Towering at 6 feet 3 inches tall and having just turned 18, Roko Šimić is the next big Croatian striker talent. Working his way up through the Lokomotiva Zagreb youth ranks, Šimić finally got his debut last season and has since competed in 25 matches (starting 15) for the Lokosi. Although he only scored 4 goals, he had many convincing performances and led the line on a very weak Lokomotiva team. Keep in mind, when Erling Haaland was 17, in his debut season for Molde, he scored just 2 goals in 14 matches. Nikica Jelavić has labeled him as a future world-class striker and Šimić has even been praised on multiple occasions for his incredible work ethic, good attitude and insufferable hunger to score.
This year, Šimić was transferred to RB Salzburg for a fee of $4.40 million and has since been playing for their second team in the 2nd Austrian division. Šimić is a strong and dashing striker that has an incredible IQ and always puts himself in optimal positions in order to score. His hard work has obviously been paying off, because he is on fire this season, scoring 5 goals in his last 3 matches. In 10 total matches, he’s scored 7 goals, not to mention the fact that he only played 703 minutes, making it as if he scored 7 goals in 7.8 matches, which is an incredible statistic. He’s also scored a goal in 2 caps for the U21 National Team.
Aside from their size, speed and excellent ability in duels, Haaland and Šimić cover similar ground. They are both smart strikers that know how to analyze their surroundings, react and then place the ball in the back of the net. Below are their respective heatmaps and what can be taken from it is that, if anything, Šimić is even more mobile than Haaland is in attacking spaces. Haaland is very concentrated to the center of the pitch but he is seen drifting to the sides and opening up the play on occasion, however Šimić proves to be way more polyvalent on the left and right wings.
Roko Šimić (18): 7.8 calculated matches played, 7 goals, 0 assists, 1 yellow card
Erling Haaland (18): 6.6 calculated matches played, 5 goals, 1 assist, 1 yellow card
In addition, Šimić is taking the same path as Haaland, going through the Salzburg ranks. Being included in their Champions League squad, Šimić is obviously held in high regard by the Salzburg staff. The only problem is that they are currently extremely stacked with strikers, and until Šeško or Adeyemi are sold, Šimić might have some trouble cracking the first team lineup.
Who do you see as Croatia’s biggest striker talent: Roko Šimić or Marin Ljubičić?