IGOR BISCAN: Kids in Croatia grow up wanting to be the new Luka Modric

IGOR BISCAN – INSIGHT: Young kids in Croatia grow up wanting to be the next Luka Modric… Croats are naturally talented at football and we will keep producing excellent players

  • Croatia will be England’s first opponents at Euro 2020 at Wembley on Sunday  
  • Under-21 boss Igor Biscan has given the lowdown on Croatia’s football scene 
  • The ex-Liverpool man says young kids in Croatia want to be the next Luka Modric
  • Biscan has highlighted several Croatian young players tipped to be the next stars

We have this saying over here: a town is not a town if it doesn’t have a church and a football pitch.

There is a high level of participation among kids but also there is the sheer number of clubs available to them. Every town or village has a club.

There is a love for sport and that is such an important part of our culture and tradition. Handball, basketball, tennis are all very popular but football is in a world of its own. It is the first choice.

Igor Biscan has given Sportsmail the lowdown about Croatia ahead of Euro 2020 this summer

Croatia will be England’s first opponents at the summer tournament at Wembley on Sunday

The most important thing for us has been the continued success of our national team and how our clubs — big and small — keep feeding this love for football and a desire to play.

Crucially, Croats are naturally talented at the sport. We don’t need to worry about our future in football — I think we’ll keep seeing excellent players.

You see Luka Modric and Davor Suker — one won the Ballon d’Or, the other runner-up behind Zinedine Zidane in 1998. That really is a phenomenal achievement. With Modric, it was an award that had been dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo so that was stunning. He’s an inspiration to so many kids.

I’m certain that seeing an athlete like that — someone with amazing devotion and focus, a player who honed and developed his natural talent in the best way — is sure to make a lot of young kids in Croatia want to follow in his footsteps.

Croatia Under-21 boss Biscan says young Croatian players are trying to emulate Luka Modric

Around the age of 15 or 16, talented players tend to pool at bigger clubs in bigger cities — they provide additional development opportunities — but the smaller, local sides play such a vital role in the whole process. This is all embedded into our culture.

If I look at my job right now, I’m lucky to be working with some excellent young players at Under 21 level. If I had to name three to watch, I’d list Luka Ivanusec, Lovro Majer (both Dinamo Zagreb) and Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig).

We have a history of great strikers and we have some very young up-and-comers in that position who have shown tremendous potential. In time, I’m sure that we’ll have not one but several good young strikers.

Biscan has identified young winger Luka Ivanusec (left) as one of the stars of the future

It really is a joy to see the talent up close and how hard they are willing to work in order to develop. Curiosity around coaching grew inside me after I retired but not straight away. I started as an assistant coach at Rudes in the second division and things have gone really well from there.

I feel I’ve made the right decision with the Under 21s and this is definitely a job that I see myself continuing to do. You learn things from managers in your playing career.

Take Gerard Houllier at Liverpool. I apply lots of things from him in my own work. Firstly, and most importantly, those human and social aspects of coaching that are so essential in making sure that a group works well together, and ensuring that you have a positive impact on the young people you coach.

I have to say that I’ll always remember him as a gentleman and a great man.

Igor Biscan was talking to JACK GAUGHAN

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