In this post, I will be sharing with you the best Croatia football players of all time. I have watched a couple of Croatia players play, and I have also read about some of the greatest whom I wasn’t opportune to see hit the ball.
The nations have got super talented players in their ranks, and these players have been exceptional both for their club and country.
Croatia’s football team has consistently impressed in major tournaments since 1994, missing only Euro 2000 and the 2010 World Cup.
And to the football world’s surprise, they secured second place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and third place twice (1998, 2022), amassing three World Cup medals.
The team also got to the quarter-finals in the UEFA European Championship twice, was UEFA Nations League runner-up in 2023, and achieved their highest-ever rating of 2,012 points in June 2023. In fact, their rise in FIFA rankings was historic, from 125th to third after their debut in 1998.
However, here are my best 10 Croatia players of all time;
- Luka Modric
- Davor Suker
- Ivan Rakitic
- Zvonimir Boban
- Mario Mandzukic
- Ivan Perisic
- Bernard Vukas
- Darijo Srna
- Branko Zebec
- Domagoj Vida
Let’s get to it.
1. Luka Modric
Luka Modrić even makes Croatian soccer history more interesting. He was born on September 9, 1985, and began his career from his early days at Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb to his current role as the captain of the Croatia national team and being an integral part of the Real Madrid team.
Modrić’s impact on the pitch is nothing less than magical. His playmaking abilities are exceptional as he directs the flow of the game from the central midfield position.
He seamlessly transitions between attacking and defensive roles, adapting to the flow of the match with his football idea.
Modrić’s professional career began at Dinamo Zagreb in 2003, and his brilliance quickly caught the eye. His subsequent time at Tottenham Hotspur and his move to Real Madrid in 2012 is a series of triumphs.
He played a huge part in Real Madrid’s win of five UEFA Champions League titles, three La Liga championships, and two Copa del Rey victories.
What about his list of individual honors? Modrić’s unique skill was recognized when he clinched the Ballon d’Or award in 2018, breaking the dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
His talents secured his place in the FIFPRO World 11 on six occasions and the UEFA Team of the Year three times. Also, he has been the main guy of Croatia’s “second Golden Generation,” steering the team through various major tournaments, including UEFA Euros and FIFA World Cups.
His leadership helped in Croatia’s historic journey to the 2018 World Cup Final, where he was not only an important player but also claimed the Golden Ball award for his outstanding performance. Though I would have loved to see Eden claim the award.
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2. Davor Šuker
Davor Šuker is one of Croatia’s greatest players, and an all-time top scorer with 45 goals record between 1990, and 2002.
He began his football career in the Croatian town of Osijek, where he kick-started his career with the local team NK Osijek at the age of 16.
His qualities couldn’t be ignored as he moved through the ranks, topping a league-top goal-scorer title during his final season.
Despite the challenges he had at Dinamo Zagreb in 1989, Šuker’s talent was seen on the international stage when he joined Spain’s Sevilla in 1991. I witnessed his consistent form, as he consistently ranked among the top goal-scorers.
Also, he spent five-year with Real Madrid, during which he helped secure both La Liga and UEFA Champions League titles.
Moving to English football, he notably contributed to Arsenal’s UEFA Cup final run in 2000 and later moved to West Ham United.
However, in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Šuker’s six goals in seven matches won him the Golden Boot and the Silver Ball, which was a debut World Cup achievement for him.
3. Ivan Rakitić
Ivan Rakitić has also been fantastic, and he has proven to be one of Croatia’s best soccer players of all time. Rakitić embarked on his professional career with FC Basel, where he spent over two seasons. Then he moved to the Bundesliga with Schalke 04 providing him a platform to showcase his football skills.
In January 2011, Sevilla recognized his potential and secured his talents, and this was how many football fans got to see how good he is.
He assumed the role of club captain and led them to triumph in the UEFA Europa League. After good years with Sevilla, he then moved to Barcelona in June 2014.
His first season with Barcelona was sensational, contributing significantly to a treble victory in La Liga, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Champions League.
He became the first player ever to win the Champions League within a year of winning the Europa League, having played for both Sevilla and Barcelona. Impressively, he recorded 310 appearances and ten trophies for Barcelona.
And for the Croatian national team, we saw his brilliance on the international level. He made his debut in 2007, and he has represented the Croatian team in tournaments like UEFA Euros and FIFA World Cups.
In September 2020, Rakitić bid farewell to international duty, having gathered 106 appearances and being the fourth most-capped player in Croatia’s history.
3. Zvonimir Boban
Zvonimir Boban is another Croatia great player who is widely regarded as one of the best to have ever adorned the Croatia jersey. Boban was a classy midfielder during his playing days.
Most notably associated with the Italian powerhouse AC Milan where he won four Serie A titles and one UEFA Champions League trophy. Boban also captained Croatia’s national team to a third-place finish in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Even before the international recognition of Croatia’s national team in 1990, Boban had announced his football skills as a part of Yugoslavia’s under-20 team, which triumphed in the 1987 World Youth Championship.
His three goals in the tournament, including one in the final and a decisive penalty in the shootout, made his talent known.
He also played an instrumental role, racking up 49 caps and scoring 12 goals between 1992 and 1999 for the national team.
After his retirement, Boban turned into a football pundit for Croatian and Italian television, and his insights and analyses were sought after, particularly during his time with Sky Italia and RTL Televizija.
4. Mario Mandžukić
Mario Mandžukić was a big figure during his playing time with the Croatia national team, but today, he is an assistant coach for the national team.
I love Mandžukić’s playing style as I often characterized it by his aggressive approach, defensive contributions, and aerial skills.
His performances in the game for both his former clubs and the national team put him among the best Croatian players of all time.
He started his career with his hometown club Marsonia in 2004, before he moved to NK Zagreb and Dinamo Zagreb. Then to the Bundesliga, where he was outstanding with VfL Wolfsburg and then Bayern Munich.
His time at Bayern was historical, contributing to their continental treble in his debut season and becoming the first Croatian to score in a Champions League final. He later played in La Liga for Atlético Madrid, plus Serie A with Juventus, winning domestic and international titles.
Mandžukić’s international career saw him register 89 appearances, scoring 33 goals to make him the second-most prolific scorer in the national teams. He was instrumental in four major tournaments, including the 2018 World Cup final.
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5. Ivan Perisic
Ivan Perišić career from the Hajduk Split and Sochaux youth academies to international stardom is brilliant. His versatility makes him a force to be reckoned with, allowing him to shift roles from attacking midfielder to second striker or even left wing-back.
He is regarded as one of the greatest Croatian players of all time. I could remember his time at Club Brugge, he proved his football qualities, and eventually became the top goalscorer in the Belgian Pro League and won the Belgian Footballer of the Year award in 2011.
His performances earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund, contributing to their 2011–12 Bundesliga triumph. Also, moved to VfL Wolfsburg, and won the 2015 DFB-Pokal Final, before he moved to Inter Milan.
Though he went on loan to play for Bayern Munich, he won the treble during his loan spell. Returning to Inter Milan, he secured the Serie A title and the Supercoppa Italiana, adding to his impressive achievements.
6. Bernard Vukas
Bernard Vukas was named by the Croatian Football Federation as the best Croatian player of all time and voted the greatest Croatian athlete of the 20th century in 2000. His football career began in the late 1940s when he made his debut for Yugoslavia, amassing 59 caps and 22 goals.
He was an integral part of the Yugoslavian team in the 1950 and 1954 FIFA World Cups, and his presence contributed to winning two Olympic silver medals.
With his club Hajduk Split, he clinched Yugoslav league titles thrice (1950, 1952, 1955), an undefeated championship achievement in 1950, a record that stays to this day. He also led the Yugoslav league in the 1954-55 season as the top goalscorer with 20 goals.
Talking about his performance for the national team, he played for the “Rest of the World” team against England in Wembley, ending in a 4-4 draw.
He continued to impress as part of the UEFA team against Great Britain, sealing his performance with a triumphant hat trick in a 4-1 victory. However, he had an illustrious career with Hajduk Split recording 615 games and 300 goals.
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7. Darijo Srna
Darijo Srna’s story is one of exceptional achievements both as a player and a football director. He is the best right-wing-back in Croatia’s history. He also began his career at Hajduk Split before moving to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2003.
His spell with Shakhtar was a bunch of wins, including a UEFA Cup title in 2009, seven Ukrainian Premier League titles, five Ukrainian Cup titles, and five Ukrainian Super Cup titles.
With 536 appearances, he is one of the most capped players in Shakhtar’s history. And for the Croatian national football team, he registered a staggering 134 caps.
8. Branko Zebec
Branko Zebec is renowned for his exceptional physical skills and tactical intelligence, and he has been considered one of the best Croatian soccer players of all time.
He proved his football qualities in almost every outfield role, capable of running 100 meters in 11 seconds even with football boots.
A lot has been said about his starring role at the 1952 Summer Olympics, where he claimed the top scorer title with seven goals.
He scored a sensational goal against Brazil in the 1954 FIFA World Cup, aside from that, watching him change from a left-back to a leading midfielder was amazing.
9. Domagoj Vida
Vida’s international career started in 2010, with his debut for Croatia against Wales. He was part of the players who participated in UEFA Euro 2012 qualifiers and play-offs.
Throughout his career, Vida established himself as one of the best Croatia defenders of all time. His goal against South Korea in 2013 also shows a glimpse of his attacking abilities. He was a formidable presence during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where he was a key figure in the team.
His header against Russia in the quarter-finals and his contribution to Croatia’s goals in the final were instrumental in their memorable journey to the runners-up position.
With his 100th match for Croatia, his defensive skills, versatility, and leadership moved him into the ranks of Croatia’s football greats.
That is my top 10 best Croatia soccer players of all time. On my list, I have got Luka Modrić, the magical playmaker, and Davor Šuker, the all-time goalscorer, Ivan Rakitić, the guy who’s good at everything, Zvonimir Boban, the class act.
Mario Mandžukić, the huge forward, Ivan Perišić, the all-around star, Bernard Vukas, the historic player, Darijo Srna, the legendary right-wing-back, Branko Zebec, the versatile tactical genius, and Domagoj Vida, the strong defender. These players have made Croatia proud, both individually and as part of the national squad.
Kenny is an experienced blogger and sports writer who majors in soccer articles amongst other trending niches. Do well to stay updated with his updates and that of his team of editors on Readsoccer.