Scout Report: Marko Pjaca - A rumoured target for Liverpool and Manchester United
Analysing the 21-year-old who could well be the next Croatian superstar
With only weeks left for the kick-off of the brand new season, all the clubs in the English top-flight are busy reinvigorating their squad. Liverpool and their bitter rivals Manchester United are rumoured to be interested in securing the services of Marko Pjaca. The 21-year-old’s performances for Dinamo Zagreb has caught the eye of quite a number of top clubs in Europe and it will be interesting to see who would win the race for the young Croat’s signature.
Pjaca was born in Zagreb on the 6th of May, 1995. He started his youth career at Dinamo Zagreb and spent five years there between 2004-2009. He then moved to NK ZET and that was followed by a move to Lokomotiva Zagreb. Pjaca made his professional debut in 2012 as he came on as a substitute in Lokomotiva’s 3-0 win over NK Zadar in the Croatian top-flight. The 21-year-old became more of a presence in Lokomotiva’s first team during the next couple of seasons as he made 51 appearances for the club netting 11 times and providing 10 assists.
During the summer transfer window of 2014, Dinamo Zagreb ironically came calling having let go of the youngster 5 years ago. Pjaca moved to the 18-time league champions for a fee of €1 million. He made his first appearance for the club against Slaven Belupo on the opening day of 2015-16 HNL season and scored on his debut. It was in the final game of UEFA Europa league group stage that Pjaca announced himself as the next big thing in Croatian football as he scored a scintillating hat-trick against Celtic which helped his side secure a 4-3 win. Pjaca has made 90 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb in the last two seasons and has contributed to his side’s success in both the league and cup, as he scored 26 goals and provided 11 assists.
The youngster has played for Croatia at various youth levels and made his senior international debut on 4 September 2014 when Croatia played Cyprus in a friendly. He came on as a substitute replacing Mateo Kovacic in the 2-0 win. He scored a solo goal for the national team in a 10-0 victory over San Marino. He was also part of the Croatian squad that reached the pre-quarters of UEFA Euro 2016.
Pjaca is a right footed player and he loves to play on the left flank as it would allow him to cut in on his right foot and he is not shy to have a shot on goal from distance. He is exceptionally good in one-on-one situations and beats opposition full-backs with ease. Even though the youngster is at his best when deployed on the left flank, he offers versatility as he can play on the right side or as a secondary striker. The Croat has exuberant pace and is deadly in counter-attacks.
As stats would suggest, Pjaca is more than a capable finisher as he is clinical in front of goal. He offers a bit of creativity as well and can stretch defences with his dribbling skills. The 21-year-old is excellent in passing the ball and he is good at link-up plays with his team-mates. Not often that you find a young winger with pace, acceleration, creativity, and skill; Pjaca has all the tools and could well terrorise premier league defences if he secures a move to the EPL.
Obviously, the Croatian first division is not the best in Europe and how Pjaca would perform in a much better league is intriguing. The intensity and pace of the premier league are intimidating, and it remains to be seen if Pjaca can do justice to his talents under the tough circumstances. The Croat is not known for tracking back and helping out defences either. If Pjaca would need to thrive in the premier league he would certainly have to improve the defensive side of his game and improve his work rate.
The youngster has also been criticised for going missing in certain games. He needs to perform consistently to succeed at the top level and there is no reason why he can’t. Still only 21, if he makes the right decisions in his career he would certainly become one of the best players in European football in 3-4 years time.
Pjaca has been labelled as the next Karim Benzema or the next Marco Reus and, to be fair to him, it will not be a surprise if he reaches their levels someday. He should follow the footsteps of Croatian superstars like Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic who left Croatia and moved to top leagues early in their career. He would fit Liverpool’s bill perfectly as he is young and full of potential. Jurgen Klopp has moulded a few world class players and Pjaca would benefit from working with him. He would certainly add strength in depth to Manchester United’s squad which already has the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial. The Italian champions Juventus are also interested in him along with AC Milan and Napoli.
Dinamo Zagreb’s sporting director Marko Vukelic has said that Pjaca will most probably move to England and if rumours are to be believed, the Croatian champions would accept a bid in the region of £12 million which is a fair transfer fee for a player who is showing great promise early in his career.