Croatia is a talented nation on the global stage and one that reached the final of the World Cup in 2018. Many of their players feature for top overseas clubs, and a high proportion have been employed in the English Premier League.
But which of these players has stood out above their Croatian compatriots?
How many Croatian players have won the Premier League?
By the end of the 2022/23 English domestic season, only one Croatian player had won the Premier League. Dejan Lovren was part of the Liverpool squad that won the EPL in 2019/20 and, while he only played ten games, this was enough for him to claim a winner’s medal.
Greatest Croatian Players in the EPL history
A tall, strong and commanding defender, Vedran Corluka played for two English clubs. He initially joined Manchester City from Dinamo Zagreb in 2007, but would spend just one full season at The Etihad.
While Corluka was a first team regular at City during the 2007/08 campaign, the club were happy to sell him to Tottenham Hotspur the following summer. The centre back continued as a reliable presence in the heart of defence for the next four years. He rarely made errors and many feel that Vedran Corluka was one of the best defenders to come out of Croatia.
It could be argued that Luka Modric was the most talented player from Croatia to play in the Premier League. The creative midfielder joined Tottenham Hotspur from Dinamo Zagreb in 2008, and his talent would soon attract the attention of other clubs around Europe.
Spurs fans got to enjoy Modric for four years and he was a midfield genius. His passing was pinpoint accurate and, while he didn’t score many goals, he produced some stunning long range strikes. Real Madrid came calling in 2012 and Luka Modric left English football, but his brilliant contributions will long be remembered.
Now that he is with Manchester City, Mateo Kovacic has the best chance of becoming the second Croatian player to win the Premier League. He’s already enjoyed great success with former club Chelsea, winning the Champions League in 2021, along with three other major trophies.
Many were surprised that Chelsea were happy to sell Kovacic to their Premier League rivals. He is an exceptional midfield talent who can play anywhere across the middle, and he enjoys taking opposing players on. A former Real Madrid player, Mateo Kovacic is an immense talent, and it’s likely that he will claim more trophies before his time in England is over.
As we’ve seen, Dejan Lovren is the only Croatian player to have won the Premier League so far. While he earned his medal at Liverpool, the defender first played in English football with Southampton. Lovren joined the Saints from Lyon in 2013, and he played for just one season at St Mary’s.
His performances in the heart of defence persuaded Liverpool to pay £20 million for his services in 2014. Lovren would spend the next six seasons at Anfield and, while the media would sometimes highlight his bad games, he was largely consistent during his time at the club. Along with that Premier League title, Dejan Lovren won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2019.
After making his name in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, Niko Kranjcar signed for Premier League side Portsmouth in 2006. An attacking midfielder, he was a threat from set pieces and recorded a number of spectacular free kick goals across his career.
The Croatian international was part of the Portsmouth squad that won the FA Cup in 2008, and his reliability meant that Pompey manager Harry Redknapp took Kranjcar with him when he left for Tottenham Hotspur.
Niko Kranjcar played for Spurs between 2009 and 2012. He wasn’t always consistent, but he showed flashes of brilliance at times, and was definitely one of the best Croatian players in EPL history.
Croatia first made their mark on international football at Euro 96, and one of the stars of that squad was striker Davor Suker. The player then joined Real Madrid at the start of the following season, but English football remembered him, and Arsenal landed his signature in 1999.
The Gunners already had a packed attack and it was tough for Suker to command a regular place in the team. He made some important scoring contributions for the club and finished with 11 goals across the 1999/2000 campaign. Suker then had a brief spell with West Ham United, but it’s a shame that he wasn’t given more opportunities in the Premier League.
One of the most cultured defenders to have come out of Croatia, Slaven Bilic became one of the first of his countrymen to play in the Premier League. He left German side Karlsruher to join West Ham in 1996 and his committed style of play made him popular among the Hammers faithful.
West Ham supporters were genuinely upset when Bilic left their club to join Everton after just one full season. It wasn’t the best move for the player as he quickly found himself out of favour and out of the Everton side. Slaven Bilic would later return to West Ham as their manager, and this was undoubtedly where he played his best football.
Mario Stanic became part of the Chelsea revolution when he was signed by Blues boss Gianluca Vialli in 2000. The winger scored twice on his debut, and that performance helped him become a fans’ favourite during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Injuries and occasional loss of form halted his progress and, while Stanic didn’t quite live up to his early promise, he still made an impression on the Premier League. Mario Stanic played in 80 games for Chelsea scoring ten goals, before that injury finally caught up with him and he was forced to retire.
Attacker Nikica Jelavic is another Croatian international to have played for both Everton and West Ham United. After establishing himself in the UK with Glasgow Rangers, he joined Everton in 2012 and produced an impressive return of nine goals in 13 Premier League games in his first season.
Jelavic wasn’t quite as prolific moving forward, but he continued to score important goals in England. He joined Hull City in 2013 before moving to West Ham two years later. Nikica Jelavic played 118 league games for his three English clubs, scoring 30 goals.
A tough-tackling defender, Igor Stimac played for Derby County and West Ham United during six years in English football. He was a ‘no-nonsense’ player who came to the Premier League with a fearsome reputation.
Stimac endeared himself to Derby and Hammers fans because of his committed approach, and he was another effective Croatian defender to have graced the Premier League.
This is such a talented list of players, and it’s a surprise that only one of them has won the Premier League to date. With only one player on this list still active in the EPL, Dejan Lovren is the man to beat for current and future Croatian stars.
While they may have been short on trophies, each of these players had a major impact on English football and the Premier League will surely welcome many more Croatians moving forward.