Ante Rebić: Croatia’s all-action gem

In a team that possesses the considerable talents of Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić, avoiding being overshadowed is a difficult job. However, the talent and work rate demonstrated by Ante Rebić during Croatia’s outstanding World Cup campaign this year made him just as important as those three to the Vatreni’s system.

After a successful campaign with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, scoring six league goals and destroying Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final, Rebić managed to carry his form into the World Cup, where he had a big impact in Croatia’s remarkable campaign, taking the nation to their first final, where they were unfortunately beaten by France.


The player:

Rebić is one of the most versatile forwards in the Bundesliga, having enjoyed a big improvement under fellow Croatian – and now Bayern Munich manager – Niko Kovač, who helped boost Rebić’s confidence after unsuccessful spells at Fiorentina, Hellas Verona, and RB Leipzig.

The forward brings explosiveness, directness, and aggression to his team. Rebić has a great physical ability, always up for a battle for possession. Last season, he was one of the 10 players with most fouls committed in the Bundesliga, showing his tenacity, fight, and willingness to defend.

Rebić plays boasts great pace, a rare quality in Croatia’s team, which made him one of their most important players this summer. But he is also great on the ball, and can create opportunities for his teammates and for himself, combining creativity and skill with his acceleration.

A player with these attributes is a perfect fit for a counter-attacking system like Eintracht Frankfurt, and offers a different option for Croatia. Sometimes greater than creating plays is finishing them, and Rebić does this better than most. Clinical and cold-blooded in front of goal, Rebić became one of the best finishers in the Bundesliga, with his great finish against Argentina in the group stage – helped by Willy Caballero’s horrible mistake – highlighting this quality.

The stand-out performance:

Rebić had a key impact in Croatia’s penalty win against Denmark in the round of 16.

In one of the most intense matches in Croatia’s campaign – featuring a last-minute penalty save in added time, along with drama in the shootout – Rebić was simply unstoppable, and, together with Modrić and Rakitić, one of the most important players in their progress.

Manager Zlatko Dalić set up his team to keep the ball and attack the spaces, while pressing aggressively when without the ball. Rebić is a perfect player for this style of play, and it showed in his performance against Denmark.

The forward was key to starting counter-attacks, with the team relying on his speed and ability on the ball. Rebić made very smart runs to open up his opponent, often exploiting the wrong side of the opposition defenders. Rebić showed great ingenuity to create chances, nearly getting an assist for Ivan Rakitić in the end of normal time with a great piece of skill combining quick footwork and reading of the game.

A brilliant performance by the Croatian was capped off with his run which resulted in a penalty in the last minute of extra-time. Even though Rebić was denied a goal and Luka Modrić didn’t score from the spot, the move compiled all that he can do; the speed to get in front of Denmark’s defender to get through on goal, and the skill to get past Kasper Schmeichel.

The ideal player for:

After the great season he has had at club level and his breakout performance in the World Cup, Croatia’s #18 has been linked with a host of clubs including: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Arsenal. However, Eintracht Frankfurt have just made his two-year loan permanent, something that will stand in the way if a club is genuinely interested. German paper Bild says Frankfurt value Rebić at £44m.

Because of his work rate and physical prowess, Rebić would fit at any team who focuses on pressing and quick counter-attacking. Bayern Munich would be a great fit if their interest turns out to be genuine – they are, of course, now managed by Rebić’s former coach Kovač, who knows how he plays, while the Frankfurt man already has experience in the Bundesliga. With Thomas Müller ageing and Robert Lewandowski with an undecided future, Rebić can be a viable and tempting option for Bayern.

Despite Bayern being an obvious fit, I see Rebić settling in the Premier League just as well. Manchester United have Romelu Lukaku in their attack, a strong player offering great athleticism, and perfect for José Mourinho’s approach of counter-attacking. If the Portuguese is looking to add another attacking option that brings the qualities to fit this style of play, Rebić can offer that.


The Rating:

7/10. If Rebić had scored more than a single goal, I’d given him a better rating. But I think a 7 is very fair. Being one of the best performers in an excellent Croatia side that went all the way to the final says something about Rebić’s World Cup, even though he faded in the final and semis. But in general, the young Croatian has shown great qualities of a modern footballer and is certainly a player to keep an eye on the future.

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