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Real Madrid and their Croatian roots

The European country has brought a lot of good to Madrid.

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Understandably, Real Madrid hasn’t made a multitude of transfers this offseason. Their current squad is packed with cunning veterans and prodigious youths who make it hard to tinker around with. As long as Real Madrid retained their current first team roster in the summer – which they did – it would be unnecessary to saturate the team with new blood.

However, the additions of Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos was necessary. Theo was needed for defensive depth and Ceballos possesses enormous upside that Zinedine Zidane couldn’t resist having.

But, fans want more. This chatter may be uncredited, but it has left me with a crazy idea. Real Madrid should look back into their history and sign a player from a country that has offered so much to them.

Real Madrid should sign more Croatians!

Croatians in the 20th century

In Madrid’s long 115-year-long existence, they have only signed five Croatian internationals – and three out of the five were and are prolific stars (A 60% success rate isn’t too bad if you ask me).

Real Madrid began their Croatian flair in 1991 when they signed 22-year-old Robert Prosinecki. He was touted to be the world’s next rising star and Madrid paid an extraordinary €15 million to get from Red Star Belgrade. However, Prosinecki’s time in Madrid did not get off to a hot start. The young midfielder was sidelined with a few muscular injuries that rendered him useless in his first year. After strict dieting and a series of tests, Prosinecki returned to the club in his second year to provide a breakthrough season. He made 29 league appearances and scored three goals. Sadly, this resurgence wasn’t enough to justify his price tag.

Robert Prosinecki of Real Madrid

His final season in 1994 was arguably his best as he scored six goals, but that still wasn’t enough to keep him around. Prosinecki was offloaded to Real Oviedo where he spent one season before departing for Sevilla.

Real Madrid’s experience with a Croatian international wasn’t the best the first time around, but they tried again a few years later with much success. In 1996, Madrid purchased a 6-foot-tall striker from Sevilla by the name of Davor Suker.

Suker’s transfer was reported to have been around €11 million, four million less than Prosinecki’s. Upon his arrival at the Bernabeu, he was lighting the world up in Sevilla and on the international stage. In his first season, he managed to score 24 goals in La Liga alone. Partnered alongside Raul and Mijatovic, Suker won one European Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one La Liga Title and one Spanish Super Cup. He managed to play 109 games and score 49 goals. Suker spent three spectacular seasons with Real before joining Arsenal in 1999 for an estimated €5.4 – a decent return on investment.

Davor Suker, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo

Before Suker left for London, Real Madrid doubled up on their Croatian stars. They elected to sign Robert Jarni for £3.4 million from Coventry City. Jarni played one season in Madrid, appearing in 27 contests and scoring one goal in a 5-1 win against Extremadura. The left wingback failed to earn a regular spot in the first team and was shipped off to Las Palmas the same time Suker left for Arsenal.

Out of three Croatian signings, only one successfully panned out by the end of the 20th century. Madrid would go 12 years before they signed another Croatian international.

Croatians in the 21st century

In 2012, Real signed Luka Modric. The prolific midfielder was running circles around defenses in the Premier League and Madrid had to have him. Madrid forked up over £30 million to sign the midfielder and announced that he had signed a five-year-deal.

And you know the rest.

Modric has been a catalyst for Real Madrid since 2012, playing in well over 200 games. He has won one La Liga Title, one Copa del Rey, one Supercopa de Espana, three UEFA Champions Leagues, three UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Luckily, Modric wouldn’t be the Croatian at the club. In 2015, Madrid purchased Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan. The young midfielder has graced the club with energic presence since. Kovacic has played in 73 matches and has scored three goals and provided four assists. Since his arrival, he has totaled one La Liga title, two UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and one FIFA World Cup.

To better understand Kovacic and his presence, check out Kiyan Sobhani’s tactical piece on him here.

Who will be the next Croatian to dawn the glorious white kit?

There a few Croatian internationals that Madrid should keep their eye on.

The first isn’t too far away from home. He actually plays across town for Atletico. Sime Vrsaljko would have been a great signing for Madrid before they signed Theo Hernandez. Vrsaljko is a diverse right wing back who has experience up and down the wing. His immense pace and defensive technique are desirable by any top tier team. Vrsaljko has played for clubs in Russia, Italy, and Spain, and has excelled in all three. He began his international career in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since, making 26 appearances for his country.

We’ve seen Real pull players away from Atletico before, so why couldn’t we see them take Vrsaljko? Obviously, he isn’t needed at the moment but if Theo or Carvajal opted to leave, the Croatian back might be someone worth pursuing.

The second Croatian Madrid could chase is Marcelo Brozovic. Much like Kovacic, Brozovic has spent time playing for Italian side Inter Milan. Upon his arrival from Dinamo Zagreb in 2015, the Croatian midfielder has been lighting up the Serie A. His tactical awareness and leadership is second to none. Brozovic made his international debut in the 2014 World Cup against Australia. Since then, he has become a consistent starter and has played 27 matches and scored six goals.

If Madrid is ever in need of another midfielder presence, Brozovic could be their man.

The third and final recommendation is Marko Pjaca. Out of the three, Pjaca is the least experienced but may be the most offensively talented. Pjaca is a 22-year-old winger who currently plays for Serie A giants Juventus. His young career has already seen him earn a multitude of awards. He has won two Prva HNL titles, two Croatian Football Cups, one Serie A title, one Coppa Italia and two Best Prva HNL player awards.

He is slowly making his presence known at Juventus and will likely become a first team star this upcoming season. Pjaca has made 14 international appearances and is becoming a key figure in the Croatian footballing world.

If Madrid’s time with Lucas Vasquez comes to an end, they might want to check out Pjaca.

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