Balkan Brilliance: Four Starlets to take Europe by Storm?


When you look back through the years – one consistency is that the former Yugoslav nations produce quality. Weather its Bosnia, and the likes of Dzeko and Pjanic, Slovakia and the likes of Marek Hamsik – or Croatia, who have produced a host amazing talent that have run riot in all European leagues – such as Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic and Rakitic, just to name a few central midfielders…

This summer, this is set to continue – and with four starlets either already moving, or about to – I thought I’d take a look at the four in question.

Marko Pjaca – Dinamo Zagreb to Juventus (£20m)

Pjaca is still just 21, and having scored 26 in 90 games for his current club. He also played a big part for Croatia this summer at Euro 2016, and with him getting better with each passing day, Juventus have all but signed him for around the £20m mark, with a medical set to take place in the next day or so. With Juventus set to lose Paul Pogba, they have money to burn and this is a great way of spending it – a pacey winger to replace the outgoing Juan Cuadrado who it seems will not be sold by Chelsea this summer.

Marko Grujic – Red Star Belgrade to Liverpool (£5.1m)

Grujic is one that has already moved, and has already impressed! He has bagged a goal or two, and looked like a class act in midfield, even though he is only 19 or 20. He has played at all levels for Serbia, and despite only playing a total of 40 odd games for his first club, it was his general play that has earned him the move. He arrives late in the box from a deep-lying midfield role, and has an eye for goal. I think he could be set to go on to bigger things!

Ante Coric – Dinamo Zagreb to ???

Coric is the wonderkid of Croatian football at the moment. Yet another to come from a long line of talent at Zagreb, the interest is high. Very interesting story as he went to Europe as a kid, and had trials with Bayern – but eventually signed for Salzburg. He left after a while as he was getting frustrated with the Austrians, and his parents had been told that Zagreb was the best place to be. With 10 goals to his name in around 70 games, as well as 2 caps at senior level for Croatia – he is one of the hottest prospects in Europe, and when he does move – the price will reflect that. Expect it to be north of £10m.

He has had invites to trials, and offers from many all around the biggest leagues in Europe, but for now – he is happy to continue his development in Zagreb, and at just 19 – there is no rush!

Andrija Zivkovic – Partizan Belgrade to Benfica (Free Transfer)

This one is astounding. Zivkovic was advised to run down his contract in order to leave for free as his agent felt Partizan were asking too much. The Serbian is again, one of the hottest prospects in football and had he commanded a fee, it would have been north of £10m too. The talented wideman contributed 24 goals and 13 assists in 90 games for the Serbian side, with his pace and direct running huge factors in the interest in him. Benfica beat the likes of Liverpool to his signature, which I believe he has made a great choice. How much 1st team football would he get at somewhere like Anfield? Not a great deal, given their host of attacking midfielders!

He is certainly one to keep an eye on, as one good season in Portugal could lead to a scramble to sign him, and Benfica could rake in similar amounts to what they just got for Renato Sanches!

All four are very promising talents – and all should go far! Pjaca is set for a Juventus move, while the other two that have moved have secured high level clubs. Coric – will be an interesting one. He needs to pick a club where he can continue to develop unhindered – a move similar to Zivkovic would be preferable, but I doubt sides like Benfica could lure him from England or Spain!