Josko Gvardiol : Scouting Report
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Josko Gvardiol’s name has gained immense value in recent months and weeks leading upto the EURO tournament. He started his youth career aged only 7 with Zagreb-based sports club NK Tresnjevka. Two years later, the native received an offer from Dinamo Zagreb - as a teenage boy.

He began his career as a full back on the left wing, occasionally functioning as a central midfielder ahead of his defensive role in youth teams. Soon after, Dinamo youth academy coach Dalibor Poldrugac moved him to the centre-back position where he often excelled for U-19 team.

He entered the limelight of European clubs after Dinamo Zagreb’s 2018/19 UEFA Youth League campaign, where the Purgeri reached the quarter-finals of the tournament – before they were knocked out by Chelsea on penalties. At this early age, Gvardiol started gaining attention from some of Europe’s most renowned clubs – including Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Ajax, Lille, RB Leipzig and many others. He was called up to the senior team by Nenad Bjelica in 2019.

 

RB Leipzig have won the contest for his signature – signing the teenager for an agreed deal of €19 million ahead of the summer transfer window. Dinamo’s dominance on the youth front has been visible on a large scale in recent decades. They have one of Central & Eastern Europe’s best youth academies, rarely rivalled by other clubs and Gvardiol is the latest of talents moving abroad for greener pastures. RB Leipzig themselves are famously known for developing youth talent and there may have been few other apt places where he could have moved for a productive future.

 

Despite his tender age, the dynamic centre-back is part of a new and rare breed of headstrong defenders who like to play a balanced game. As someone who prefers to be aggressive in his style of play, Gvardiol is a no-nonsense player with a variety of skills. He describes his style of play based on strength but is self-confident on what he can offer much more up the pitch, having started his playing career in the central area of the pitch. The technical defender cites Sergio Ramos and Virgil Van Dijk as his role models and certainly possesses the talent to rank up there with the best of the best in the future. His left-footedness makes him a unique centre-back, capable of possessing characteristics similar to attack-minded left footed players in similar positions, such as Real Madrid’s David Alaba. It allows him to pair up with a traditional right-footed centre-back in either the right or left and be totally comfortable in either positions.

 

One of his former coaches at Dinamo, Tomislav Rukavina relates Gvardiol to Thiago Silva, citing his ‘tremendous self-confidence & strong leadership’ traits as similar. He is a sturdy player to take on. With his defensive astuteness, strength on and off the ball and timely challenges, Gvardiol is rarely the defender an attacker would prefer facing. He likes to distribute balls further up the pitch and is also comfortable dribbling the ball out of defence in order to spread passes upfront. 

 

Gvardiol is a tall defender – standing at 6’1” – making him a natural asset during set-piece situations and especially during corner kicks. It is hard to knock him off the ball due to his ruggedness and physicality, which he uses quite so often to win loose balls. He is strong aerially and capable enough of scoring goals from situation that involve headers.

As his previous coaches state, there is large room for development for his tactical and technical characteristics, although he is mature for his short career. He is also comfortable functioning in different formations, although more on this remains to be seen. We have seen him play in a 4-4-2 and 4-3-3, but perhaps it will be interesting to see him play in a three man defence, on the left side, where he can initiate plays on that side of the pitch out of defence. As a defender, he averages 69 touches per 90 minutes and as well as 2.5 tackles and 3.7 clearances in the space of a normal match. He is also a good passer of the ball over long distances.

Former Croatia & Bayern Munich striker Ivica Olic commented: “Everyone is talking about this boy. All the top clubs in Europe know him. Gvardiol is an extraordinary talent. He can play great long balls, is a fine technician and is physically very strong. It would be a logical step for me if he switched to the Bundesliga. He has the quality."

 

So far in EURO 2020, Gvardiol has impressed more than most. He has played as a left-back in Croatia’s 1-0 loss to England, 1-1 draw with Czech Republic and the 3-1 final group matchday victory over Scotland. It remains to be seen how he will function in rest of Hrvatska’s matches in the competition – especially if he will be used in the centre-back position. He also became Croatia’ youngest ever player in a major tournament, at 19 years and 4 months, surpassing Mateo Kovacic. One thing is for sure, Gvardiol is the future of Croatia’s defense and may well captain the team in the future, given his leadership qualities.

 

 

 


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