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FEATURE: The Story of Marko Pjaca: Restarting from Zero

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By: Richard Kharman

Here you are July 2016, fresh off an outstanding performance in the European Championships with your home country of Croatia and the world beckons at your feet. Opportunities abound. Suddenly you receive a call from the biggest club in Italy and one of the biggest clubs in the world, Juventus.

A statement on Juve’s website read: “Juventus Football Club SpA announces the agreement with the Croatian club GNK Dinamo Zagreb for the definitive acquisition of the registration rights of the player Marko Pjaca against a fee of €23m payable in two years. Juventus and the player have signed a five-year contract of employment.

Pjaca first got the world’s attention in the 2013/14 Champions League group stage against storied Celtic. Marko Pjaca pulled out magic and stunned the Bhoys with a hat trick. The Dinamo Zagreb standout was on everyone’s radars, which carried all the way through Euro 2016.

Juventus’ Crotian midfielder Marko Pjaca reacts during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus versus Lazio on January 22, 2017 at the ‘Juventus Stadium’ in Turin. / AFP / MARCO BERTORELLO 

Juventus beat out Italian rivals AC Milan for Pjaca’s signature. For Marko Pjaca, this was his opportunity to show the world he was ready for the limelight. Or so he thought.

With a star-studded lineup in front of him, Marko Pjaca was forced to come off the bench as a sub, as there was little room for him in Juventus’ starting XI. Unfortunately for Pjaca, in October 2016 during National team call-up with Croatia, he suffered a serious fibula injury. He ended up missing three months for Juventus.

Pjaca worked hard to get fully fit for his club, and finally was able to be used as a sub during the second half of the season making 14 appearances through March. Once again, Pjaca was bitten by the injury bug and whilst on Croatian National team duty against Estonia in March 2017, Marko picked up a serious injury that would give him another major setback, for six months this time.

Marko Pjaca’s season would come to an abrupt halt again, as he was sidelined with a torn ACL injury, his second major injury of the season. Pjaca would not be fully healthy until January 2018.

Finally fully fit, Marko Pjaca would be sent on loan to Schalke to get some much needed playing time.

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This was a win for both Juventus and Schalke. For Juventus, the player would get an opportunity for much needed pitch time. His parent club of Juventus is playing exceptionally well currently, and finding a chance back into the fold would be hard to come by. Max Allegri would be hard pressed to change a well-oiled machine right now, as they strive to catch first-placed Napoli. Had Juventus kept Pjaca in Turin, his progression would have stalled. Juventus spent 23 million Euros on the acquisition of Pjaca and were not about to see that money go to spoils by letting him rot on the bench.

Schalke, on the other hand, get a versatile attacker who can play in a number of positions. The one obvious thing Domenico Tedesco’s Royal Blues were missing the first half of the season was depth up in attack. Schalke were excellent with Guido Burgstaller, Amine Harit and Yehven Konoplyanka uptop, however, Tedesco had no one off the bench to spark new life, should they need it.

Marko Pjaca is a mix of Ronaldinho and Karim Benzema, who is as comfortable on the right, as he is on the left or center. Tedesco will go to Pjaca first off the bench as he can fill-in for any of the top three, or even in the midfield, should he need.

Marko Pjaca put in a good performance in his first Bundesliga match.

There is plenty to be excited about for Schalke and Juventus fans alike. Schalke get an exciting attack-minded player to help boost their offensive style of game for the next six months. Juventus have a promising player getting such much needed pitch exposure that will certainly get his confidence and experience gained. Juventus fans, expect Marko Pjaca’s progression to increase rapidly with ample playing time while on loan to the Gelsenkirchen club. The only question will be, is if Pjaca enjoys too much success at Schalke, what happens then?

 

@ItalianFD

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