Kerala Blasters have completed the signing of Marko Leskovic ahead of the 2021/22 season of the Indian Super League. The Yellow Army are undergoing an overhaul under their new manager Ivan Vukomanovic. The tactician has brought in a fresh batch of foreigners in the hopes of improving the club’s performance in the eighth edition of the league. Leskovic, a centre-back by trade, joins the club from top-division Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb.

The new season will commence from November 2021 onwards and the club’s fans will hope for a better season than last year’s 10th place finish. There will be an influx of new faces next season and Leskovic is one of the many new arrivals in Indian football. Expectations are sky-high at Kerala Blasters, whose fans expect nothing but the best from the players.

There is a lot of anticipation after the announcement of the signing. The addition of another player with European pedigree under his belt is a huge positive for both the club and the league. Leskovic’s experience could be vital in the Blasters’ forthcoming campaign.

Here is an in-depth analysis of Marko Leskovic and what he brings to a transitioning Kerala Blasters squad.

Past experiences

Marko Leskovic grew as a player by frequenting for the developmental sides of NK Osijek. He made 35 senior appearances for them before joining HNK Rijeka in February 2013. Leskovic spent three seasons at Rijeka before moving to Dinamo Zagreb in 2016.

His next destination was NK Lokomotiva on a loan transfer in January 2020. The club signed him again on loan in January 2021, a deal that ended in June 2021. The defender has played all his career in Croatia and India will be his first foreign experience. He will now feature for Kerala Blasters for the 2021/22 season. 

Club career stats

The 30-year-old has played 179 games in the Prva HNL, the first-division of the Croatian football league system, registering 12 goals and four assists. He has played 17 games in Hrvatski nogometni kup, the domestic cup competition in Croatia. Leskovic has won the league three times with Dinamo Zagreb. In terms of the domestic cup, he has won it twice, one time each with Dinamo Zagreb and HNK Rijeka respectively. 

The centre-back has also featured in European competitions. He has made 11 appearances in the UEFA Europa League and nine appearances in the qualifying stages of the competition. In addition to the UEL, he has played three games in the UEFA Champions League qualification as well. Leskovic has represented HNK Rijeka (87) and Dinamo Zagreb (64) the most number of times.

Last season’s performance

Marko Leskovic made 17 appearances in the first-division last season, playing for NK Lokomotiva on loan from Zagreb. The centre-back was shown six yellow cards in the previous season while getting sent-off once. However, he clocked 1,530 minutes with the club, which means he will hit the ground running with Kerala Blasters.

Leskovic was part of the starting lineup more or less every gameweek at NK Lokomotiva after a lack of opportunities at Dinamo Zagreb. He featured in five victories for the club in a season that is best described as disappointing. The club finished in the eighth spot of the standings, winning only seven of their 36 matches and avoided relegation by two points.

Type of player

The Croatian is an experienced defender with leadership qualities. The 6’2″ tall centre-back will be tough to overcome in aerial duels. This makes him an asset in set-piece situations during attack and while defending dead ball situations. He tends to find himself on the end of corners and likes to test the goalkeepers in the box. 

Furthermore, Leskovic is a right-footed centre-back, who likes to play on the left side in the centre-back pairing. He had a 86% passing accuracy inside his own half, which suggests he can build up attacks efficiently from the back. Moreover, 4.5 clearances per game and 1.7 interceptions per 90 minutes make him a solid addition at the back. That is one quality fundamental to a top grade centre-back.

How the player fits in manager’s plans

The intention is clear, which is to avoid conceding too many goals. Kerala Blasters conceded 36 goals last season, the second-most in the league. Vukomanovic is of the opinion that a strong defence is key to achieving success in the league in the long run. Leskovic ought to take his place in the starting lineup straightaway alongside Enes Sipovic. Both defenders have a combined age of 61 years between themselves, bringing buckets of experience.

Leskovic will be vital in teaching the young Indian centre-backs a few tricks of the trade and help in their development. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the climatic conditions of the sub-continent. This is the first-time Leskovic is venturing out of Croatia and the change in environment will be a factor in his performance.

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