5. Borna Barišić – Rangers F.C.
The second half of 2021 was very rough for 29 year-old left-back Borna Barišić. After scoring five goals and assisting 14 times in 50 appearances last season, Barišić was finally becoming a solidified starter for the Vatreni. Since then, however, Barišić has only assisted twice in 22 matches and lost his starting spot for Croatia to 23 year-old Borna Sosa. On Tuesday, The Sun reported that Rangers declined a laughable two-million pound offer from Premier League side Watford for Barišić. A move to a low-table English side would have been perfect for Barišić at this stage in his career – he would be put to the ultimate test in the Premier League, receive lots of playing time, and be given a huge chance to silence his biggest critics by helping Watford out of the league’s relegation zone. Barišić is in desperate need of a revival season if he ever wishes to see solid playing time for the Vatreni again.
4. Domagoj Bradarić – LOSC Lille
Things have gone from average to awful for Domagoj Bradarić this season. Similar to Barišić, Bradarić showed signs of becoming Croatia’s next great left-back when he was only 20 years-old after assisting on his international debut against Switzerland. Bradarić also scored a ridiculous goal against England’s U-21s to send Croatia to the Under-21 Euro quarterfinals in early 2021. Despite his international success, Bradarić has struggled to see the field for Lille this season, only appearing six times for his club. Get French Football News reports that Dutch side Feyenoord is interested in bringing Bradarić in on a loan. A move to the Eredivisie would be fantastic for the struggling youngster, as the league would offer him a decent challenge and improved playing time. Bradarić would also thrive in Serie A, a league full of speedy wing-backs similar to himself. Bradarić has lots of time to bring his career back on track, but a good move this winter could prove to be vital for his growth as a young footballer.
3. Marin Ljubičić – Hajduk Split
I’m going to be extremely honest – Hajduk Split is the absolute worst club for young Croatian footballers. 19 year-old Marin Ljubičić has already proven to be one of the best striker talents Croatia has seen in ages, alongside his U-21 teammate Roko Šimić. Ljubičić has scored a fantastic 9 goals in 30 matches for Hajduk Split’s first team (not to mention that he is behind Prva Liga MVP frontrunner Marko Livaja in the pecking order), yet all of the sudden, Hajduk plan on bringing Nikola Kalinić into the club this winter. Anyone who has followed Hajduk for more than three years knows that veterans ALWAYS find a way to surpass youngsters in the team sheet. Ljubičić will rarely see the field for Hajduk if the deal is completed, leaving him as a third string striker. Thankfully, Slobodna Dalmacija reports that several clubs in Italy are interested in the young attacker. Rumor has it that Hajduk are asking for five-million Euros for Ljubičić. Ljubičić must find a way out of Split before the club severely damages his promising career, and this winter is the perfect chance.
2. Šime Vrsaljko – Atletico Madrid
The downfall of Šime Vrsaljko following his magnificent 2018 World Cup has been a sad sight for all of us. The 29 year-old right-back cannot catch a break from severe injuries, and constantly struggles to see the pitch for Atletico Madrid despite his decent performances for the club when given a chance. On Tuesday, it was confirmed that right-back Kieran Trippier would be leaving the club for Newcastle, opening a huge starting role for Šime. However, those hopes were instantly crushed as Atletico Madrid is supposedly searching for a new starting right-back on the transfer market. Vrsaljko was considered one of the world’s top right-backs in 2018, and his quality remains evident – but he really, really needs to get the hell out of Madrid, even if it’s on a loan. Although Josip Juranović has been a solid right-back for the Vatreni in recent times, the spot will always remain open for Vrslajko if he stays healthy and is starting for a good club. A move to a mid/top-table Serie A or Bundesliga side could prove to be huge for his career. It’s quite simple, a player coming back from a rough stretch of injuries needs very good playing time, and Vrsaljko isn’t finding that in Madrid.
1. Dominik Livaković – Dinamo Zagreb
If CroatianSports.com had an award for “most disappointing player of 2021”, Livaković would definitely be our winner. Livaković had the opportunity to join Wolverhampton in the Premier League in the summer of 2021, soon after becoming Croatia’s #1 goalkeeper and making the save of his life against Harry Kane to send Tottenham packing in the Europa League round of 16. Many people let go of their doubts about the 26 year-old goalkeeper, and were excited to see him in the Vatreni’s starting lineup nearly every match. But what did he decide to do? Stay in the Prva Liga, the worst decision of his young career. Ivo Grbić soon took over as Croatia’s starting keeper after making a smart move to Lille, in a league where he will face shots from Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé. Meanwhile, Livaković still faces Slaven Belupo four times a year and shits his pants in an important European match against a stronger side. Livaković will never stand between Croatia’s posts as a solidified starter again unless he finds a way out of Zagreb. It’s a move he could have made about three years ago!