Famous for producing young talent, the GNK Dinamo Zagreb academy appears to have rolled another star off the production line.
In recent years Dinamo have introduced the world to the likes of Luka Modrić, Niko Kranjčar, Eduardo, Vedran Ćorluka and Dejan Lovren. In January they sold 18-year-old midfielder Mateo Kovačić to FC Internazionale Milano for €11m, but gifted youngsters still remain.
There is one in particular, 17-year-old central defender Tin Jedvaj, who caught the eye in Wednesday's 2-1 Croatian First League win for the leaders at second-placed HNK Hajduk Split. It may have been just his third appearance, but Jedvaj showed the composure of a seasoned professional – on the outside at least.
"I must admit, I was a bit nervous, but I tried to forget that during the match," the teenager said. "I knew we would be faced with a fantastic atmosphere in Split and I tried to do my best to overcome that. I am delighted with the compliments I received, but don't worry — I will keep both feet on the ground. I will work hard to get better and better."
Alongside Jedvaj at the heart of Dinamo's back line was Josip Šimunić, a professional for 18 seasons with a century of international caps to his name. "Yes, the kid is playing fantastic," said the 35-year-old. "He is doing some great things on the pitch and he is only 17. Now we will try really hard to keep him on the right track. There is a bright future ahead of him but he is not alone – we have other young prospects in the squad."
Another Dinamo player with no shortage of experience, Croatian international midfielder Jerko Leko, is equally impressed by Jedvaj. "From the moment I saw him play, I knew he would be an excellent player," said Leko. "He really showed [against Hajduk] that he has a bright future. Tin could repeat Dejan Lovren's story."
That said, Jedvaj looks a long way off following in the footsteps of Lovren, who earned Dinamo around €8m when he moved to Olympique Lyonnais in 2010. Indeed, Jedvaj is still pinching himself having signed a seven-and-a-half-year professional contract on 20 February. "A few months ago I was watching the first team on TV, now I am in the team," he said at the time. "I am delighted and I will work hard to improve." If Wednesday is anything to go by, he is sticking to his word.
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