Meet Juventus' new man Marko Pjaca – the 'Ronaldinho fan with a bit of Benzema about him'

The Dinamo Zagreb winger will complete his move to Turin in the coming days and a 21-year-old with such talent and determination should fit right in for the Italians.

Marko Pjaca’s favorite player growing up was Ronaldinho. He loved the Brazilian because of his natural ability.

“You could see and almost feel that he was born to play football,” he said.

However, Pjaca points out that his childhood hero also “won games and trophies.” The ups and down of Ronaldinho’s career taught the young Croat that talent without ambition will only get you so far. When the drive disappears, so does the success. Thus, when Pjaca was presented with a major decision to make this summer, he simply decided to start as he means to go on.

After impressing for Croatia at Euro 2016, a number of the continent’s biggest clubs scrambled to sign the Dinamo Zagreb starlet. At one point, it seemed as if Liverpool was leading the way. Then, it was reported that a deal had been agreed to with Inter (Pjaca even had to take to Facebook to issue a denial) before it was finally claimed that AC Milan had cleverly outmaneuvered its rival by offering to let the 21-year-old attacker remain in Zagreb until the end of August so that he could help Dinamo try to reach the group stage of the Champions League. It made sense for both clubs – cup-tied players are not an issue for the Rossoneri, who once again failed to qualify – but it didn’t make sense to Pjaca.

Neither did a move to Liverpool or Inter. This is a young man that wants to play at the highest level. “I am making my dreams come true,” he explained. “One of those was fulfilled when I earned a national team call-up. Another would be to win the Champions League.” That is why Pjaca is now ready to complete a 25 million euro ($27.51M) move to Juventus, a beaten finalist just over a year ago.

Forcing his way into the Juve starting lineup will not be easy. Kingsley Coman quickly learned that there is not always room for wingers in Massimiliano Allegri’s attack. However, Pjaca has the ability and the versatility to thrive in Turin.

He is right-footed but capable of playing on either flank. “He is one of the rare players who can go both directions,” enthused Tomislav Ivkovic, Pjaca’s former coach at Lokomotiva, where the Zagreb native began his professional career only to then return to childhood club Dinamo. Indeed, Pjaca prefers to operate on the left side, as it offers him the opportunity to cut inside onto his favored foot. However, he has also previously been deployed as an attacking midfielder – and even a second striker. It is easy to understand why.

With an ex-wrestler for a father and former judoka state champion for a mother, Pjaca has been blessed with a number of athletic gifts, including both pace and power. Indeed, at 1.86 meters tall, he has the height and physical presence to play through the middle. The aforementioned Ivkovic even sees shades of a certain Real Madrid striker in Pjaca. “If there’s anyone he reminds me of when he’s on the ball, it’s Karim Benzema,” he explained. “I’m not saying he’s the new Benzema but he does remind me of him in one-on-one situations.”

It is widely acknowledged that he needs to improve in the air and offer more from a defensive perspective. Pjaca is also prone to lapses in concentration – but then that is unsurprising in one so young.

Furthermore, there is no doubting his ability to change games with his direct style of play and excellent dribbling skills, with his performance in Croatia’s 2-1 win over Spain at the Euros serving as a perfect case in point. Pjaca struck fear into the Roja defense every time he picked up the ball, completing seven of the eight dribbles he attempted.

He is also a serious goal threat, though. He is not afraid to pull the trigger, as Celtic discovered at a cost during a Europa League group game in December 2014, when Pjaca hit a hat trick in a 4-3 win for Dinamo. He admitted at the time that even he had been taken back by his performance – but he no longer has any doubts about his ability. He freely concedes that he is “not a modest guy” – yet he is grounded.

This is a footballer who still gives all of his earnings to his parents to look after. He is not driven by money – but by trophies. A player of his talent and determination should have little trouble finding the success he craves at Juventus.

The original version of this story which was published by Serie A can be viewed here.

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