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Season review: Croatia

Published: Saturday 5 June 2010, 15.11CET
Champions NK Dinamo Zagreb started brilliantly but tailed off, while Croatian Cup winners HNK Hajduk Split only found their feet in the spring in a season in which HNK Cibalia and HNK Šibenik prospered.
by Elvir Islamović
from Zagreb
Season review: Croatia
Dinamo Zagreb powered to the title in Croatia ©Getty Images features

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Published: Saturday 5 June 2010, 15.11CET

Season review: Croatia

Champions NK Dinamo Zagreb started brilliantly but tailed off, while Croatian Cup winners HNK Hajduk Split only found their feet in the spring in a season in which HNK Cibalia and HNK Šibenik prospered.

NK Dinamo Zagreb's season ended in controversy, with coach Krunoslav Jurčić resigning and Velimir Zajec taking over, but they took a fifth successive title without many problems. HNK Hajduk Split rescued an underwhelming campaign with a spring surge which helped them take the Croatian Cup, while HNK Cibalia and HNK Šibenik flew the flag for the nation's smaller clubs.

Champions: NK Dinamo Zagreb
With the best and most expensively-assembled side in the league, Dinamo steamrolled all comers this season with Hajduk effectively dropping out of the title race after some disappointing results in the autumn. However, Dinamo took their collective eye off the ball in the closing stages, with shaky results and rumours of dressing-room unrest prompting Jurčić to step down.

Cup final: HNK Hajduk Split 4-1agg HNK Šibenik
Hajduk went into the final as overwhelming favourites, but a shock looked to be in the offing after the first leg, when it took an 89th-minute goal for the Split side to earn a 2-1 win. The city of Sibenik was keyed up for a celebration in the second leg, but Hajduk – hitting peak form in the spring – earned a comfortable 2-0 win.

European places
NK Dinamo Zagreb – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
HNK Hajduk Split – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
HNK Cibalia – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
HNK Šibenik – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

Player of the Year: Senijad Ibričić (HNK Hajduk Split)
Once Hajduk had awoken from their autumn slumber they roared up the table, with Ibričić arguably the key figure as they ended up finishing runners-up. The 24-year-old Bosnia and Herzegovina striker hit 17 league goals and also scored in both legs of the cup final.

One to watch: Matej Delač (NK Inter Zaprešić)
The brightest prospect in Croatia, goalkeeper Delač made his top-flight debut at the age of 15, becoming the youngest player in the history of the league. Still 17, he has agreed to sign a professional contract with Chelsea FC in August and is already on national-team coach Slaven Bilić's radar.

Surprise package: HNK Cibalia
There is rarely room for many sides to impress in Croatia, with Dinamo and Hajduk ruling the roost, but Cibalia did great work with limited resources in 2009/10, finishing a point adrift of Hajduk and only five behind the champions. The Vinkovci-based club were relegated a few years back but can now look forward to playing UEFA Europa League football in the autumn.

Leading scorer: Davor Vugrinec, NK Zagreb (18)

Promoted: NK Split, NK Hrvatski Dragovoljac

Relegated: NK Croatia Sesvete, NK Medjimurje

Number: +50
Dinamo's daunting goal difference at the end of the 30-match season; they scored 70 and conceded 20.

"Look Kruno, you can see that a coach isn't so important in football. All you need to do is buy a genius like Lionel Messi and he will bring you victory on his own."
Dinamo vice-president Zdravko Mamić jokes with his coach Krunoslav Jurčić.

Last updated: 07/07/10 11.42CET