Thursday, 4 March 2021

Winter Transfer Window Success: Hajduk Jumps to 2nd in HNL Player Value

March 4, 2021 - Hajduk jumps to 2nd in HNL player value thanks to an impressive winter transfer window that brought in Lovre Kalinić, Marco Fossati, Marko Livaja, and Alexander Kačaniklić.

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that after the winter transfer window, Hajduk is again the second HNL team in player value.

Only two months ago, due to the disastrous summer and autumn, the club's value, according to Transfermarkt, dropped to EUR 20.5 million, which placed it only fourth in the league standings, even behind Rijeka (24.2) and Osijek (20.9). As the results fell, so did the value of Hajduk's players.

However, the market activity during the winter and bringing in players like Lovre Kalinić and Marko Livaja certainly enhanced the club, thus bringing it a new value.

First, the President of the Management Board, Lukša Jakobušić, brought back goalkeeper Kalinić on loan from Aston Villa in December (until the end of June this year). Then, Hajduk's sports director Mindaugas Nikoličius showed his worth, bringing in the brilliant Marko Livaja, who had terminated his contract with AEK Athens, and Swedish winger Alexander Kačaniklić, who once played in England for Fulham and the French Ligue 1.

Midfielder Marco Fossati completed the quartet of experienced players who strengthened Hajduk this winter, arriving on loan from the Italian second league club Monza.

Including the departures of Gyurcso, Ljubić, Delić, and Radić, who also have a certain price, Hajduk became richer by almost five million euro compared to December last year (25.3).

Osijek is close to EUR 24.8, and Rijeka is not far from EUR 23.8. At the top, of course, is Dinamo with EUR 103.3 million, which is more than Hajduk, Osijek, Rijeka, and even Gorica (19.4) combined.

The HNL table confirms that these numbers are not necessarily a guarantee of success, as Osijek is practically equal to Dinamo, Gorica is third, and Hajduk is fifth. 

At EUR 3 million, Livaja is the most expensive of Hajduk's new players. Only Mijo Caktaš (3.7) has a higher price than him. Kalinić is worth EUR 2.8 million, Kačaniklić EUR 1.2 million, and Fossati EUR 400,000.

Not only did they raise the value on paper, but these players also left an excellent first impression. This is especially true of Kalinić, who came first. His presence has a calming effect on the rest of the team, and last week his heroics saved Hajduk's victory against Rijeka, defending Andrijašević's penalty in the final seconds of the match.

In any case, Hajduk succeeded in the transfer window, perhaps even better than the fans expected. The first impressions are positive, the value of the team has grown, and now it must only be translated into results on the pitch. 

HNL Clubs in millions (compared with Decemberr 2020)

1. Dinamo 103.3 (+2.7)

2. Hajduk 125.3 (+4.8)

3. Osijek 124.8 (+3.9)

4. Rijeka 123.8 (-0.4)

5. Gorica 119.4 (-0.9)

6. Lokomotiva 113.8 (-0.9)

7. Istra 1961 119.8 (+3.2)

8. Varaždin 118.0 (-0.9)

9. Slaven Belupo 117.8 (+0.6)

10. Šibenik 117.5 (+0.5)

11. Total 243.5 (+12.6)

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

After Lovre Kalinic and Bosko Balaban, Will Aston Villa Ever Buy Croatian Again?

December 23, 2020 - As Lovre Kalinic returns to Hajduk, reflections of an Aston Villa fan on buying Croatian.

It has been exactly 40 years since that memorable season, the last time Aston Villa were League Champions, 12 years before the Premier League was even thought of. 

As an impressionable 10-year old, I went to as many games as I could with my father, starting with a 1-2 away win against Leeds at Elland Road. 

We weren't expecting much from the season, but it turned out to be amazing. 

We were very rarely outside the top two all season, as we battled it out with Bobby Robson's Ipswich Town, and I remember spending my 11th birthday locked out of Villa Park along with 8,000 other fans who couldn't get a ticket for what was billed the championship decider against Ipswich. We lost 1-2, but it did not matter as Ipswich imploded, and Villa were crowned champions at Highbury on the last day of the season, despite losing 2-0 to Arsenal. 

The most amazing part of the season was that Villa only used only 14 players all season. These days, many clubs use 14 in a single match. Eight players played every match, all 42 of them, and with the exception of Irishman Eamonn Deacy who made 11 appearances (6 starts), the Villa team was entirely British. As was the manager, the legendary Ron Saunders.

A different world, when football was about football. And Villa were not the only team out of the Big Six to do well. Nottingham Forest won the league in 1978, then the European Cup twice, a trophy Villa picked up on May 26, 1982, in Rotterdam, as Peter Withe's shin proved too much for Bayern Munich. 

It was also the start of the arrival of the foreign superstar, which brought a lot of glamour and excitement. Spurs started it all with the arrival of Argentinian World Cup winners Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in 1978. What started as a trickle soon became a rush, and these days there are only a minority of home-grown stars playing for the big teams.

Exotic arrivals began to arrive, some who were internationally famous, many who were not. Some from countries the average British fan had heard of, many that they had not. 

Slaven Bilic was the first Croatia arrival in 1995 and he was a huge hit for both West Ham and Everton, followed by Aljosa Asanovic to Derby. I had to await until 2001 for Villa to go Croatian, with the arrival of... 

... Bosko Balaban. 

Regularly cited at the top of lists of the worst Premier League buys in history, Villa parted with £5.8 million for Balaban, who made just 9 appearances in a Villa shirt, 7 as a sub. He failed to find the net once. After a loan period back at Dinamo Zagreb, Balaban eventually moved to Club Brugge. 

It was to be almost 20 years until Villa bought Croatian again, goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, for £7 million from Gent, where he was named Best Goalkeeper in the Belgian League. I was very excited by the signing, having seen his keep goal at Hajduk, where he broke the record for longest time without conceding a goal. He would surely be a bigger hit than his Croatian predecessor. 

Not. 

Quite.

He made his debut in a 3-0 FA Cup loss with Swansea, followed by a 3-0 loss on his league debut against Wigan, followed by a 2-2 draw against Hull. 8 goals conceded in the first three games. He went on to play a total of just 7 times for Villa, a cost of £1 million a game, before slipping down to fourth in the goalkeeping pecking order and being sent out on loan to Toulouse last season, where he played just 4 times. 

With big-name signings of Tom Heaton and Emi Martinez competing for the number 1 spot, Kalnicic's Villa career has effectively been over for some time, and yesterday it was announced that he would be returning to Hajduk on loan next month. 

Kalinic is not the only one going full circle after a rough patch. So too, it seems, are Villa. Not only have they made their best start to a season in 20 years, but their team is predominantly British once more, and managed by an Englishman. The team that spanked champions Liverpool 7-2 earlier this season had 8 British players in it - it would have been nine had Heaton not been injured - with all seven goals made in Britain (Watkins hattrick, Grealish double, Barkley and McGinn). 

I wish Kalinic well  - he certainly has a job to do at Hajduk. It would be great if he can rediscover his old form and restore Hajduk to its former greatness. And if Villa could start to emulate that 1980 magic. Ah, a blogger can dream... 

But don't expect Villa to be in the market for Croatian players and time soon. 

For more on Croatian sport, follow our dedicated TCN section

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Lovre Kalinic Returns to Hajduk!

December 22, 2020 - Lovre Kalinic is back at Poljud! The experienced 30-year-old goalkeeper will come to Hajduk Split on loan from Aston Villa until June 30, 2021.

Kalinic started his goalkeeping career at Hajduk at the age of nine and moved through all the younger age categories at the club. As a senior for Hajduk, he played seven first-league seasons, making a total of 134 official appearances.

He left Hajduk in December 2016 for Ghent, Belgium, where he was in goal for two seasons, after which he moved to Aston Villa. He spent the first half of 2020 on loan in Toulouse, France, and then returned to Aston Villa.

Kalinic recorded 11,962 official minutes for Hajduk, and as many as 50 times, his net remained free from goals. Lovre is also the club record holder, going 775 minutes without conceding a goal in HNL matches. The former Hajduk goalkeeper set that record from August 10 to October 24, 2015, when he did not concede a goal for a full eight games in a row. He made a total of 19 official appearances for the Croatia national team.

"I take this opportunity to thank President Jakobušić for initiating the story of my return. His wish was really great on my part as well, although I was offered several options from Belgium on the table. Many will say that Hajduk is currently poor in terms of results, but Hajduk is still a huge club. I was particularly intrigued by the story and project of a president who wants to create a strong and powerful club. From the first conversation, I felt positive, which is why I didn’t hesitate much. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m happy to be back. I can’t wait to join the team. We all need to come together and start working on big things," said Kalinic.

"Lovre, welcome, and we wish you good luck and success in the white jersey," Hajduk concluded on its website when announcing Lovre's return. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Remembering World Cup: Ivan Rakitić Declares Day of Unity, Pride, and Happiness in Croatia

July 10, 2019 - For Croatians, July 16, 2018, is a date that is saved in our memory bank for a lifetime. One year later, the unity, pride, and happiness experienced in Croatia then will be recreated. 

Like yesterday, we remember Croatia’s outstanding World Cup in Russia, which secured them a spot in history books after they came home with the silver medal. 

“There is no better feeling than being a Croat. This is a historic match for us, not just for the 22 of us here, but for the whole country. Tomorrow, we will have 4.5 million on the pitch,” said Ivan Rakitić before the big final last year to 24 Sata

But even before that last game in Russia, Croatia already won the hearts of football fans around the world, whether they had Croatian blood or not. Win or lose, the only way the fans could show their appreciation was with a spectacular welcome on July 16, 2018,after an incredible World Cup campaign in Russia. More than half a million people ran to the streets of Zagreb and waited more than five hours for the team bus to make it from the airport to Ban Jelačić square, which was followed by a series of ‘welcome home’ parties across the country in the weeks after. 

But it has been one year since the summer of a lifetime; one year since Zlatko Dalić and his team met France in the final on July 15th, and one year since Croatians near and far pushed to the streets to show their pride. 

Thus, Ivan Rakitić is urging Croatians to remember the summer of a lifetime, awaken the red and white checkers in their heart, and get out on the streets of Croatia once again to remember this pertinent date in Croatian history. 

“On July 16, everyone put on your checkers and head out to the streets. Let’s celebrate the day of unity, pride, and happiness. Croatia is full of life, let's show it,” Rakitić said in a video he posted on his Instagram.

Zlatko Dalić and Lovre Kalinić also invited Croatians to take part in the new celebration. 

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 30 March 2019

From Balaban to Kalinic: Is There a Croatian Curse at Aston Villa?

March 30, 2019 - One of England's finest clubs and some of Croatia's best talent should be the perfect mix, but... 

Life is quite hard if you are an Aston Villa fan.

It didn't always used to be that way. I fondly remember the 1980/81 campaign, when the lethal strikeforce of Peter Withe and Gary Shaw pipped Bobby Robson's Ipswich Town to be league champions, and that fateful day in Rotterdam on May 26, 1982 when Withe's shin was enough to defeat the mighty Bayern Munich and make Villa European champions. 

But since then... 

As with all other clubs, Villa started buying foreign talent, and there were arrivals from former Yugoslavia. First came the Serbs, and one of my favourite nicknames of all time, Savo Miss-A-Lot-Evic, as Partizan Belgrade striker Savo Milosevic signed on the dotted line for £3.5 million in 1995, before treating us to a 3-year masterclass in how not to score goals. His compatriot Sasa Curcic joined a year later and was an even bigger flop, soon leaving Villa Park for a failed career as a Serbian reality TV star and love guru. 

But it was the arrival of the first Croatian star which is best remembered by Villa fans and the Premier League as a whole. A star whose impact was so memorable that he features without fail on every list of worst signings in the history of the Premier League. 

I remember being really excited at the signing of Bosko Balaban in 2000. Croatia were the new hip team on the European scene, having finished third in the 1998 World Cup in France. And Villa had unearthed one of its finest talents!

Or so we all thought. 

Signed from NK Rijeka for £5.8 million on wages of £20,000, according to Wikipedia, "Balaban failed to find any form for Aston Villa, making just nine appearances, seven as a substitute, in two and a half years. He was loaned back to Dinamo Zagreb for the 2002–03 season, scoring 15 times in 24 appearances. In December 2003, Aston Villa released Balaban from his contract and he signed for Club Brugge on a free transfer."

Where he went on to be a huge hit, as did Savo Miss-a-Lot-Evic elsewhere. The curse of Aston Villa.

One of Balaban's few Villa appearances was actually in Croatia, as Villa went out of Europe in one of the worst performances in its history as Villa were knocked out by Varteks. As The Daily Telegraph notes of Balaban's contribution in Varazdin in 2001:

"Juan Pablo Angel replaced the ineffective Bosko Balaban for the second half, in which Villa showed more urgency, forcing Varteks to defend for long periods."

lovre-kalinic.PNG

{YouTube screenshot - Lovre Kalinic displays excellent eyebrow control)

Years passed.

I moved to Croatia, even relocating to Varazdin, scene of Villa's humiliation in 2001.

During my time in Dalmatia, I watched a very promising (and very tall) young Hajduk keeper called Lovre Kalinic. I was even there the day he set a new record for consecutive clean sheets in the Croatian league (17 from memory). And so when I heard rumours a year ago that Villa were trying to sign him from FC Ghent, where he had been named the goalkeeper of the year in the Belgian league, I was rather excited. Memories of Bosko and that dark night in Varazdin were banished to history. A Croatian hero was coming to rescue the Villa. 

Kalinic eventually did sign at the beginning of this year, for a fee of £7 million, a little more than we paid for the Bosko wonder all those years ago. 

And the goals went in, and continued going in. Far from being a stabilising addition, the already leaky defence seemed to get worse with the new arrival. After just a few games, he was dropped to the bench but not before this impressive face-off with leading scorer Tammy Abraham, see below.  

A Championship club with a £7 million goalkeeper on the bench. How much worse could it get? New number 1 Jed Steer took his opportunity well, keeping 4 clean sheets in his first 5 games. The international break should have given Kalinic some breathing space, but his performance as Croatian number 1 in the 2-1 defeat in Hungary brought on more criticism, this time from his fellow countrymen. 

The £7 million goalkeeper fell further down the pecking order on his return, not even making the bench as substitute goalkeeper in today's 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. His place was taken by 21-year-old Montenegrin stopper Matija Sarkic. 

Has the Croatian curse struck again at Aston Villa? Or will Kalinic regain the keeper's jersey and become the first Aston Villa Croatian legend? Time will tell. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Eternal Solin: New Promo Video Features Town's Local Heroes (VIDEO)

Solin’s new promotional video was presented at the City Council session held at the Hotel President. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Did You Know Croatia Has the Tallest Player in the 2018 World Cup?

Some fun facts ahead of this year's international football spectacle. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Against All Odds: Young Croatian Side Defeats Mexico in Los Angeles!

The Croatian national football team played their US debut yesterday in a friendly match against Mexico in Los Angeles, California. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mandžukić Takes the Captain's Seat in Tonight's Friendly Match Against Northern Ireland

The Croatian National football team tonight faces Northern Ireland in a friendly match in Belfast at 20.45. Coach Ante Čačić went without top players who have now returned to their clubs, using this opportunity to test the players that have had less playing time on the roster.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Croatia Starts The 2018 World Cup Qualifiers vs. Turkey Today

The doors of Maksimir Stadium will be closed for the fans due to the UEFA ban

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