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Home|Football News|Soccer in the Balkans|Vedran Corluka

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Vedran "Charly" Corluka - A New Manchester City Hero

Ozren Podnar reports...

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Vedran Corluka (pronounce: CHOR-looka) is a prodigy. His tremendous physique (193 cm, over 88 kg) coupled with a fully professional approach and a sober mentality made him a Dinamo Zagreb starter at 19, Croatian international at 20 and a Premiership player at 21. Nicknamed Charly (or Carli, in the Croatian spelling), he excelled in last autumn's Euro-qualifying fixture against England in Zagreb (2-0 for the hosts) as indeed in most of the games for his country over the past 13 months.

The new Manchester City player is a Bosnian Croat and as such had the right to Croatian citizenship. Born in early 1986 in the central Bosnian town of Doboj he moved north to Derventa aged four, but in 1992 had to abandon the war-torn republic and take refuge in the Croatian capital Zagreb.

His father Jozo took him to a trial at Dinamo Zagreb, where he easily impressed the coaches and became a prominent member of Dinamo's youth teams. After winning a couple of cadet and junior titles, in 2004 he was offloaded to Inter Zapresic in the Zagreb western suburb together with his peer Luka Modric, another budding star of Croatian soccer.

Both came back a year later after a dismal season for Dinamo and a phenomenal season for Inter, who finished second in the Croatian League, just behind Hajduk Split! Both Corluka and Modric played crucial parts in Inter's rise, as indeed they would for the next two years with Dinamo. With the addition of Corluka and Modric, the Zagreb "Blue Lions" went on to win two consecutive League titles, an FA Cup and a Supercup, losing only six games in all domestic competitions in 24 months.

Hurricane down the right wing

Even before returning to Dinamo, Corluka was selected for the U-19 and U-21 international teams, before becoming a part of the powerful Croatian senior squad after the 2006 World Cup under new coach Slaven Bilic. Corluka made his debut on August 16th, 2006 in Livorno against Italy in a Croatian 2-0 win. Later he starred in the European Championship qualifying campaign, especially against Russia in Moscow (0-0), being the most dangerous Croatian player from the right flank.

Corluka is a very complete player. Originally a defensive midfielder with a subtle touch, as a senior he has usually been deployed as a right back in a 4-4-2 formation, or less frequently as a central defender. If initially speed was not one of his strong points, he has improved that too.

With the added swiftness, his positioning and anticipation have made him a difficult opponent to beat, or indeed to stop when he makes one of those incursions along the right flank.

While shining regularly in the red and white chequered shirt, Charly had a few slips in Dinamo's European outings, specifically against Auxerre in 2006/07 UEFA Cup tie. Still, he refound his best form after the first third of the season, helping Dinamo set a series of fascinating records: 20 consecutive wins in the League and 30 wins in 33 League games last season.

After being picked up by Sven-Göran Eriksson for the radically refurbished Manchester City side, information emerged in the Croatian press that Corluka used to be Manchester United fan. Corluka rejected this claim as a "cheap provocation".

Ozren Podnar

Vedran Corluka Factfile

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Name: Vedran Corluka
Birthdate: February 9, 1986
Height and weight: 193 cm, 88 kg
Position: right back, stopper
Team: Manchester City
Shirt number: 5

Club career

2003/04 Dinamo Zagreb
2004/05 Inter Zapresic 27 - 4
2005/06 Dinamo Zagreb 31 - 3
2006/07 Dinamo Zagreb 30 - 4
2007/08 Manchester City 4 - 0
National team
2006-2007 Croatia 10 – 0

Who was the "Fat Pig"?

Corluka was never a friend to controversy, but one emerged this summer when a video appeared on a Internet site showing him during the recent League title celebration singing a popular fans' tune with the adapted chorus that went "Fat Pig, you won't be forgiven".

The term "Fat Pig", according to the connoisseurs of the Zagreb soccer scene, supposedly referred to his former teammate from Dinamo, Niko Kranjcar of Portsmouth.

Dinamo's ultras gave Kranjcar that lovely nickname when he was transferred to the hated arch rivals Hajduk in early 2005, alluding to his Ronaldo-like excess weight. Evidently, the porcine nickname remained in use within the Dinamo squad, who "remembered" their old pal during last spring's double celebrations.

Corluka refused to confirm that the lyrics had anything to do with Kranjcar, but added he had a sincere and friendly talk with his pal, which resulted in the clarification of all pending issues between the two.

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