#6: The Ring of Fire with Zoran

Broomy

TIA's Redkopi
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
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The Ring of Fire with Zoran

It's been a week that has saw a number of players released including Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana has announced he’s staying, the rumour mill is in full motion and there’s even been talk that Jurgen Klopp is planning a one-year sabbatical from football in 2022.

To discuss all this and more, this week we travel over to Croatia as thrown into the 'Ring of Fire' this week is TIA Forum Member @Zoran


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Your TIA Username:
Zoran
Location : Zagreb, Croatia

You and Liverpool FC
Favourite Current LFC Player :
van Dijk
Favourite all-time LFC Player : Gerrard
Favourite all time Reds match : Istanbul
Funniest moment following the Reds : Probably the most recent one, meeting Carra's dad when we were both drunk, in the street outside a bar (where plenty of Reds watched the game) close to the ground, singing his song!

And the rest:
Favourite other clubs (if any) : None, Liverpool are the only team/individual in sports that matter to me
Other sports/hobbies/past times : Follow bits of tennis, boxing, snooker, handball, F1. Basic stuff; exploring different things, travelling, sailing, just being out in nature. Books/music, family & friends in a tight little circle, nights out of different types, recalling past times and slowly thinking about what next!
Non-footballing heroes : Parents, Jacques Cousteau, Serge Gainsbourg, Napoleon, Louis de Funes, Muhammad Ali

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Igor Biscan became a cult hero on the terraces at Anfield, your grandfather was involved in his transfer to Liverpool, tell us more....

Well, I was 10 at the time so didn't really have too much of a clue at the time. My grandad was close with Gerard Houllier (as he was with other coaches like Ernst Happel, Hennes Weisweiler, Raymond Goethals, Tomislav Ivic, to name a few, but especially the first 3 are the ones he admired the most he's worked with) and that was an important factor how the deal was done.

Igor attracted nice interest from clubs across Europe. I remember him saying that Liverpool didn't like the fact that Igor brought his own personal physical coach from Croatia. Perhaps too much focus on the physical side? As we can see with some players, that can also be a problem.

Was recently in touch with Igor to ask for tickets for both Kiev and Madrid and he mentioned how he's proud of his time at Liverpool, saying there were good memories. Mentioned to him his solo run in Deportivo which created the crucial winning goal, his goal at Fulham, his last minute header to win it against Bolton at home after a Djimi Traore cross in the battle for 4th, his assist for Luis Garcia against Leverkusen, his solid midfield performances on the road to Istanbul, etc.


He wasn't a successful player for us in the end, but tried his best and Rafa squeezed more out of him than Houllier when he moved him to defensive central midfield to be sort of Didi Hamann's backup.


Zoran, tell us a little bit about where you live and what it's like to support Liverpool in Croatia...

Currently in Zagreb, lived here for the last 10 years. I was born in Brussels (lived my first 6 years there), but my roots are pure Dalmatian, a kid from Prvic Luka, a small island from the coast of Croatia.

Actually, there are plenty of Reds here. We're pretty active. It's no cliche when I say I'm always a bit surprised to see how many people are Liverpool fans/admirers. For the past 5-6 years or so, we watch almost every game at a certain place in town. Every year you get a regional gathering of Liverpool fans from the ex-Yugoslavia territory.

Last year it was in Belgrade (which was the largest so far if I'm not mistaken, we even had some fans from Hungary, Bulgaria... it's really open for every Red out there who wants to come), next autumn it will be in Macedonia. Organized footy tournaments between all the countries, tombola, money for local charity, etc. It's good fun and you meet new people of all backgrounds. My friend organized watching the CL final on big screen in Zagreb city centre and there were about a few hundred people. Flags, flares, songs, nice atmosphere being so far from it all.


Growing up in Croatia, how did you come to support Liverpool?

A big reason why I don't have a Croatian team (which would be either Sibenik or Hajduk Split, the former being my local team and the latter being one of the two biggest Croatian clubs, the biggest in my region) is probably my dad. He's not a football fan (never got into it like grandad) so I fell in love with football through my new school mates. Went to my first training sessions with them and then grandad (hearing that I started playing footie and loved it) came along with this Owen shirt. Exactly at the time when I fell in love with football, to get a first proper football item like that, as many of you can imagine, it was the best present ever and I immediately started to explore and absorb everything I could about what is LFC.

First it was Owen, then it was Gerrard. Just natural I'd say, like with plenty 10 year old Liverpool fans at that time. But early on I loved our cult heroes like Gary Mac, Didi, etc. An incredible first season to follow the club, that 00/01. Dramatic games, amazing nights. Totally fell in love with the club then and never looked back, never needed (don't have the will, time or emotional room) any other sporting team or whatever, this was going to be my sole sporting drug.


Who is the most promising U19 young player coming through for Croatia at the moment?

There's not one that stands out really. We have a few who are a bit older. Of the younger ones, I'll mention a few. A lot of young players get grabbed by Dinamo Zagreb here.

- Ante Palaversa is a 19-year old midfielder from Hajduk Split who already signed for City, but will remain at Hajduk on loan until the end of next season. Either a #6 or an #8, he's got good stature and is an intelligent playmaker from deep.

- Antonio Marin is an 18-year old right footed attacking midfielder/left winger from Dinamo. Was MOTM in the CL Youth game against Liverpool. Elegant dribbler with pace, brave, has a few tricks in his locker, loves thriving under pressure.

- Domagoj Bradaric is a 19-year old left back from Hajduk Split. Sudden rise from their B team, he's come in and done really well in a position where Croatia lacked a player since Robert Jarni. We'll see if he gets there, but the potential is there and a senior chance is not far. Quality going forward, plays with passion and already captained his side since breaking in.

- Another younger one is a midfielder from my hometown, Sibenik. Marko Bulat is 17, playing in Croatia's second division, a creative central midfielder who either plays as a #8 or #10. His father was an experienced defender who also works at his current club, so far has a mature head and is not rushing with his decisions. We'll see how far he goes.


Zoran, your only just home from Madrid.... Can you describe the atmosphere and celebrations before and after the match in the city of Madrid and your experience over there...

Where to start... We got there late on Friday. Almost missed the flight from Vienna to Madrid as we had some issues driving from Zagreb (bloody Fridays are hectic on the road here, plenty of people are going south on the coast)! That was close, but we made it. We immediately hit town after landing.

City centre was packed. Madrid is huge (3rd largest European city), but is full of little streets, squares, everything is so tight, you can easily get lost. Wherever I saw a little group of Spurs fans, there were two or three times more Liverpool fans. Great singing, banter, I saw no issues.

Match day was a long, long day and night! Our walk from the apartment in city centre to the Felipe II square seemed like an eternity. When we got there, the sight was amazing. Boss night was on, the weather was so hot, Barnes rapping was one of the best moments in Madrid overall. Fantastic choices of songs, red smoke, footballs flying around, excellent build up to the match. Made our hour long way from there to the Wanda at around 6pm. No luck with tickets, the cheapest one I heard was €1300. I couldn't go that far unfortunately. Paid €500 in Kiev, but was always aware that in Madrid it would be more expensive.

The Wanda is literally in the middle of nowhere, only two bars close to the ground. Plenty of people squeezing in (without air conditioning!), watching from outside on these little screens. That's where I met Philly, Carra's dad (loved his song!) and Gratty (tried a late last gamble with a ticket for Spurs' end, turned out it was fake), one of Stevie's friends. They both didn't manage to get in.

My friend suggested we try and get in the ground after Origi's goal to watch the celebrations. I didn't believe they'd let us in. We tried, but their police would have none of it. Amazing scenes outside though, hearing YNWA, going back in town, celebrating, drinking and singing until morning. Incredible parade in Liverpool, the following day it was mostly about getting rest, realizing what we've done (still in the process of that!) and hitting town again that night for some more singing. It was bouncing just outside the Dubliner's pub, a good 2-3 hours of constant singing.


Looking at our season, what has been the biggest factor contributing to the improvement we made?

Probably a mixture of first and foremost keeping our squad together, heading fully motivated into next season after Kiev. Adding more individual steel to our back line, which enabled us to win games even when we're not 100%. Games we used to draw we won, games we used to lose we either drew or won. But especially controlling games better, organizing attacks better and with more patience (huge for us, as we're a direct team without being a long ball team, having an organized attack immediately makes us more organized defensively, counter pressing and kill teams far from our goal), making us more compact more consistently.

At first, we were and perhaps needed to be more of a wild team under Klopp. He had to fully inject his idea. With time though and adding more quality, we can now be more rational when we go full press. We can still improve when we need to defend zonally deeper and in our own half (last example those final 15 minutes or so against Spurs), but we're getting there. I can easily imagine that Klopp (who often talks about him not knowing everything and giving other specialists that freedom to bring something new to us) let Pep Lijnders perhaps incorporate a bit of his possession based style (ideologically he's perhaps closer to Guardiola than Klopp, but obviously Lijnders and Klopp have found a nice balance and understanding) training sessions in order for us to be more organized, patient and precise in attack.

I admire that guy's knowledge, passion and attention to detail. Every open training session (even if it's rondo for a few minutes) you can hear him correcting small things, even if it's on paper a correct pass/shot/movement/action, he will find a little something where he feels we can do it better. That's proper coaching, someone who cannot only talk, but demonstrate. Many of them can talk, but not demonstrate. So now we're a team with more layers, we can win in more ways, we can decide more what to do. Our attacks look cleaner, a lot of actions look like we really know what we're doing. That enables you to create/score even without being at your best. Our collective defending is one of the best out there. The two is linked in fact, that is Klopp's football. How to maximize and go over the limit with maybe not a lot of indivdidually best players in a team. Exciting as I think we can still improve and this is not yet our peak (both as a football team and as a club off the pitch under these owners).


Following the confirmation Daniel Sturridge will depart the club this summer after six-and-a-half years, how will you remember his time at Anfield and what was your favourite Sturridge moment?

Sturridge was a success for us, that's for sure. It's funny because in my 18 years of following the club, there was not a single time when we didn't have at least 1 quality striker at the club. I remember at the time we were linked with him, it was first in the summer of 2012 when we didn't manage to get him. We all thought he was this bad apple or something. We quickly saw there's nothing rotten about him, that he's quite a positive guy. Health was never fully on his side though. Even our best Sturridge, it felt like he was at 80% at most.

But even lower than that, he could produce magic. Someone who had a variety of finishes, could create not only for him but for others. Fantastic imagination, footwork, ball manipulation. Bad decisions in that forward line since we sold Suarez meant that we maybe relied/hoped too much on him being fit. That dragged on and it was much more our mistake than his of course.

Klopp came and even if you can hear how much Jurgen rates him technically, it's simply different from what Klopp demands from the highest man on the pitch. Difficult to decide what's my favourite Sturridge moment. Loved the Sevilla goal, when you think and look back for a moment, that's really one of the coolest/best Liverpool goals in a final. Shame that didn't prove to be the game changer, it deserved it. Loved that chip at home against WBA in 2013, having a defender on his back, getting rid of him and 100% accuracy from far out. Loved his Chelsea goal this season.

It's been a week where Adam Lallana claimed to have no intention of leaving Liverpool amid summer transfer talk.... Should he stay or should he go?

I believe this is one where it also depends on offers (what can we get) and the market (if there's a nice opportunity to strenghten in a position which is not a priority for us). If there's a good offer and we find something interesting enough on the market, I think we might react. But Klopp might feel comfortable if he goes into a new season with minimal changes, even in those backup roles. Lallana's had two tough years. I don't think it's so much that we went up a few levels and that his game can't cope with it. Not at all for me.

The stuff he played 2 seasons ago would still make him an important and very possibly still a starter even in this team if he could stay fit for at least a period (look at us, even after the season Gini's had, we still count very much on Keita and Ox). It's not like Sturridge and how much we changed (both in terms of style and quality) as a team under Klopp. But he can't stay fit and that's important for this weird combination of qualities that Lallana has. A creative player who works, or wants to work so hard.

He'd maybe eye a return to Southampton, but there are no big news so far. Hassenhutl doesn't strike me as someone who will make romantic moves just for the sake of it, if he's got that much of a say over there. Maybe they'll wait for him for next summer on a free. So I'm not fully decided over this one. I'd lean towards letting him go (I don't like so much to have both Ox after the year he's had and Lallana after 2 years he's had in basically the same position and we could also do more with better backups in the forward line), but can live with it if he stays another season. However, if he has another, 3rd season in a row with 10-15 games or so, that will not be a good decision from us looking back. It's not massive wages, but sometimes you feel if we could get more from that backup spot.


Finally Zoran, Liverpool have reached the FA Cup Final... You have just been handed 3 tickets for the final, (one for yourself and two other tickets for two other forum members), who would you choose to go with you and why?!

Oh that's a difficult question. First one who springs to mind is Rich, especially if Villa are our opponents in the final! I don't know, since he's no longer with us (YNWA, Rich), I'd take @Hope in your heart and @Nikola.

Hope being the positive guy, Nikola being the old jinxed pessimist and me being somewhere in the middle of that, a realist let's say. But in my 12 years on TIA, I miss some of the old members. I'm not anymore on Croatian's LFC forum (as you grow up, less time and will), but I still like TIA. Perhaps there will be a time when I'm not posting here anymore, but I still love it. It's more difficult to meet people at such an international forum, but hopefully we'll get there with time.


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The 'Ring of Fire' - a new weekly feature on the This Is Anfield forums.

Many thanks to @Zoran for taking part this week and for taking the time to answer the questions so indepth, thanks mate!
 
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Broomy

TIA's Redkopi
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
1,493

Another great q&a with @Zoran, cheers mate!

I'm going to set this question to forum members this week....

It's been a week where Adam Lallana claimed to have no intention of leaving Liverpool amid summer transfer talk.... Should he stay or should he go?
 

Nikola

We're not worthy!
Admin
Joined
May 17, 2007
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If I ever get to meet you, Zoki, drinks are on me!

I'm glad you mentioned regional gatherings of Liverpool fans. These things are great, I met so many people from Balkan countries, literally from each and every one of them and Hungarian and Romanian fans usually join in. Unfortunately, fans of regional clubs don't take too kindly to their compatriots supporting foreign clubs but at least there were no incidents of any sort.

I had no clue your grandfather had a link with those coaches, I'm pretty sure you had Tomislav Ivić on your profile pic at one point. That's great, man, I only wish he could tell Houllier about Modrić and Ćorluka before Tottenham snapped them up!