Croatia have had their fair share of footballing superstars in the past. Of course, many are familiar with the likes of Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinečki and more recently, Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić.
These are just some of the talents that sprung out of a little country with a total population that barely exceeds four million inhabitants.
And it’s not just footballing individuals that shine but the country’s national team as a unit as well. We don’t have to look further than the World Cup in Russia where “Vatreni” or in a loose translation “the fiery ones”, ended up clinching the silver medal, only falling to the eventual winners France. Going back in the past, they did a similar thing in 1998 when they finished third.
But as much as Šuker or Prosinečki had their heirs in the form of these modern superstars we mentioned, who exactly is in line to take the torch from Modrić, Rakitić and co.? Well, a couple of names spring to mind and among them is certainly Dinamo Zagreb’s Nikola Moro.
Moro currently plays his football for the country’s most successful football club, Dinamo Zagreb. And ever since his emergence to the scene just a couple of years back, he has been a player of incredible talent. Some of his best traits include – but are not limited to – versatility, creativity, ball control, technical prowess and passing play. Let’s try and dissect them further.
What stands above anything else is Moro’s passing. For a 21-year-old midfielder, he is already well-developed in this area. Just a quick glance at Wyscout’s database shows us that overall, in all competitions and seasons, he achieved 83% passing accuracy while playing 4.74 long balls per game, 60.7% of which hit their mark.
What is particularly telling is how forward-thinking his passing tends to be.
He sends an incredible 10.82 passes into the final third, 2.96 into the box and plays 1.33 through balls per game. And this is exactly where his quality really comes to light. Let’s take a look at how that usually goes down on the pitch.
Moro usually likes to be the creative spark of the team, often playing as a number ten or as a more advanced, playmaking number eight. Still, he has this tendency to create space for himself but also make use of it even when he’s closed down by markers.
In the example below, we can see him control the ball in the final third and send through an incisive pass through the defence before his marker can react and stop him. The ball arrives at its destination perfectly and Dinamo soon get into a really promising situation.
But this is not nearly the only thing Moro does on the pitch. Often, as was seen in the stats above, he participates in the team’s defensive phases. The numbers clearly support this as the youngster averages 4.56 interceptions per game, makes 9.39 recoveries and also wins 52.4% of all of his defensive duels.
These are some impressive figures for an advanced playmaker and both of the aforementioned skillsets complement each other rather well. In other words, Moro can quickly dispossess the opposition and turn defence into attack effectively.
Notice in the example below how he rushes to tackle the opponen, retains possession and then starts Dinamo’s transition with a cheeky backheel right into the path of his teammate.
According to Wyscout’s numbers, this is a regular occurrence in his arsenal, rather than an anomaly.
Moro truly is a true gem that any manager would like to have in his squad. Yes, that is mostly because he is technically gifted and has a high work-rate but it’s also because he can be deployed anywhere across the middle of the pitch. Wyscout notes a total of seven major positions Moro has been used in so far.
That and a quick look at his heatmap tell us how effective he is all across the pitch regardless of his predetermined position on the teamsheet.
Despite being only 21, he already has some national team exposure, having gone through the youth ranks of Croatia’s national team. He recently featured in their U21 European Championship run as well and managed to tally one assist in three games.
Moro certainly is a true prospect and has already been attracting some serious attention from big clubs in Europe. With such talent, a move away from Dinamo Zagreb becomes a triviality and simply a matter of time.
The man already dubbed the “new Modrić” is destined to go abroad and really make a name for himself.
But at the end of the day, that part is really up to him and the way he develops in the future.