.05m

Jedvaj

So highly rated was Tin Jedvaj as a teenager that he only made 13 senior appearances for Dinamo before being sold to Roma, who beat a host of European clubs to his signature.

The versatile defender struggled to make an impact in the Italian capital but has fared much better since moving to Bayer Leverkusen, where he gradually forced his way into the starting line-up.

Centre-back: Vedran Corluka

Age: 31

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 61

Current club: Lokomotiv Moscow

Career transfer fees: £29.16m

Corluka

Vedran Corluka joined the Dinamo Zagreb academy when he was eight years old and after excelling in the club’s youth team, he graduated to the senior side in 2003.

Over the next four years, he established himself as a key member of the side and earned a move to Manchester City before joining Tottenham and then Lokomotiv Moscow where he was briefly reunited with former Croatia manager Slaven Bilic.

Centre-back: Dejan Lovren

Age: 28

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 55

Current club: Liverpool

Career transfer fees: £36.81m

Lovren

Dejan Lovren spent most of his youth growing up in Germany but when he was ten years old his family relocated to Zagreb. He turned out for a couple of local clubs upon moving to Croatia and his form alerted the attentions of Dinamo Zagreb’s scouts in 2004.

Following a successful three-year loan spell with Inter Zapresic, Lovren became a first-team player for Dinamo in the 2009-10 season and his outstanding displays culminated in a move to Lyon, where he played for three years before joining Southampton and then Liverpool.

Left-back: Sime Vrsaljko

Age: 25

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 96

Current club: Atletico Madrid

Career transfer fees: £22.42m

Vrsaljko

Another youngster who made a big impression when he first burst into the side is the attack-minded full-back Sime Vrsaljko, who made just shy of 100 appearances for the club.

Vrsaljko won four successive Croatian league titles before leaving for Italy where he represented Genoa and Sassuolo. Following a couple of productive campaigns with the latter, he moved to Atletico Madrid last summer.

Centre midfield: Marcelo Brozovic

Age: 24

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 96

Current club: Inter

Career transfer fees: £9.10m

Brozovic

One of the few Croatians in this side who did not pass through Dinamo’s youth academy, Marcelo Brozovic instead started his career with Hrvatski Dragovoljac and also turned out for Lomotiva before achieving his big transfer to Dinamo.

He spent two seasons in Dinamo’s engine room and performed sufficiently well to earn a move to Inter Milan initially on loan and then on a permanent basis in 2016.

Centre midfield: Luka Modric

Age: 32

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 68

Current club: Real Madrid

Career transfer fees: £43.35m

Modric

The star of the current Croatia side, Luka Modric was the golden boy of Croatian football when he was first making his way in the game with Dinamo, although a loan spell to Bosnian side Zrinjski Mostar was also pivotal to his development.

Just prior to starring at Euro 2008, Modric joined Tottenham in a big-money deal and he became one of the leading midfielders in the Premier League during his four years at Spurs leading to a move to Real Madrid.

Centre midfield: Mateo Kovacic

Age: 23

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 63

Current club: Real Madrid

Career transfer fees: £35.70m

Kovacic

The obvious candidate to replace Modric for both club and country, Mateo Kovacic spent two years in the Dinamo first team and he showed such promise that Inter snapped him up in 2013.

Kovacic immediately became a prominent member of the Inter side and spent two seasons at the San Siro before moving on to Real Madrid last year. Although he was rarely a regular, Kovacic won the Champions League in his first season.

Attacking midfield: Ante Coric

Age: 20

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 110

Current club: Dinamo Zagreb

Career transfer fees: £765,000

Coric

The current jewel in the crown at Dinamo and the only player in this XI who is still playing for the club. After selling both Marko Pjaca and Marko Rog last summer, Dinamo made it their primary objective to hang onto Coric but he will surely be the next big export.

An outrageously gifted technician who thrives playing the No.10 role, Coric has already clocked up 110 senior appearances for his club and has been earmarked as Croatia’s next big playmaker, following in the footsteps of Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and Modric.

Attacking midfield: Marko Pjaca

Age: 22

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 91

Current club: Juventus

Career transfer fees: £20.40m

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The arrivals of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic at Juventus overshadowed Marko Pjaca’s arrival somewhat but his signing could be a real coup  for the Serie A champions if he continues to develop at the same rate.

A versatile attacker, capable of playing on either flank or in the No.10 role, Pjaca’s goalscoring ability is highlighted by an excellent return of 28 goals in 91 games for Dinamo and he will be extremely difficult to replace.

Striker: Mario Mandzukic

Age: 31

Dinamo Zagreb appearances: 112

Current club: Juventus

Career transfer fees: £53.13m

Mandzukic

Similar to Brozovic, Mario Mandzukic made his name elsewhere in Croatia with Marsonia and then NK Zagreb before joining Dinamo in 2007 aged 21.

It is with Dinamo that Mandzukic began to really flourish into a top-class centre forward as he struck 53 goals in 112 games, which led to a move to Wolfsburg.

Since then the towering frontman has gone on to play for European heavyweights Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus.

DinamoCouldLineUp (1)

Bench: Marko Rog (Napoli), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Jozo Simunovic (Celtic), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ognjen Vukojevic (Austria Wien), Alen Halilovic (Hamburg), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb), Niko Kranjcar (Rangers), Ivica Olic (1860 Munich)

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