Scout report: Ante Coric - Profiling the Croatian midfielder wanted by Liverpool
Over the years, Croatia has produced some incredibly talented midfielders and, the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Alen Halilovic, are prime examples of the sublime talent that has emerged from the country. Following in the footsteps of the above-mentioned players comes another prodigy, the 19-year-old, Ante Coric. The youngster who currently plays his club football for Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb has drawn attention from few of the top clubs in Europe. Coric is labelled as one of the brightest young players in the continent and he certainly deserves all the spotlight he has gained after his fine season with Dinamo Zagreb.
Coric was born in Zagreb on 14 April 1996. He began his footballing journey at the age of 5 when he joined the academy of Hrvatski Dragovoljac. After spending four years there, he moved to the youth academy of NK Zagreb. In the year 2009, Coric joined the Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg having turned down interest from Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Four years later he decided to return to his home country when Dinamo Zagreb came calling.
He made his professional debut two days after his 17th birthday when he came on as a substitute in Dinamo Zagreb’s win over RNK Split in the Croatian top flight. He scored his first senior goal on 10 May 2016 against NK Istra 1961 but ended up on the losing side that day as Dinamo suffered a 2-1 loss. At the age of 17 years and 157 days, he became the youngest goal scorer in Europa League history. He scored the fifth goal in Dinamo's 5-1 demolition of Astra Giurgiu, after coming on as a substitute in the 77th minute. The 19-year-old has made 80 appearances for the Croatian champions and has scored 11 goals. He also has 15 assists to his name.
Coric has represented Croatia at various youth levels and made his debut for the Croatian senior team in May 2016. He came on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Moldova. He was part of the Croatian squad which took part in UEFA Euro 2016 but,he was an unused substitute throughout the competition.
The Croat is at his best when deployed in the number 10 role. At times, he resembles a young Luka Modric as he can operate a bit deeper in the typical number 8 position. His passing is pinpoint whether it be short or long and he can play defence-splitting short passes and long diagonal ones with relative ease. The Croat has excellent ball control and dazzles past defenders with his quick turns and agility. When a 19-year-old is one of the first names on his team’s starting eleven, it is way too obvious that the player is extraordinary. Coric is a delight to watch when he is on the ball as his ball control is magnificent. He has that special something to unlock defences through his through balls and combinational play with his teammates and his creativity is quintessential for someone of his age.
Coric is quick on the ball and comes away with the ball from tough situations. Pressure doesn't really get to him as he has the calmness of a veteran and is pretty much composed in his play. His set-piece delivery is also really good and he is an intelligent player as his movement of the ball is adroit. He manages to contribute positively to his team’s performances in terms of goals and assists as well and the amount of his contribution would undoubtedly improve with time.
With all due respect, the Croatian top-flight is not the best in Europe and it is intriguing whether Coric can replicate his prowess on a bigger stage and, whether he can thrive in the physicality and intensity of the EPL is something that sparks curiosity.
It would be rather impertinent to pick out weaknesses from a 19-year-old’s game but, from a different perspective, there are a few areas of Coric’s game which have room for improvement. He should learn to track back and help out his team's defence a lot more than he does now and, his work rate and stamina are also below par. In order to succeed at the top level, he should prioritise improving the defensive side of his game.
He certainly has enough about him to move to a bigger league and EPL is one of the ideal destinations. Jurgen Klopp is a known admirer of the youngster and is keen to secure his services next season. Coric would be tempted to procure a move to Liverpool knowing the propitious influence that Jurgen Klopp has had on numerous players and he could benefit a lot by working with him. If rumours are to be believed, there are quite a number of clubs interested.
Obviously, there is no doubt in Coric’s calibre or his abilities but,at this point in his career, he should make hard decisions to reach the levels that he has the potential to. He would certainly receive lucrative offers but, he should not stagnate his progress as a player by joining a club where his chances of first team football would suffer. One would feel making right decisions is what stands between him and his progress to become a world class player in the coming years.