The latest starlet off the Dinamo Zagreb conveyor belt of talent, Marko Pjaca is already hot property, two UEFA Champions League goals last week further enhancing his reputation.
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This week's continent-wide trawl for the brightest young talent takes UEFA.com to Croatia and, more specifically, Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Marko Pjaca. Already a key player for Dinamo and capped at senior level, the 20-year-old has reportedly caught the eye of Bayern München and AC Milan.
Name: Marko Pjaca
Club: Dinamo Zagreb
Debut: 24 February 2012 for Lokomotiva Zagreb v Zadar
Date of birth: 6 May 1995
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"Marko is a fantastic player with great potential and when focused and in the right mood he can do great things."
Zoran Mamić, Dinamo Zagreb coach
"In just a few training sessions I have seen a lot more 'Modrićs' at Dinamo. Pjaca looks particularly impressive on the pitch."
Gordon Schildenfeld, defender who recently returned to Dinamo Zagreb
"He is one of the rare players who can go both directions. If there's anyone he reminds me of when he's on the ball, it's Karim Benzema. I'm not saying he's the new Benzema, but he does remind me of him in one-on-one situations."
Tomislav Ivković, Pjaca's former coach at Lokomotiva
Although he progressed through the Dinamo academy, Pjaca's debut came with city rivals Lokomotiva. He returned to Dinamo in summer 2014 and in less than a year turned into one of Europe's most coveted young midfielders. He was named Croatian First Division player of season 2014/15 and continues to attract interest from some of the continent's most illustrious clubs.
Playing style ...
He is fast, skilful and excellent at dribbling, the big plus being that he can go either way. In fact, he has all the tricks of an attacking midfielder, boasts an excellent shot, and performs like a far more experienced player even under pressure.
Shades of ...
Despite the comparisons to Benzema, more locally he has been likened to Alen Bokšić. The player himself says his hero has always been Ronaldinho. "I was forever trying to learn some of his skills and tricks," he explained.
Eureka moment ...
Pjaca scored a hat-trick on matchday six in the UEFA Europa League last term, helping Dinamo to a 4-3 success against Celtic. Though that result was not enough for his side to reach the last 32, it was a display that made people sit up and take notice.
Best-case scenario ...
Most of Dinamo's boy wonders – think Luka Modrić, Mario Mandžukić or Mateo Kovačić – have gone on to establish themselves at big European clubs having left their homeland earlier in their careers. If Pjaca continues to develop at such pace, it might not be long before he too starts to test himself in another league.
He says ...
"I am making my dreams come true. One of those was fulfilled when I earned a national team call-up; another would be to win the Champions League, to lift that trophy."