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Kovač awaits baptism of fire with Dinamo

Published: Friday 20 February 2009, 10.53CET
After joining NK Dinamo Zagreb, Robert Kovač is looking forward to his first Croatian classic against rivals HNK Hajduk Split on Sunday. "I always watched these matches on TV," he admitted. "Now, I will be on the pitch."
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Kovač awaits baptism of fire with Dinamo
Robert Kovač has yet to play domestic football in Croatia ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 20 February 2009, 10.53CET

Kovač awaits baptism of fire with Dinamo

After joining NK Dinamo Zagreb, Robert Kovač is looking forward to his first Croatian classic against rivals HNK Hajduk Split on Sunday. "I always watched these matches on TV," he admitted. "Now, I will be on the pitch."

The Croatian league campaign will restart with a bang as HNK Hajduk Split and NK Dinamo Zagreb meet on Sunday, with just one point separating the warring giants at the midway point in the season.

Close contest
Dinamo have won the last three titles in Croatia by massive margins, but this season there is little to choose between the nation's footballing superpowers, with Hajduk shadowing Dinamo close at the winter break. Mindful perhaps of the battles ahead, both sides made significant moves in the transfer window, signing four players each.

International brigade
Dinamo brought in Argentinian midfielder Adrián Calello from CA Indepediente, Czech forward Miroslav Slepička from AC Sparta Praha and striker Ilija Sivonjić from NK Inter Zaprešić. Yet the most eye-catching arrival was German-born Croatia international defender Robert Kovač, lured to the Croatian league for the first time at the age of 34. "I came to win the title and do well in Europe next season," he said. "I wasn't happy at Borussia Dortmund. I wanted to play and when I got a call from Zagreb, it was a great solution. I'm totally fired up. I never had the chance to play in this derby and I am looking forward to it. I always watched these matches on TV. Now, I will be on the pitch."

Domestic talent

Hajduk concentrated on locally-born talent, acquiring two midfielders – Marin Tomasov from NK Zadar and Mario Brkljača from NK Zagreb – as well as two former internationals: FC Tom Tomsk's Hrvoje Vejić and 30-year-old defender Anthony Šerić, back at Hajduk after spells with Brescia Calcio, Parma FC, S.S. Lazio, Panathinaikos FC and Beşiktaş JK. "We have done everything to be ready for the derby," said Hajduk president Mate Peroš. "I believe in this team and the coaches and we have a goal – to win the title. The best news is that we kept forward Nikola Kalinić, but he will most probably leave in the summer. Now we have to find his replacement. Our signing policy is not like Dinamo's; we try to bring on young players. We will show our quality against Dinamo."

Last updated: 20/02/09 14.50CET

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