Kranjcar hopes for a Croatian invasion of England
Published 18/06/2008 | 10:05
Confidence is coursing through Croatia and so much so that when Niko Kranjcar is asked which of his fellow countrymen would thrive in England he replied: "We would all do well in the Premier League. It's a different type of football in the Premier League and everybody has to adapt, but when you have the quality and the talent that we have everybody will eventually adapt."
The depth of that talent was evident in Monday's comfortable victory over Poland when Croatia made nine changes from their first-choice XI but still looked formidable. "We had the opportunity to show the whole world that we don't just have 11, 12 or 13 great players but that we have 23," Kranjcar said.
The midfielder is at Portsmouth, Vedran Corluka is at Manchester City and Luka Modric is soon to arrive at Tottenham Hotspur - "wait until you see him in England," Kranjcar said, "you will enjoy his games" - and he expects to see more. "Hopefully the Premier League will be full of all the Croatian team," the 23-year-old added. "At the minute the Premier League is the best league in the world and it is a big goal for us to show what we can do and have a voice for Croatian players and help bring even more Croatian players to English football. Like I said they can all come."
That also includes coach Slaven Bilic. The suspicion was always that the 39-year-old's stock - already high - would rise even higher with his competition. "The manager could even be there as well but you will have to be patient at the moment because he has another two years on his contract with Croatia," Kranjcar added. "You listen to everything that he has to say. He has every single quality as a person and as a manager to make it big and we all have a lot of trust in him."
The next likely arrival is striker Ivan Klasnic - who scored the only goal against the Poles, a year after he underwent two kidney transplants after the first organ was rejected - and is set to move to Wigan Athletic from Werder Bremen on a free transfer. There is also much interest in Schalke's 20-year-old winger Ivan Rakitic and, intriguingly, Chelsea's chief scout Frank Arnesen and his adviser Piet de Visser were in Klagenfurt last week to watch Croatia beat Germany.
Also in demand will be left-back Danijel Pranjic, strikers Ivica Olic and Mladen Petric and central defender Josep Simunic who, at 30, has indicated he is set to leave Hertha Berlin this summer and move to England. Kranjcar himself has been linked with a move away from Portsmouth - and has spoken of how flattered he is to be in demand - but manager Harry Redknapp has insisted he is staying.
"It's a beautiful end of the season for me, winning the FA Cup and now this. Hopefully it will not end here," Kranjcar said. "I have had some good luck texts from the Portsmouth players and I have texted them back saying I hope I see them as late as I can." He will start the quarter-final against Turkey and after two "comebacks" - against Switzerland and, astonishingly, against the Czech Republic - Kranjcar recognises the danger of Friday's opponents who, he said, will be "full of confidence and able to damage anyone".
Croatia, who have lost defender Dario Knezevic to injury, also have that edge and expectation is growing that this team can emulate the feats of 1998 when the side, including Bilic and his right-hand man Robert Prosinecki, reached the World Cup semi-finals. "It's so important for our careers to be working with these guys," Kranjcar said. "Hopefully the results will show that and we will look back on our careers and realise that working with them and this moment in time triggered everything."