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Leon Benko (Croatian pronunciation: [běːŋko];[2] born 11 November 1983) is a Croatian professional footballer who plays as a forward for NK Varaždin in the 1. HNL.

Leon Benko
Leon Benko 2007.jpg
Leon Benko in 2007
Personal information
Full name Leon Benko
Date of birth (1983-11-11) 11 November 1983 (age 36)
Place of birth Varaždin, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in)[1]
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current team
Varaždin
Number 11
Youth career
1991–2003 Varteks
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2006 Varteks 68 (18)
2006–2008 1. FC Nürnberg 10 (0)
2008–2009 Standard Liège 14 (1)
2009–2010 Kortrijk 32 (5)
2011–2012 Slaven Belupo 27 (15)
2012 Al-Faisaly 9 (5)
2012–2014 Rijeka 50 (34)
2014 Dalian Aerbin 9 (1)
2014–2016 Sarajevo 41 (27)
2016–2018 Olimpija Ljubljana 49 (13)
2018– Varaždin 26 (22)
National team
2003 Croatia U20 2 (0)
2004–2005 Croatia U21 17 (0)
2006–2013 Croatia 4 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 4 August 2019

A product of NK Varteks youth academy, Benko had spells abroad in the German Bundesliga with 1. FC Nürnberg and in Belgium with Standard Liège and K.V. Kortrijk. He was the 2012–13 Prva HNL league's top goalscorer.

Club careerEdit

VarteksEdit

Benko signed his first professional contract with his youth club, NK Varteks, in July 2003, and continued to play for the club in the following three seasons under coaches Miroslav Blažević (2003–05) and Zlatko Dalić (2005–06). In his second season at Varteks he established himself as one of the club's key players, appearing in 26 matches in the Croatian First League.

In the summer of 2005, he also performed well for Varteks in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, scoring all four goals in their 4–1 victory over Dinamo Tirana as well as a brace that included the winning goal in a 4–3 victory over Inter Turku.[3] He finished the 2005–06 season as the club's top scorer, scoring 14 goals in 27 league appearances, and was instrumental in the club's 2005–06 Croatian Cup campaign in which they reached the final before losing to Rijeka on away goals rule. His excellent performances at Varteks earned him the 2005 Hope of the Year award for Croatia's best young player.

NürnbergEdit

On 23 May 2006, it was announced that Benko has signed for German Bundesliga side 1. FC Nürnberg on a three-year contract with an optional one-year extension.[4] He made his Bundesliga debut on 12 August 2006, playing as a substitute in the last five minutes of the club's first league match of the 2006–07 season, a 3–0 away victory at VfB Stuttgart.[5] He finished his first Bundesliga season with only seven appearances, having missed the entire second part of the season due to injury problems.

He scored his first goal for Nürnberg on 29 November 2007 in their UEFA Cup group match against eventual winners of the competition, Zenit Saint Petersburg, securing his team a 2–2 away draw. He made a total of four appearances for Nürnberg in the 2007–08 season of the UEFA Cup.[6]

Standard LiègeEdit

On 4 August 2008, Benko moved to Belgian side Standard Liège for an undisclosed fee, signing a one-year contract with an optional extension.[7] He made his debut for the club on 16 August 2008 in their 3–1 away win at FCV Dender in the first round of the 2008–09 Jupiler League, coming on as a late substitute.[8] In his only season with the club he made only 14 league appearances due to his injury problems. He managed to win the Belgian First Division title with the club.

K.V. KortrijkEdit

On 30 June 2009, K.V. Kortrijk signed the Croatian forward from Standard Liège until June 2010.[9]

Slaven BelupoEdit

On 29 January 2011, Benko signed a one-and-a-half-year contract with Slaven Belupo.[10] In his first game for Slaven, he scored a goal in a 2–1 loss against RNK Split.[11] By the end of the season he made ten more appearances for the club and scored eight goals in the process. He opened the new season by scoring a goal against NK Zagreb on matchday 1 in July 2011. He scored seven goals in Croatian First League and added three assists by the end of the mid-season when he was transferred to Saudi Professional League club Al-Faisaly.

RijekaEdit

In June 2012, it was announced that Benko will be joining HNK Rijeka. He was given the number 19 shirt.

Benko made his debut for the new club against NK Zadar at the end of the July, and scored his first goal on Matchday 4 of the season against Lokomotiva Zagreb. In his first season with the club he fulfilled the expectations of the club officials and the fans as he was the 2012–13 Prva HNL league's top scorer with 18 goals in 30 appearances. At the end of the season, he was awarded with SN Yellow Shirt award, as the best football player in the 2012–13 Prva HNL, based on post-match ratings awarded by sports journalists over the course of a season.[12] The club finished third in the 2012–13 Prva HNL standings and secured their spot in the Europa League qualifications.

Benko started the new 2013–14 season in strong fashion, netting 11 goals in first 11 appearances. He scored five goals in the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League qualifying phase, including two goals against VfB Stuttgart in Europa League play-off round. His goals helped Rijeka to reach their first ever Europa League group stage where they were drawn in Group I together with Olympique Lyonnais, Real Betis and Vitória S.C.. On 28 September, he scored a spectacular volley against Rijeka's greatest rivals Hajduk Split in Adriatic derby. A month later, on Matchday 2 of the 2013–14 Europa League, Benko scored another volley goal against Real Betis to give his team 1–0 lead on Stadion Kantrida. The match eventually finished 1–1.

Dalian AerbinEdit

On 24 February 2014, Benko reportedly signed for Chinese Super League team Dalian Aerbin for an undisclosed fee.[13]

On 28 April 2015, Benko filed a lawsuit at the Hong Kong High Court against the holding company of Dalian Aerbin for unpaid wages and image rights.[14][15] Benko claimed that his contract with Dalian was worth 1.02 million euros. However, four months into his contract, he was paid only 36,000 euros. He has terminated his contract with Dalian since then.[15]

SarajevoEdit

On 12 September 2014, Benko reportedly signed for Bosnian Premier League club FK Sarajevo as a free agent.[16]

During the first half of the 2014–15 Premier League, he scored 9 goals in 14 appearances. In the next season, Sarajevo was ranked third in the league and Benko was the league top goalscorer with 17 goals. At the beginning of the 2016–17 season Benko got suspended for drinking alcohol before a match against rival club Zrinjski.[17]

Olimpija LjubljanaEdit

After falling out with Sarajevo over his suspension, Benko signed a two-year contract with Slovenian PrvaLiga club Olimpija Ljubljana on a free transfer on 30 August 2016.[18]

During the mid-season, on 15 December 2016, the club announced that Benko would be departing from the club due to poor performances.[19] In the end, Benko stayed at the club, scoring 14 goals in 34 appearances for the club in all competitions. He also appeared in the final of the 2017 Slovenian Football Cup, where Olimpija lost 1–0 to Domžale.[20]

VaraždinEdit

On 20 August 2018, Benko signed for the Croatian second tier club Varaždin.[21] On 18 May 2019, he scored two goals in Varaždin's 3–1 home win against Šibenik, which secured his team a promotion to the Prva HNL.[22]

International careerEdit

Benko has been capped for the Croatian national under-21 team and he subsequently went on to make his debut for the country's A-team by appearing in both of their two matches at the 2006 Carlsberg Cup in Hong Kong.

Benko was once again included in the roster for the friendly match against South Korea on 10 September 2013. He provided a crucial assist for Domagoj Vida who scored the first goal in 65th minute of the match.[23] Croatia went on to win the match, being their second match and second win against South Korea side in the year of 2013 alone. His prolific goalscoring form in his club earned him another call-up, this time for the Croatia crucial 2014 World Cup play-off matches against Iceland on 15 November 2013.

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

As of 18 May 2019[24][25]
Club performance League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Croatia League Cup Europe Total
2003–04 Varteks Croatian First League 15 3 6 2 21 5
2004–05 26 1 6 2 32 3
2005–06 27 14 8 9 5 6 40 29
Germany League Cup Europe Total
2006–07 1. FC Nürnberg Bundesliga 7 0 2 0 9 0
2007–08 3 0 4 1 7 1
Belgium League Cup Europe Total
2008–09 Standard Liège Belgian Pro League 14 1 1 0 1 0 16 1
2009–10 Kortrijk 26 5 1 0 27 5
2010–11 6 0 6 0
Croatia League Cup Europe Total
2010–11 Slaven Belupo Croatian First League 11 8 2 1 13 9
2011–12 16 7 2 1 18 8
Saudi Arabia League Cup Asia Total
2011–12 Al-Faisaly Saudi Professional League 9 5 3 1 12 6
Croatia League Cup Europe Total
2012–13 Rijeka Croatian First League 30 18 1 0 31 18
2013–14 20 16 2 2 11 6 33 24
China League Cup Asia Total
2014 Dalian Aerbin Chinese Super League 9 1 9 1
Bosnia and Herzegovina League Cup Europe Total
2014–15 Sarajevo Bosnian Premier League 14 9 2 0 16 9
2015–16 26 18 4 2 2 0 32 20
2016–17 1 0 1 0
Slovenia League Cup Europe Total
2016–17 Olimpija Slovenian PrvaLiga 29 10 5 4 34 14
2017–18 20 3 5 5 2 0 27 8
Croatia League Cup Europe Total
2018–19 Varaždin Croatian Second League 23 21 1 1 24 22
2019–20 Croatian First League 3 1 0 0 3 1
Total Croatia 171 88 28 18 16 12 215 119
Germany 10 0 2 0 4 1 16 1
Belgium 46 6 2 0 1 0 49 6
Saudi Arabia 9 5 3 1 0 0 12 6
China 9 1 0 0 0 0 9 1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 41 27 6 2 2 0 49 29
Slovenia 49 13 10 9 2 0 61 22
Career total 335 140 51 30 25 13 411 183

InternationalEdit

National team Year Apps Goals
Croatia
2006 2 0
2007 0 0
2008 0 0
2009 0 0
2010 0 0
2011 0 0
2012 0 0
2013 2 0
Total 4 0

HonoursEdit

PlayerEdit

ClubEdit

Nürnberg

Standard Liège

Sarajevo

Olimpija Ljubljana

Varaždin

IndividualEdit

Awards

Performance

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Leon Benko". eurosport.com. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Bȅnedikt". Hrvatski jezični portal (in Serbo-Croatian). Retrieved 17 March 2018. Bénko
  3. ^ "UEFA Intertoto Cup appearances 2005/2006". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Benko potpisao za Nürnberg" (in Croatian). Jutarnji list. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Bundesliga appearances 2006/2007". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  6. ^ "UEFA Cup appearances 2007/2008". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Benko vom Club zu Standard Lüttich" (in German). UEFA. 4 August 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  8. ^ "FCV Dender v Standard Liège : 1–3" (in French). Standard Liège official website. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  9. ^ "Leon Benko trekt naar KV Kortrijk" (in Dutch). belgiumsoccer.be. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  10. ^ Rupnik, Borna (30 January 2011). "Leon Benko se vratio u Hrvatsku". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  11. ^ Pavlić, Antonija (26 February 2011). "Split sredio Koprivničane". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Leon Benko o budućnosti na Kantridi". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). 29 May 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  13. ^ 莱昂·本科正式加盟大连阿尔滨. Sina News (in Chinese). 27 February 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  14. ^ 外援球員控阿爾濱公司違約追490萬. Sing Tao Daily (in Chinese). 28 April 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  15. ^ a b 克羅地亞球員控大連阿爾濱. Apple Daily (in Chinese). 28 April 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Leon Benko novi igrač FK Sarajevo!" (in Bosnian). FK Sarajevo. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Službeno: Leon Benko karijeru nastavlja u Sloveniji" (in Bosnian). FK Sarajevo. 30 August 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Leon Benko potpisao za ljubljansku Olimpiju" (in Croatian). goal.com. 30 August 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Leon Benko napušta Olimpiju" (in Bosnian). sport1.ba. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  20. ^ "Gaber Dobrovoljc Domžalam prinesel drugo pokalno lovoriko" (in Slovenian). RTV Slovenija. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Leon Benko potpisao za NK Varaždin: Svi znaju zbog čega sam doveden!" (in Croatian). regionalni.com. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Varaždin vs. Šibenik". soccerway.com. 18 May 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  23. ^ "'Blitzkrieg' Hrvatske: U sedam minuta zabili su Vida i Kalinić" (in Croatian). 24sata. 10 September 2013. Archived from the original on 13 September 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Leon Benko > Club Matches". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  25. ^ "Druga HNL". hns-cff.hr. Retrieved 27 August 2018.

External linksEdit