A Balkan Athletics

With the arrival of Grbic, the rojiblanco club has five players from this region of Europe, these being four different nationalities.


Atletico have announced so far a single signing for next season. This is the Croatian goalkeeper Ivo Grbic, 24, who arrives from the Lokomotiva of Zagreb in his country and comes with the task of replacing Adam in the role of substitute for Oblak. He is the fourth Croatian-born player to play for Atlético in its entire history. The pioneer was Mandzukic, who came to the mattress team in the 2014-15 season from Bayern Munich and left the following year for Juventus after playing 43 games and scoring 20 goals in all competitions. Then Vrsaljko arrived (as he is currently a member of the squad, his case is explained below) and the other natural player from this country who has played for Atlético is Kalinic. He joined the mattress team at the beginning of the 2018-19 season from Milan and throughout the campaign he participated in 24 games scoring four goals. This year he has been on loan to Roma, but he will not continue in Italy and is waiting to get the release letter.

The arrival of Grbic confirms the rojiblanco's commitment to the Balkan players, as shown by the composition of its current squad, in which there are up to five members of the squad who come from this part of the European continent. In addition to him, Oblak (Slovenia), Savic (Montenegro), Saponjic (Serbia) and the aforementioned Vrsaljko (Croatia) were already in the squad. This nucleus constitutes approximately a quarter of Simeone's squad for the next season (although Saponjic and Vrsaljko do not have their future assured in the team). In total there are four different nationalities and only one is repeated, the Croatian.

Oblak has completed his sixth season at the club, with which he has played 257 games in which he has conceded 176 games. He is indisputable for Simeone and has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best.

Savic arrived in the 2015-16 season from Fiorentina in exchange for 12 million euros plus Mario Suárez and in this period he has participated in 160 games. Despite not being a starter for the Argentine coach, he is one of the important players of Cholo.

Saponjic joined the club this season from Benfica, but he has had a residual role in the team, since he has only been present in three games (two in LaLiga and one in Copa del Rey) in which he has added 64 minutes. He has been the last striker in the rotation and on many occasions he has not even entered the squad. It is likely that a way out will be sought for him, either as a loan or detaching himself permanently.

Finally, Vrsaljko came under Simeone's orders in 2016-17 after arriving from Sassuolo and has never managed to consolidate himself in the team. After being part of the squad for two seasons in which he played 54 games in all competitions, last season he was loaned to Inter Milan, where he was seriously injured in February and returned to Atlético. This campaign remained in the entity, but between recovering from that injury and the surgery he underwent in May to remove the surgical material from said intervention, he has barely been able to play, jumping to the grass only in seven games, totaling 482 minutes. Considering that there are three right-backs in the team (Trippier, Arias and the Croatian), surely one of them will come out and Vrsaljko is the main candidate.

Almost twenty players throughout history

Beyond the Balkans who are part of Atlético today, the club has regularly had players from this area in its squads. Specifically, there have been 19 players born in this region of eastern Europe who have played in the entity. More than half come from Serbia (10): Arangelovich, Lukic, Pantic, Paunovic, Tomic, Jugovic, Njegus, Stankovic, Kezman and Saponjic. Croatia follows with four: Mandzukic, Vrsaljko, Kalinic and Grbic. Next, the most represented has been Bosnia-Herzegovina, with two: Bogdanovic and Hibic. And with only one player are Slovenia (Oblak), Montenegro (Savic) and Albania (Keidi) .

Photos from as.com
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