The club that created Croatia’s World Cup team - Dinamo Zagreb’s Amazing Sold Players XI

Many of Croatia's stars played for Dinamo Zagreb
Many of Croatia's stars played for Dinamo Zagreb
Naveen Ravi Joseph

Croatia’s emphatic 3-0 win over Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup will make the whole world take notice of this Eastern European team. They may not be among the favourites to win the World Cup but don’t be surprised if they go deep into the tournament because this is a team with a lot of quality.

Croatian club, Dinamo Zagreb has played a pivotal role in the success of the national team because six of the players who started the game against Argentina rose to fame with Zagreb and three of those six are products of the club’s famous academy.

In addition, all three substitutes that Croatia used, as well as three more players on the bench were also graduates of Zagreb’s academy. The only player in Croatia’s World Cup squad who currently plays for Zagreb is their backup goalkeeper Dominik Livaković.

It is obvious that the club had no way to keep hold of such talented players but if they did, then they would have an amazing starting XI. So here is an XI of players sold by Dinamo Zagreb - the club that has provided the backbone of Croatia’s national team.

Honourable mentions - Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Ante Coric (Roma), Alen Halilovic (Hamburg), Eduardo (Legia Warsaw), Marko Rog (Napoli) and Milan Badelj (Fiorentina).

Goalkeeper - Eduardo Carvalho (Chelsea)

Eduardo was part of Portugal's Euro 2016 squad
Eduardo was part of Portugal's Euro 2016 squad

Eduardo is the only player on this list who is not a Croat but we can’t have an XI without a goalkeeper, can we?

The current Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper, Dominik Livaković, is a Croat and also part of the World Cup squad but we have only included sold players in this XI.

Eduardo is a Portuguese international who has represented his country 36 times. He notably played for Braga, Genoa and İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. before joining Zagreb in 2014.

During his two year stint in Croatia, he played 99 games, won the league twice and the domestic cup twice. He was also part of Portugal’s Euro winning squad in 2016.

The veteran goalkeeper joined Chelsea in 2016 and has been the third choice goalkeeper at the club since. Which is why he hasn’t played a single competitive game for Chelsea.

Centre-backs - Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) and Vedran Ćorluka (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Lovren and Corluka came through Zagreb's academy
Lovren and Corluka came through Zagreb's Academy

Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka are both graduates of Zagreb’s academy. In fact, both players were briefly part of the first team at the same time.

Corluka played two full seasons for the first team, making 79 appearances and scoring 8 goals. During his time there, he won two league titles and the Croatian Cup before playing for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.

The 32-year-old made his 100th appearance for Croatia when he came on as a substitute against Argentina. This puts him 6th in the all-time appearance list for Croatia.

Dejan Lovren played 60 games for Zagreb before joining Olympique Lyon in 2009. After four seasons with Lyon, Lovren moved to the Premier League with Southampton and a year later, he switched to Liverpool.

The Liverpool defender has been split opinion since his arrival but he has improved massively in recent months.

Although Lovren has only played 41 games for Croatia, he has been a crucial member of the team in recent years despite a fallout with previous manager Ante Čačić a couple of years ago.

Full-backs - Šime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid) and Domagoj Vida (Besiktas)

Vrsaljko plays for Atletico Madrid
Vrsaljko plays for Atletico Madrid

The fact that Šime Vrsaljko plays for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid alone speaks volumes about the player because if you are good enough to play for Europe’s best defence, then you are surely a top defender.

Vrsaljko also came through the Zagreb academy and won 6 trophies including four league titles with the senior team before joining Genoa in the Serie A. After a year with Genoa, Vrsaljko played for two more seasons in the same league with Sassuolo before joining Atletico Madrid in 2016.

Vrsaljko has been a Croatian international since 2011 but he has only been a regular in the national team following the retirement of former captain Darijo Srna.

Vida is capable of playing anywhere across the backline
Vida is capable of playing anywhere across the backline

As for Domagoj Vida, he is a central defender by trade but versatility is one of his strengths as he is capable of playing anywhere across the backline.

Vida came through the Academy of Croatian club NK Osijek before spending one season with Bayer Leverkusen in 2010/11. After playing just one league game for Leverkusen, he returned to Croatia the following season and played for Zagreb for two years.

After leaving Zagreb in 2012, he spent most of his time with Dynamo Kyiv before recently moving to Besiktas.

The 29-year-old has played 58 games for Croatia and is currently the first choice central defender for his national team along with Dejan Lovren.

Midfielders - Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid) and Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)

Kovacic has played with both Modric and Brozovic at the club level
Kovacic has played with both Modric and Brozovic at the club level

Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic are both graduates of Dinamo Zagreb academy and are also teammates at Real Madrid. Brozovic, on the other hand, played for Zagreb for three seasons after a season each with Hrvatski Dragovoljac and Lokomotiva.

Modric played 128 games for Zagreb scoring 32 goals and winning 6 trophies before moving to Spurs in the Premier League. His reputation enhanced at Spurs which prompted Real Madrid to sign him in 2012 and at Real Madrid, he has easily become one of the best in his position, if not the best.

The 32-year-old is currently the captain of his country and has played 108 games for Croatia which is the third highest in the all-time appearance list.

Modric’s club-mate, Mateo Kovacic, played 73 games for Zagreb before joining Inter Milan and he briefly shared the dressing room with Marcelo Brozovic at Inter.

Kovacic is still only 24 and is considered Modric’s long-term replacement for both club and country. He has already played 43 games for Croatia and 109 games for Real Madrid.

Brozovic and Kovacic were also teammates at Zagreb for a few months before the latter moved to Inter. Brozovic followed him to the same club in January 2015 and has been with the Italian giants since.

He has played 112 games for Inter scoring 17 times and also represented Croatia 37 times, scoring 6 goals.

Forwards - Mario Mandžukić (Juventus), Marko Pjaca (Juventus) and Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim)

Mandzukic and Pjaca are teammates at Juventus
Mandzukic and Pjaca are teammates at Juventus

Mario Mandzukic played for two other Croatian clubs before joining Zagreb in 2007. He scored 63 goals in 128 games for the Croatian giants before joining Wolfsburg in 2010.

After only two seasons with Wolfsburg, Mandzukic was signed by Bayern Munich and he won the treble with the Bavarian club in his first season as the club’s first choice striker. In fact, he scored the first goal in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.

After leaving Bayern, he has gone on to play for Atletico Madrid and Juventus; and has found success at both clubs.

With 30 goals for Croatia in 85 games, he is the country's second highest goalscorer behind the great Davor Šuker.

Marko Pjaca is Mandzukic’s teammate at Juventus although the youngster has only played 20 games for Bianconeri and spent the second half of last season on loan at Schalke.

Pjaca moved to Zagreb from Lokomotiva in 2014, scoring 28 goals in 93 games for the club as well as winning the domestic double twice. Still only 23, he has a bright future ahead of him.

Kramaric is an important player at Hoffenheim
Kramaric is an important player for Hoffenheim

The last player in this XI, Andrej Kramarić, played two games for Leicester in their title-winning season but that wasn’t enough for him to get a winner’s medal.

He started his career with Zagreb but left the club in 2013 to join Rijeka in the same league. For Rijeka, he scored 55 goals in 65 games before joining Leicester City.

Kramaric’s time with Leicester wasn’t productive but he is a big hit at his current club Hoffenheim. For the German side, he has scored 36 times in 93 games.

The 27-year-old has also played 33 times for Croatia and scored 9 goals.

Edited by Aakanksh Sanketh


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