Son of a Croatian legend and RB Salzburg’s next Haaland? Roko Simic and his way up


BACKGROUND


Football fans love the comparison. This is of course expressed most banally when a player in a club replaces another, because then the style of play and statistics can be directly compared with one another. If, for example, a previous top scorer is to be replaced, the successor immediately has a lot of pressure.

So far, so normal. But football fans also like to make much bigger comparisons. For example, in the mid-2000s, the question was raised: is Messi the new Maradona? Today’s version: is this or that particularly dribbling talent the new Messi? Or will the third member of the Maldini family be just as strong as his grandfather or father?

Anyone who is exposed to the pressure of such a comparison must expect that all eyes are constantly on each individual touch of the ball. Such expectations are hard to beat. Unless there are several such comparisons on one player at the same time. And that brings us to Roko Simic.

RB Salzburg: Roko Simic not only on the trail of Haaland

Simic is the storm hope of the future at RB Salzburg – this inevitably leads to the usual questions in the industry: Is he the new Haaland? The new Daka? The new Adeyemi? Salzburg has been producing outstanding storm talent for years and Simic should be the next.

To make matters worse, his name is not unknown in his home country Croatia: Roko is the son of Dario Simic, a former Croatian defensive legend. Two-time Champions League winner, the first player with over 100 international matches for Croatia, the clubs in the portfolio include AC Milan, Inter Milan and AS Monaco.

For many it would be clear at this point: Roko may have a decent professional career, but the comparisons are simply too high for him. And anyone who deals with the beginnings of his football career will initially feel confirmed in the thesis that the young Croatian can never meet such expectations. Because at the age of ten, the Milan-born Simic is released from his club Dinamo Zagreb. The reason: not good enough.

Simic works his way up to RB Salzburg via a detour

Simic then takes a detour. At Kustosija in the heart of Zagreb he continued until he was at least signed by Lokomotive. As a 16-year-old, he made his debut for the professionals – against Dinamo of all places. His club loses the derby 6-0, but Simic continues undeterred. At the end of the 2020/21 season, he was the first choice in the attack by Lokomotiv, in 26 games the minor scored four goals.

RB Salzburg become aware of the talent. The Austrians let his commitment cost four million euros. They are convinced of Simic’s abilities, as sporting director Christoph Freund announced after the transfer: “Roko has great potential, an extraordinary mentality and he has already shown what he can do in the Croatian league.”

Simic starts playing for Liefering, Salzburg’s second team, so to speak. With his first contact with the ball, the attacker hits immediately and then goes through a phase of weakness. His performances suddenly exploded in mid-September: Simic scored seven goals in five games, including a brace in the UEFA Youth League.

Salzburg: Simic probably on the list of Real Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham

A few months after his engagement, RB offers him an improved contract, to date, the now 18-year-old has made three appearances for the first team. The association knows exactly that in today’s talent business it must not lose any time. Real Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham are said to already have Simic on the famous list.

But what about the big comparisons? Of course, the Croatian is already considered a “mini Haaland” by many, although his qualities are more similar to those of Florence striker Dusan Vlahovic. Simic brings a decent speed for his size of 1.90m and is considered to be extremely strong and ice cold in front of the goal with both feet.

And the comparison with his father? In terms of position alone, it is more about the name than about a concrete comparison, as former Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic knows: “Because of his famous father, everyone knows who he is, but he will soon have shaken off that burden. Because he’s good enough to write his own story. I have no doubts that Roko will have a great career and become a world-class striker. I haven’t seen this great talent in a long time. “

Dario Simic: Roco “has Mandzukic’s strength in him”

All that remains is the assessment of the famous father himself. Dario Simic ironically brings another comparison into play: “Roko is a real striker, he has [Mario] Mandzukic’s strength in him. “

As if this weren’t enough to build up pressure again, the Croatian legend demands even more from the gifted son: “I’m a perfectionist and I know where he needs to improve. I would like it if he improves his mentality and changes his position ten percent, otherwise he’s already very fast. ”

Roko Simic is still exposed to expectations, but he is already very familiar with that. And one thing will undoubtedly be clear to the 18-year-old: Anyone who is apparently already on the slip of Premier League clubs and the great Real Madrid has to be able to withstand pressure and large comparisons anyway.

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