Birmingham City Opinion: Ivan Sunjic could set the stage on fire at St. Andrew’s next season
Birmingham City News: According to BBC, Birmingham City have completed the signing of Croatian international midfielder Ivan Sunjic from Croatian heavyweights Dinamo Zagreb for a fee of around £6.3 million.
BBC understands that the 22-year-old central midfielder has put pen to paper on a new five-year deal at St. Andrew’s, making him Blues manager Pep Clotet’s fourth signing of the summer transfer window.
Birmingham City have already signed playmaker Dan Crowley from Willem II and England U21 captain Jake Clarke-Salter on loan from Chelsea, whilst Gary Gardner’s loan deal from Aston Villa has also been converted into a permanent transfer. And now talented youngster Sunjic has become the latest to join the crew.
Ivan Sunjic might not be a household name amongst the fans in English football but he is very highly-rated in Croatia, having risen through the youth ranks of Dinamo Zagreb.
The midfielder made his senior competitive debut for his boyhood club in the 2013-14 season but he was sold to Lokomotiva Zagreb in 2016 after featuring primarily for the reserves.
The 22-year-old established himself as a regular starter at Lokomotiva before returning to Dinamo Zagreb ahead of the 2018-19 season. S
Sunjic made 41 appearances in all competitions in the previous campaign, including 8 in the Europa League, as Dinamo finished atop the Prva HNL table and made it through to the Round-of-16 in the Europa League.
Sunjic found the net in a 4-1 victory over Fenerbahce in the group stages and earned plenty of plaudits for his performance in the club’s 1-0 victory over Benfica in the Round-of-16 first-leg, although Dinamo went on to lose the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
A regular for Croatia at all youth levels from U-16 to U-21, Sunjic has accumulated a total of 57 caps, representing his nation at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2019 UEFA U-21 European Championship, captaining the side in the latter. In fact, the 22-year-old has also been capped once by Croatia at the senior international level.
Essentially a defensive midfielder by trade, Sunjic has the dynamism in his attributes to slot seamlessly into box-to-box, holding and attacking roles in the middle of the park, with his high levels of stamina, an impressive range of passing and creativity from the deeper areas of the pitch.
His game-reading ability, as well as proficiency at breaking up the play and carrying the ball forward, are quite similar tp his compatriot Luka Modric.
Birmingham City were under pressure to cope with a few high-profile departures prior to the start of the summer transfer window, with the dismissal of manager Garry Monk making things even more difficult for the Blues.
The sale of influential playmaker Jota and last season’s top-scorer Che Adams to Aston Villa and Southampton respectively, as well as the departure of captain Michael Morrison on a free transfer to Reading, meant that the Blues needed to bring in significant reinforcements to beef up their artillery ahead of the upcoming campaign.
And that is exactly why the likes of Dan Crowley and Ivan Sunjic could go on to play a key role for the Blues in the Championship next term, whilst Clarke-Slater will be expected to fill in the void left by Morrison.
However, a prolific striker to fill in the shoes of Adams continues to be a priority for manager Pep Clotet.
Sunjic will be expected to compete with the likes of Craig Gardner, Gary Gardner, Maikel Kieftenbeld and David Davis for a spot in the first-team, although he has presumably been brought in as a first-choice or an upgrade on the club’s existing options.
Now, it might seem that Birmingham City could have spent big to improve other areas of their squad, particularly their options up top, given that they already have a lot of central midfielders in their ranks.
However, the reason why this move should be seen as a real coup is largely down to the fact that the Croatian is an incredibly talented player with loads of potential, and the Blues could possibly have a gem on their hands in the future if he goes on to fulfil his promise in the years to come.
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With that in mind, the fans at St. Andrew’s have every reason to look forward to some impressive performances from their new signing in the upcoming season.