The former Lazio centre-back has the potential to become an integral member of the Red & Gold Brigade.

SC East Bengal have fortified their defence ahead of the new Indian Super League (ISL) season. They have roped in Croatian centre-back Franjo Prce who will look to lead the backline for Manolo Diaz’s men in the upcoming season.

Despite being only 25, Prce has prior experience of featuring for Serie A outfit Lazio and brings in a lot of quality and experience. He will replace Scott Neville at the back for SC East Bengal and will hope to thrive in a new league guiding the Red & Gold Brigade to glory.

Franjo Prce will bring in a lot of energy and calmness in the backline. The 25-year-old is excellent with the ball at his feet and can initiate attacks from the backline. His main aim will be to form a good partnership with Tomislav Mrcela and the other Indian defenders to strengthen the backline.

His career so far

Originally from Capjlina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Franjo Prce has been living in Split since he was eight years old. He started his professional career at Hajduk Split’s junior team and gradually went up the ranks. It was in August 2014, the Croatian joined Lazio’s U-19 team. He impressed the scouts and got a call-up to Italy.

After a few consistent performances with the Lazio U-19 team he earned his much awaited call-up to the senior team. There he shared the dressing room with the likes of Miroslav Klose and Ciro Immobile. Although he made only one Serie A appearance for Le Aquile, it was still an experience to savour for a lifetime.

He joined Serie B outfit US Salernitana on loan from Lazio in 2016. A year later, he joined Brescia Calcio on loan and featured in the Serie B once again. His loan stints took him back home as he joined Croatian outfit NK Istra. He featured in 16 matches for Istra in the Croatian top division. But then again he returned to Lazio and this time, he moved out permanently to join Cypriot top division outfit Omonia Nicosia in 2018.

He also featured for Ukrainian team Karpaty Lviv and later returned home again to ply his trade for NK Varazdin and Slaven Belupo. He featured in 20 matches in the Croatian top division for Belupo proving that he is in great touch before coming to Indian shores.

Career stats

Prce has featured in several clubs all over Europe starting from Hajduk Split’s junior team to Lazio U-19 side. He has also featured in the Italian Serie B for Brescia Calcio and US Salernitana. The 25-year-old has won the Coppa Italia Primavera with the Lazio U-19 team and went on to feature in over 20 games in the Primavera C division.

He has featured in over 40 matches in the Croatian top division and has performed with aplomb. He has also made 17 appearances in Protathlima Cyta for Omonia Nicosia, finding the net once in the process. The centre-back has played in one Serie A game for Lazio.

Prce has also represented Croatia U-17 nine times, scoring one goal. He has also featured for Croatia U-19 side, making his debut in September 2014 against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Since then he has featured in seven matches for the Croatian U-19.

Last season’s performances

Franjo Prce last featured for Croatian top division outfit Slaven Belupo Koprivnica in the 2020-21 season. He appeared in 20 matches for the club as Belupo finished in the seventh position with only seven wins. The Croatian defender also found the target once in those 20 appearances.

He also featured in a single match for Belupo in the Croatian Football Cup. Slaven Belupo made their way to the quarterfinals beating teams like Rudar Mursko and GOSK Dubrovnik. However, they lost 2-0 against Dinamo Zagreb and bowed out of the competition.

Type of Player

The Croatian defender brings in a lot of experience and versatility to this SC East Bengal roster. Prce is an excellent reader of the game and knows when to jump in on tackles. He is also a brilliant passer and can initiate attacks from the back. His experience of playing in Italy and Croatia will help him tackle tricky situations in India. He is tactically brilliant and uses his positional sense to cover up forwards with aplomb.

His exceptional ball control and passing help him in launching diagonal long balls to start quick counters. He also has exceptional command in air and his big frame helps him win aerial and ground duels. While he is predominantly a centre-back, Prce can also slot in on multiple positions starting from left-back to defensive midfield. This proves his versatility and makes him a great addition to Manolo Diaz’s roster.

The 25-year-old will bring in a lot of energy and experience to the SC East Bengal backline and will help the team propel forward.

How does he fit into the manager’s plans?

While Franjo Prce looks like a regular at SC East Bengal for the upcoming ISL season. He will have to be very consistent as he will face competition from the likes of Tomislav Mrcela and Indian defenders like Adil Khan, Raju Gaikwad. However, a lot will depend on Manolo Diaz’s preferred team combination. It will be interesting to see if the Spaniard decides to play two foreign defenders to sure up the defence or opts for two foreigners in midfield or attack.

Whatever may be the combination, if Prce manages to adapt to Indian football he can be a game-changer for the Red & Gold Brigade. He is calm and composed and excellent with the ball at his feet. The Croatian can be the main man in defence for SC East Bengal. His well-rounded defensive and passing abilities makes him a very talented and balanced player.

After a horrible defensive season last time, SC East Bengal fans will hope that Prce will be able to marshall the backline and keep the opposition forwards at bay throughout the season.

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