Over the years, the Indian Super League has faced a dearth of quality centre-backs with teams splurging significant amounts in the transfer window to tighten their defence. In the lieu of the same, Mato Grgic’s arrival to Mumbai City FC from NorthEast United FC ahead of the 2019-20 season can be considered as a boon for the Islanders.
Mato landed on the Indian shores last season to begin his journey with NorthEast United. His rampant debut season with the Highlanders concluded with a phenomenal run to the semi-finals - the first in the club’s history. His sturdy defensive qualities and his partnership with his compatriot Mislav Komorski was definitely one of the pillars based on which the team excelled.
What stood out for Mato was his pinpoint accuracy and his ability to deliver long balls with ease. The Bosnia and Herzegovina-born Croatian player posted an 89.34% passing accuracy by the end of the 2018-19 season and was unarguably Northeast’s most valuable player at the back. It was only a matter of time before Mumbai came knocking to secure his services.
However, the 32-year-old’s journey started in Croatia, when he was recruited by NK Hrvatski Dragovoljac to play in the second-highest league in the country. His ascent through the footballing ranks was incredible as after five seasons with NK Hrvatski, Slaven Belupo, a top-tier club, came forth to swoop him up in 2011.
It was at Slaven Belupo that Mato spent most of his time, making 105 appearances for the club. He also enjoyed his fair share of the game in Hungary with MTK Budapest from 2015 to 2017 where his role as a central defender provided the much-needed respite in the backline of the club.
Before the start of the 2019-20 season, Mumbai suffered a setback in their defensive strength when Lucian Goian parted ways with the club. But the arrival of Mato seems to be an upgrade that the Islanders needed desperately. Mato is a player who likes to intercept and block any opposition advances at his personal cost, even if it means putting himself in making tackles that might cause serious injuries.
His intent is what makes him a threat to the attacking opposition who find it uncomfortable to pass through the 32-year-old. After a glittering campaign with NorthEast in the 2018-19 season, one could only hope for a similar set of performances during his tenure at Mumbai City. Even though he was recently sidelined from the squad due to an injury, it’s undisputed that he’ll return faster and stronger.
Feature image courtesy: Facebook/@MumbaiCityFC