Two Croatian Footballers Listed in 50 Worst Players in Premier League History

Daniela Rogulj

Famous English football magazine Four Four Two (FFT) is known for driving out a variety of lists, mostly about the best or worst transfers, young players, coaches and so on. This time, FFT announced a list of the 50 worst players in the history of the English Premiership. Among this lucky bunch, who were signed to a Premier League club and played at least one match, are two Croatian footballers, reports on April 1, 2019. 

You might recall that just last week, TCN remembered the Boško Balaban fiasco at Villa in the story From Balaban to Kalinic: Is There a Croatian Curse at Aston Villa?. It seems now that others have taken notice. 

Boško Balaban is the first of two Croatian footballers to take place in the top ten of this list. The Croatian striker signed a contract with former European champion Aston Villa in 2001 and spent the next two and a half years at the club. Balaban played in nine games, seven times entering the game from the bench and never managed to score in the Premiership.

“The Croatian had been Dinamo Zagreb’s top scorer for two years running when he signed for Aston Villa back in 2001, in a £5.8m, £20,000 a week deal. His time in Birmingham was a disaster – the striker made just two starts and seven substitute appearances over two and a half years, failing to score.

Weirdly, the drought ended as soon as he left Villa. Balaban scored 15 in 24 when loaned back to Zagreb, and was positively prolific after joining Brugge on a free transfer, netting 25 goals in 24 games in his first season, then 27 in 30 in his second,” writes FFT about their 10th pick. 

At the end of the list, in 47th place, is Nikola Jerkan. The former Croatian national team representative arrived in Nottingham Forest from Spanish club Oviedo for a million pounds in the summer of 1996, but never managed to be a force for the famous English club.

“The only real explanation for Nottingham Forest signing Jerkan (for £1m from Real Oviedo in 1996) was the overall reputation of Croatian players at the time. That was a golden era: Davor Suker, Igor Stimac, Slaven Bilic, Robert Jarni, Zvonimir Coban – so Forest were presumably enraptured by the centre-back’s performances at Euro ‘96 (where Croatia progressed to the quarter-finals).

Jerkan did perform well at the tournament, but there’s a reason why club scouts should be banned from international tournaments: they nearly always present a false economy. Reliably, Jerkan didn’t look anything like the same player in Forest red,” wrote FFT.

After Frank Clark left Nottingham, Jerkan was no longer in the plans of new coach Dave Bassett. He spent the next season on loan at Rapid Wein.

The worst Premier League signing ever is indeed Ali Dia, a Senegalese footballer who arrived in Southampton in 1996. The biggest fraud in the history of football was able to trick the leaders of the club and manager Graeme Souness and convince them that he is the cousin of legendary George Weah, who won the Golden Ball and was named FIFA World Player of the Year.

Dia also lied about having 13 appearances for the Senegal national team, though the club believed everything and happily gave him a one-month contract which was terminated after only 14 days.

Thus, the Senegalese amateur had two training sessions with Southampton, was registered as a professional footballer and was included in one Premier League game.

You can find the full list here.

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