19 year-old Dion Drena Beljo has been NK Istra’s savior this season.
The 6’4″ striker now has eight goals and two assists in his last 11 matches for Istra after scoring a 2nd half penalty against Lokomotiva Zagreb on Tuesday, which would end up being the game winner. This season, Beljo has already tallied goal contributions against the likes of Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, and Osijek, helping his team steal crucial points from the Prva Liga’s best clubs. Beljo leads his team in goal contributions and scoring frequency, and is second in key passes and dribbles per game. Thanks to Beljo’s terrific form, Istra sit only six points behind Hajduk Split, and three points behind Gorica and Šibenik.
Other than Salzburg’s 18 year-old Roko Šimić, Beljo is Croatia’s most promising and in-form striker talent at the moment. Beljo has proven to be excellent in the air, superb at holding up the ball, and a terrific finisher. His tireless work ethic resembles the great Mario Mandžukić, and he finds the net consistently. Ball control and composure were once issues for Beljo when he first fell onto my radar in 2019 while playing for Osijek’s second team. Since then, he has drastically improved with the ball at his feet, shaping himself into the goal scoring machine he is for Istra.
Beljo’s average athleticism is his biggest downside. Although his offensive positioning is excellent, he is an unreliable target for a through-ball due to his poor pace. His lack of strength might also prove to be an issue in the future once he faces stronger defenders in bigger leagues. Beljo has proven to be able to work around these weaknesses though, as he is still one of the Prva Liga’s most dangerous attackers.
Dion Drena Beljo is another strong addition to Croatia’s promising list of young striker talents. Along with Marin Ljubičić and Roko Šimić, Beljo has the potential to compete in a top-5 league someday. I believe that Beljo will only improve from here, due to his fantastic playing time and promising form in his first real professional season. His attributes match the Vatreni’s needs perfectly at the striker position. The competition to fill Mario Mandžukić’s shoes is only getting better and better!