‘Long shot’ Birmingham City boss lifts the lid on key transfer decision
Pep Clotet admits Birmingham City’s hopes of signing Ivan Sunjic were a ‘long shot’.
Sunjic had captained the Croatia youngsters in the summer’s Euro Under 21s, just a few months after playing a key role in helping Dinamo Zagreb win the league title.
The talented midfielder was linked with a host of clubs across the continent – but it was Blues who lured him to England for what was reported to be a fee in excess of £6million.
Clotet was particularly happy having followed Sunjic’s development for a long time.
“In the summer the club’s scouting department was working on options for different midfielders. Ivan was flagged as one option,” the caretaker head coach told the club website .
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“I knew the club from many years ago. When I was at Espanyol under-17s we went to play a tournament at Zagreb.
“Then I stayed for a few days after, met everyone there and analysed how they worked at their Academy.
“I was impressed, very impressed. That was in 2007 and I have always followed the work they do and their players, and I have tracked Ivan’s progress.
“The club managed to bring him in and that says a lot about the ambition of the owners to get a player of Ivan’s ability here.
“In the summer when we talked about Ivan, I thought it was a long shot but if we could get him, fantastic.
“It showed me how passionate the owners are to build the team, this club, and to attract players like him.”
“Ivan has come from a club that is used to playing at a high level, they have a fantastic football Academy in Zagreb. They produce these kind of players and I am so happy he chose Birmingham.”
So are Blues fans who have been thrilled at the quality of his recent performances, particularly in the win over Middlesbrough last time out.
Clotet expects even better to come form a player who could even end up representing the full Croatia team in the senior European Championships next summer.
“He has established himself very well in that position,” Clotet continued.
“And I think he is a player who understands this league and has managed to perform from his first day. That is not easy.
“He is a player who puts the team before himself and that is something very difficult to find in young players.
“As a coach, you always want players to have that mindset.
“Apart from that, you have all the technical elements in him. His positioning is always right, his body positioning, on every duel, his protection of the ball.
“He knows when to play one touch, two touch, to play forward or when to calm down.
“And I think you will see a better player as the season goes on.”