Underrated Academies: Dinamo Zagreb
When the topic of the most fabled academies is discussed, the likes of La Masia, Southampton and Schalke come to mind. Yet very few acknowledge the success of Dinamo Zagreb’s academy…
The Croatian giants truly have a gold mine of European talent in the capital. Their youth setup is without a doubt one of the finest in the continent with their academy graduates typically going on to become excellent players for Europe’s elite. With a reputation that many fans are still unaware of, here are some of The Poets’ most notable exports:
The physically strong and defender has had a respectable career in Europe since graduating from Dinamo in 2003. Corluka has played for in the top flight for Manchester City, Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen and his club at present Lokomotiv Moscow, where he has demonstrated his capability in defence or deep midfield.
He has also acquired silverware including two league titles with his native Dinamo and a Russian league title last season with Lokomotiv. This is without mentioning his 103 caps for the Croatian national team, 6th in their all-time list. His inclusion in Croatia’s fairytale World Cup this summer only adds to his successful time at the heart of defences. Trophies, a lengthy C.V and national pride, Corluka certainly has a career to be proud of.
By far Dinamo’s most famous export, the midfield maestro has had a stunning career for club and country. After graduating from their academy in 2003 like Corluka, the Croatian has not looked back showing his pedigree from an early age with the senior team before illustrious stints at Tottenham Hotspur and now more notably Real Madrid.
A midfielder with boundless creativity and exceptional dribbling, he has mesmerised the Premier League as well as La Liga in the last decade, establishing himself as one of the great midfielders. 3 Croatian league titles, 1 La Liga, 4 Champions Leagues, the list goes on for the legendary playmaker.
A scintillating World Cup for the 113 capped Croatian has been the icing on the cake of a stellar individual season for Modric, nominating him in the Top 3 for The Best FIFA Men’s Player this season. What a player.
After a tough childhood like Modric and many other Croatians, the centreback has had a respectable career. After playing for their youth and senior teams, Lovren left the capital for Lyon where he established himself as a promising young defender. A move to St Mary’s and Southampton followed and following an impressive spell, he joined Liverpool where he still is today.
Lovren’s quest for silverware in recent years has often resulted in heartbreak. In reaching distance of the most coveted trophies in world football, he has come away with nothing.
A domestic double with Zagreb, a Croatian second division title on loan and a Coupe De France with Lyon are the only trophies to his name. But the last year has seen the defender earn a runner-up medal in the Champions League and the World Cup. High profile occasions for yet another Dinamo graduate.
Alen Halilović – The young talent who despite not making the cut at Barcelona after showing promise, is looking to kick start his career at the San Siro.
Šime Vrsaljko – The 26 year old had a stellar season for club and country, winning the Europa League with Atletico Madrid and reaching the World Cup final with his national team. He’s now on loan at Inter Milan.
Mateo Kovačić – Consistent whenever he was called upon at the Bernabeu, the 24 year old is very similar to Luka Modric, succeeding thus far in his career. In search of more playing time, the Croat has gone on loan to Chelsea for 2018/19.