Igor Bišćan

Igor Bišćan (Croatian pronunciation: [îɡor bǐʃtɕan]; born 4 May 1978) is a Croatian professional football manager and former player who is the manager of the Croatia national under-21 team. In his playing career, he was a versatile player and could play almost every position in the defence or midfield, but featured mostly as a central midfielder, or as a central defender in his latter years.

Igor Bišćan
Igor Biscan 2021.jpg
Bišćan in 2021
Personal information
Full name Igor Bišćan
Date of birth (1978-05-04) 4 May 1978 (age 43)
Place of birth Zagreb, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Position(s) Defender, midfielder
Club information
Current team
Croatia U21 (manager)
Youth career
Dinamo Zagreb
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–2000 Dinamo Zagreb 67 (11)
1995–1996Samobor (loan) 12 (1)
2000–2005 Liverpool 72 (2)
2005–2007 Panathinaikos 36 (3)
2008–2012 Dinamo Zagreb 61 (1)
Total 248 (18)
National team
1998 Croatia U20 2 (1)
1997–2000 Croatia U21 15 (1)
1999 Croatia B 1 (0)
1999–2001 Croatia 15 (1)
Teams managed
2016–2017 Rudeš
2017–2018 Olimpija Ljubljana
2018–2019 Rijeka
2019– Croatia U21
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Bišćan played for his hometown club Dinamo Zagreb, English club Liverpool, with whom he won a Champions League winners medal, Greek side Panathinaikos, and represented the Croatia national team internationally, debuting in UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying match against Macedonia on 13 June 1999.

Club careerEdit

Early careerEdit

At the start of his career, Bišćan began to amass an impressive level of playing experience, representing Croatia at youth football level and then captaining his club, Dinamo Zagreb, in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He was part of what is considered the most successful era of Dinamo in the Prva HNL, winning two consecutive league titles in 1999 and 2000 and participating in two consecutive group stages of Champions League (Group A, 1998–99 and Group D, 1999–2000). During his four seasons in Croatia, Bišćan scored 11 goals in 84 appearances in domestic leagues, which brought attention of foreign clubs to the promising midfielder.

LiverpoolEdit

On 8 December 2000, Bišćan contract was bought-out by Liverpool for £5.5 million at the behest of its manager, Gérard Houllier,[1] having been sought by Juventus, Barcelona, Ajax and Milan. His debut came in a Premier League match against Ipswich Town, which Liverpool lost 1–0, with Bišćan coming off the bench to replace Christian Ziege in 71st minute. One week later, he played full 90 minutes against Manchester United at Old Trafford, with Liverpool breaking 3,240 minutes of United's undefeated run at their home ground by defeating them 1–0.[2] He made an impressive start to his Liverpool career, briefly displacing Dietmar Hamann from the starting 11 as the defensive midfielder. He made 21 appearances by the end of the 2000–01 season, 15 of which he started and six of which he came off the substitutes' bench in. He scored his first goal for Liverpool on 14 January 2001, converting in the 18th minute of the 2000–01 League Cup match against Crystal Palace in a 5–0 victory.[3] Unfortunately for Bišćan, he was cup–tied and therefore ineligible to play for Liverpool in their UEFA Cup-winning season.

Although Bišćan was originally signed as a central midfielder, Gérard Houllier felt he was more useful as centre back and often played Bišćan out of his natural position, sometimes even as a winger or full back. Bišćan fell out of favour after his first year at Liverpool, making only 23 appearances in the next two seasons. During this time, he made few starts and spent a total of 37 matches on the bench without being used as a substitute. A major injury crisis of the team in 2003–04 season gave Bišćan a comeback chance, and by the start of the new Premier League season, he had returned into the starting 11, featuring regularly as a centre-back in the absences of Stéphane Henchoz and Jamie Carragher. By the end of the season, Bišćan featured in 39 matches, 30 of which he played the entire 90 minutes. He was sent-off in 36th minute of Liverpool's UEFA Cup second leg match against Marseille, which turned things around for Liverpool as they were eliminated from the competition, after which he struggled to regain his place.

In 2004–05 season, Bišćan returned to a central midfield role and played a vital part in Liverpool's run to the finals of the UEFA Champions League and was notable particularly for his marauding runs from midfield during matches against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea. He was an unused substitute against Milan in the final. His last official match for the Reds was on 15 May 2005 in a Premier League clash against Aston Villa. During his last season Bišćan scored two more goals (against Fulham[4] and Bolton Wanderers[5]) and made a total of 35 appearances. Although Bišćan failed to live up to expectations, he is fondly remembered by Liverpool fans after his impressive final year at the club.

As a Liverpool player, he also made a cameo appearance in the film Goal!, scoring a header in the final match of the film when Liverpool were playing Newcastle United.

PanathinaikosEdit

Following the termination of his contract with the Reds, on 15 June 2005, Bišćan signed for major Greek club Panathinaikos. During his two years in Athens, he made 36 appearances and scored 3 goals. Unfortunately, Bišćan had a major decline in his game, disappointing both fans and the club owners.[6] On 1 June 2007, Bišćan's contract expired and the club showed no interest in renewing his contract, making him a free agent again.

Return to Dinamo ZagrebEdit

 
Bišćan playing for Dinamo Zagreb in 2008

Bišćan spent the next six months resting from football and mostly avoiding the high public interest shown in him. During this time, he was regularly approached by Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamić, who was interested in bringing Bišćan back to his home club. After months of negotiations, Bišćan finally signed contract on 3 December 2007. Although he was criticized for his lacking performances by the fans, Bišćan rose to become the captain of the club after the departure of Luka Modrić to Tottenham Hotspur. Following his return, Dinamo played for two consecutive seasons in UEFA Cup group stages, also winning two domestic league titles and two Croatian Cup titles.

On 19 April 2011, it was announced by unconfirmed reports that Bišćan has been scheduled for an operation on a joint that could spell the end of his career. Luckily, Bišćan opted to continue playing football and end his career at Dinamo. In April 2012, he terminated his contract with the club.[7]

International careerEdit

Bišćan's debut appearance for the Croatia national team came on a UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying match against Macedonia in Skopje on 13 June 1999. He scored his first and only international goal against Mexico on 16 June 1999.[8] He also collected yellow cards on three occasions. Eleven out of fifteen Croatia's matches Bišćan featured in finished in a draw. His last official match was against Scotland on 1 September 2001.

After leaving the national team camp in 2003, Bišćan was suspended by Croatian Football Federation and refused to play for the national team ever since. He also represented Croatia at under-21 level and was capped in the Croatia B team on one occasion.

Managerial careerEdit

Bišćan started his managerial career with Druga HNL club Rudeš in 2016, as an assistant coach. Soon he was named the head coach of Rudeš, winning the 2016–17 Druga HNL title.[9]

One month later, he signed with Slovenian Prva Liga club Olimpija Ljubljana to be their head coach.[10] In 2017–18 season, he won the Slovenian PrvaLiga title and the Slovenian Cup with the club,[11] but in June 2018 club president, Milan Mandarić, unexpectedly sacked him.[12]

RijekaEdit

On 9 October 2018, Bišćan was named the head coach of Prva HNL club Rijeka.[13]

Immediately after coming to the club, Bišćan faced criticism by the club's supporters, Armada, because of his former acts as a player of Dinamo Zagreb.[14] He debuted at the club bench in a 2–1 away win against Inter Zaprešić on 10 October.[15] After a slew of good results, Bišćan ended the 2018–19 season in the second place and won the Croatian Cup final, defeating Dinamo Zagreb 3–1.[16]

On 13 July 2019, he lost the Super Cup 1–0 to Dinamo Zagreb.[17] In August of the same year, Bišćan led the team to two victories in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League against Aberdeen. He later failed to take the club to the group stage, losing to Gent 3–2 on aggregate in the play-offs.[18]

Bišćan resigned from his position as Rijeka head coach on 22 September 2019, after a 3–0 win against Istra 1961.[19]

Croatia U21Edit

After Croatia U21 lost a Euro 2021 qualifier 2–1 against Scotland, head coach Nenad Gračan resigned on 11 September 2019 and was succeeded by Bišćan on 1 October.[20][21] Bišćan made his debut in a friendly 4–1 victory over Hungary on 11 October.[22]

On 14 October, Croatia broke the record for their biggest victory in history, beating San Marino 7–0 in Serravalle.[23] On 18 November, Croatia compromised their qualification for the Euro 2021 after losing another qualifier, this time 2–1 against the Czech Republic.[24] In August 2020, Bišćan tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to lead the team to a 5–0 victory over Greece from isolation.[25][26] However, after drawing 0–0 with the Czech Republic four days later, on 7 September, Croatia were forced to win all their remaining games to have a chance to qualify directly.[27] On 8 October, Croatia once again broke the record for their biggest victory in history, beating San Marino 10–0 in Zagreb.[28] On 12 November, Croatia failed to win their crucial qualifier against Scotland away, drawing 2–2.[29] However, thanks to a high 7–0 win over Lithuania and Scotland losing to Greece away on 17 November, Croatia secured the second place in their qualifying group.[30] Subsequently, they qualified for the tournament as one of five best ranked second-placed teams.[31] Upon qualification, Bišćan received widespread national praise for his approach and utilization of the qualities of the national team, which had turned into a synonym for failure in Croatian football throughout the years.[32][33][34][35][36]

Bišćan named his 23-man squad for the group stage of the tournament on 9 March 2021.[37] However, during the month, several important players were ruled out, mostly due to injuries,[38][39] such as Josip Brekalo,[40] Boško Šutalo,[41] Joško Gvardiol,[42] Luka Sučić[43] and Borna Sosa.[44] After the opening match, the 1–0 loss to Portugal on 25 March, Bišćan was criticized for his catenaccio tactics that were deemed uncharacteristic for Croatian football, which is best known for its midfielders.[45][46] Three days later, Bišćan led Croatia to their first ever victory at the European Under-21 Championships, beating Switzerland 3–2.[47] However, despite losing 2–1 to England in the final group game on 31 March, Croatia qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time in their history due to a better goal difference.[48] In the quarter-final against reigning champions Spain on 31 May, Croatia lost 2–1 after extra time.[49]

Personal lifeEdit

In 2007, Bišćan married his wife, Marija, whom he started dating three years earlier.[50] The couple have four daughters: Nina Marija, Bruna, Lena, and Borna.[51][52][53]

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition[54][55][56][57][58]
Club Season League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Samobor (loan) 1997–98 Prva HNL 12 1 12 1
Croatia Zagreb 1997–98 5 0 2 0 0 0 7 0
1998–99 19 2 1 0 3 0 23 2
Dinamo Zagreb 1999–00 29 6 6 1 6 0 41 7
2000–01 14 3 1 0 6 0 21 3
Total 67 11 10 1 0 0 15 0 92 12
Liverpool 2000–01 Premier League 13 0 4 0 4 1 0 0 21 1
2001–02 5 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 9 0
2002–03 6 0 1 0 3 0 3 0 13 0
2003–04 29 0 1 0 2 0 7 0 39 0
2004–05 19 2 1 0 6 0 9 0 35 2
Total 72 2 7 0 15 1 23 0 117 3
Panathinaikos 2005–06 Alpha Ethniki 20 3 6 0 26 3
2006–07 Super League Greece 16 0 5 0 5 0 26 0
Total 36 3 5 0 0 0 11 0 52 3
Dinamo Zagreb 2007–08 Prva HNL 9 0 5 1 0 0 14 1
2008–09 27 1 6 1 12 2 45 4
2009–10 8 0 0 0 6 1 14 1
2010–11 14 0 4 1 10 1 28 2
2011–12 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Total 61 1 15 3 0 0 28 4 104 8
Career total 248 19 37 4 15 1 77 4 377 28

InternationalEdit

National team Year Apps Goals
Croatia[59] 1999 7 1
2000 4 0
2001 4 0
Total 15 1

International goalsEdit

No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition
1 16 June 1999 Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea
3
  Mexico
2–1
2–1
Friendly match

Managerial statisticsEdit

As of match played 31 May 2021[60][61][62]
Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Rudeš 7 June 2016 2 June 2017 36 19 9 8 052.78
Olimpija Ljubljana 2 June 2017 6 June 2018 44 28 12 4 063.64
Rijeka 9 October 2018 23 September 2019 43 26 9 8 060.47
Croatia U21 1 October 2019 Present 14 8 2 4 057.14
Total 137 81 32 24 059.12

HonoursEdit

PlayerEdit

Samobor

Dinamo Zagreb[63]

Liverpool[64][65]

ManagerEdit

Rudeš

Olimpija Ljubljana

Rijeka

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit