No country has caused England more recent pain than Croatia. Whether it was elimination from Euro 2008 qualifying or the 2018 World Cup Semi-Final, the Croats have been hurting English football fans regularly in recent tournaments. Unsurprisingly, many of their top stars have popped up in the Premier League at some point in their careers, to varying degrees of success. No less than 25 Croatian internationals have appeared in the English top-flight with many having inflicted more pain on football fans up and down the country. So who are the best Croatian footballers in the history of the Premier League?
6 best Croatian footballers in Premier League history
Vedran Corluka ( Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur)
Corluka was brought in as one of the first big signings at Man City after Thaksin Shinawatra took over in 2007 and it wasn’t hard to see why. Strong, quick and skilful on the ball, Corluka represented all the strengths a modern full-back needed.
He caught a lot of eyes during a successful first season in 2007/08 and Tottenham swooped in and bought him for £8.5m just one year later. Corluka proved to be a popular edition at White Hart Lane and spent five seasons there helping Spurs reach the Champions League for the first time.
Injuries and management changes saw Corluka fall out of favour though at North London in 2012 and he would move to Lokomotiv Moscow at the start of the 2012/13 season.
Nikica Jelavic (Everton, Hull, West Ham)
Scotland has often proved to be a great stepping stone to English football and that was the path that Nikica Jelavic took when the powerful striker joined Everton from Rangers in 2012. Jelavic’s deadly finishing and powerful aerial presence made him a handful for defenders and his best form of 9 goals in 13 games during the second half of the 2011/12 season proved why he was so difficult to handle.
His eye for goal played a crucial in Hull surviving the 2013/14 season and would also prove vital in helping West Ham avoid relegation in 2016. Having one Premier League Player of the Month award under his belt too, it’s not hard to see why Jelavic was so formidable in English football and is regarded as one of the best Croatian footballers to be seen in the Premier League.
Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)
Mateo Kovacic has matured dramatically since emerging as a talent for Inter Milan in 2013. Once a quick and fiery attacking midfielder, Kovacic has found his true calling as a classic central midfielder since moving to Chelsea from Real Madrid in 2018.
Kovacic’s eye for a pass is one of the best in European football and can unlock defences with one flick of the boot. He also can be a real menace from set-pieces too showing some of the attacking prowess that was so prominent in his youth.
His consistent performances have turned him into a fans’ favourite at Stamford Bridge where he was awarded the Chelsea Fans’ Player of the Year award for the 2019/20 season. There’s definitely more to come from Kovacic in English football over the next few years, with Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel regarding him as a key player.
Dejan Lovren (Southampton, Liverpool)
Lovren was one of the Croatian footballers who split fans opinion right down the middle – they either loved him or hated him. This was never clearer than during his 6-year stint with Liverpool who signed him in 2014 from Southampton. On his day, no one could get past Lovren who’s formidable stature, deceptive pace and aerial ability made him a nightmare for strikers to deal with.
Occasionally prone to some lapses in concentration, fans used him as a scapegoat for Liverpool’s defensive frailties during his time there even if if that was slightly unfair given his infrequent game time.
Lovren left Liverpool for Zenit St. Petersburg in 2020 but left England on a high taking a winner’s medal home as part of The Reds’ 2020 Premier League triumph.
Davor Suker (Arsenal, West Ham)
The enduring icon of Croatian football, Euro ’96 star Davor Suker briefly made a cameo in the Premier League for two seasons with short spells at both Arsenal and West Ham. Suker’s best moments came with the Gunners where he scored 8 goals in 22 games during the 1999/2000 season showcasing his predatory instincts whenever he was in the box.
With 3 braces for The Gunners, it wasn’t hard to see why Suker was such a highly regarded talent during his heyday and provided excellent back-up for the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. One of the greatest Croatian footballers ever and it’s a shame the Premier League didn’t see more of him during his pomp.
Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur)
Many knew that Croatian star Luka Modric had talent when he left Dinamo Zagreb for Tottenham in 2008 but few were expecting the midfielder to become one of the best footballers in the world.
Modric’s small stature may look inviting but he possesses some of the best technical skills of any footballer over the past decade. With the ability to split defences instantaneously and deadly from any type of set-piece, Modric had everything necessary to be the ultimate midfielder. Whilst he never was a prolific goalscorer during his time in the Premier League, Modric was a fan favourite earning Player of the Year in 2010/2011 for Spurs and won 2 of his 9 Croatian Footballer of the Year awards during his time in England.
He would eventually leave for Real Madrid in 2012 after the Spanish side signed him for £30m. Since then, Modric has cemented his place as one of the best in the world winning the 2018 Ballon D’Or and even made an honorary citizen of his hometown of Zadar in 2018. He’ll be be hoping he isn’t too old to lead Croatia out at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.
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