Filip Krovinović had an impressive 2016/17 season with Rio Ave, but he is still far from a household name. We spoke to Croatian football expert @CroSports_ to find out more about the player, his background, and how he should fit in at Benfica.
What position does Krovinović play?
He's an attacking midfielder whose primary role through the years has been as a number 10 (a central attacking midfielder). He also has the ability to play as a more traditional central midfielder or on the outside. But he is best when he gets on the ball and is involved in the build-up.
What are his principal strengths as a player?
He has the ability to dictate the play and the tempo of the game; he's always been a good link-up player. He can play fast, but he can also slow it down. He’s quick with his feet and with his mind. He has the ability to create space in tight areas, and also to spot a pass. When he gets on the ball, he looks to attack and move it forward. He likes to play one-twos. He doesn't 'suffocate' the ball in the way that some creative midfielders tend to do. He’s right-footed, but is good with both feet. When he finds an opening, he’s not afraid to shoot from distance with either foot.
How would you rate the defensive side of his game?
He’s not known for his defensive abilities, but he’s shown that he can be reliable enough in that regard, at least effort-wise. But he will need to continue working on any deficiencies.
How highly was he regarded back in Croatia?
He’s always been considered a talent and been in-and-around the Croatian youth national teams, but often in the shadows of other, flashier players... Croatia has a plethora of creative link-up midfielders. Not being with Dinamo Zagreb or Hajduk Split meant that he didn’t get the media attention a player of his quality normally would have done. He has made it on his own merit and not through media hype, as can often be the case. He made a name for himself playing for an 'unfashionable' side in the form of NK Zagreb.
Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split both showed some interest when he was leaving NK Zagreb, but it was a matter of too little, too late. Hajduk were in contention until the end, but they couldn’t afford to finalise a deal before they had qualified for the Europa League, and Krovinović couldn’t wait, so he accepted the move to Rio Ave.
How did he fare at Rio Ave?
It took him a while to get regular minutes at Rio Ave, but he maintained a positive attitude throughout and vowed to fight for his place. He eventually got his chance and made the most of it, being named as their player of the season in 2016/17.
Do you expect him to succeed at Benfica?
At Rio Ave, he showed good character and belief in himself. That's something he will need to bring with him to Benfica. There's no reason to believe that he won’t. He knows that nothing will be handed to him. The move to Benfica is a big one and on the surface might appear to have come a tad too early for him. That said, the ability is there, and if he can approach things in the same way as he did at Rio Ave, I don’t see why he won’t make it. He has the skill-set, the quality, and the positive mental attitude to be a successful player at Benfica. It might just take a little time for him to settle in, as it often does. We shall see.