From Luka Modric to Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic to Ivan Rakitic, some of the best midfielders in the 21st century have emerged from a country with a population of just 4 million people.
And while Ivan Lepinjica has a long way to go before he can match the achievements of his Champions League, Premier League and Ballon D’Or winning compatriots, Croatia's next great playmaker is a man in demand for a reason.
HITC Sport understands, after discussions with journalist and HNK Rijeka expert Ivan Zezelj, that both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have been watching the deep-lying playmaker for a number of months.
The Blues have offered £3 million though Rijeka want closer to £4.3 million for a 20-year-old who has taken the Croatian league by storm of late.
“Lepinjica is a natural number six; young and very talented,” Zezelj explains. “He can play as a number eight as well, in my opinion.
“He’s very mature for his age. Last season, he was promoted to the senior squad and instantly played like an experienced pro.”
Zezelj compares Lepinjica to a young Paul Pogba due to his impressive passing range and technical skills with the Croatian U21 international showing the sort of potential that paved the way for Modric, Kovacic and co to make a move to one of Europe’s biggest leagues in their formative years.
T Portal claimed recently that Championship duo Leeds United and West Brom were also interested, though Zezelj believes these reports are wide of the mark.
But with Chelsea and Spurs very much in the race, this is certainly a name to keep an eye on over the next few weeks and months.
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