Kerala Blasters has finally announced their sixth foreigner in the form of Marko Lešković, the 30-year-old central defender from Croatia. The Blasters have done a complete revamp of the foreign contingent after a lackluster tenth-placed finish in the Indian Super League last season.
New signings Adrián Luna and Enes Sipović have already made their competitive debuts for the Yellow Army in the Durand Cup. Chencho Gyeltshen has also joined the training. Lešković should also join the squad by the end of the Durand Cup in Kolkata.
In this article, IFTWC explores who Marko Lešković is, what defines his playing style, and what the Blasters fans can expect from his signing.
Who is Marko Lešković
Marko Lešković is a 6’0 tall defender who has spent his entire career in Croatia. He has been one the most well known faces in Croatian football, having played in their top division, the Prva HNL, consistently since the 2010/11 season.
The defender has played across all youth levels for his nation and played 4 international friendlies at the senior level in 2014 under Niko Kovac, who would lead Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final.
Lešković started his career playing for the youth teams of Osijek after signing his first contract in 2009. He made his senior debut for the club in the 2010/11 Prva HNL season after being loaned till winter to Druga HNL (second division) side Suhopolje where he spent the first half of the year.
He returned to Osijek in the 2011/12 campaign and made 8 starts and came off the bench 11 times. He became one of the first names on the teamsheet the next season, making 28 appearances in the league and scoring 4 goals.
In 2013, Lešković joined HNK Rijeka and signed a 4-year-contract for the whites. He played 3 years for the club and finished runners-up in the Prva Liga on all three occasions. He also made 10 UEFA Europa League appearances.
Looking to finally break his league win duck after going within touching distance and still falling short multiple times, the Croatian joined the biggest club in his country, Dinamo Zagreb in 2016. His first season at the club would be tragic as his former side Rijeka would finally lift the Prva HNL and he would find himself in a familiar second place.
However, despite not getting many minutes, he won consecutive league titles for Zagreb between the 2017-18 and 2020-21 seasons. In search of more playing time, he was loaned to NK Lokomotiva till the end of the 20/21 season in January.
He scored 3 goals for Zagreb in 64 appearances and played 3 UEFA Champions League qualifying matches.
Style of Play
For Zagreb, Lešković played as the left center-back whenever he featured in the eleven. His ball carrying abilities and long balls helped his team’s forwards get into pockets of space to threaten the opposition defense.
He kept 5 cleansheets in 17 games for Zagreb this season, with 1.7 interceptions, 1.0 tackles, and 4.5 clearances per game. He had to put in limited dirty tackles during his time at Diamo as the team liked to keep possession and initiate organized attacks from the back.
Playing in the ISL will be a different ball game for the 30-year-old as Kerala Blasters may not dominate possession in all their games. He will get much less freedom as a centre-back and will have to adjust his game accordingly.
Having an experienced Enes Sipović at his side will surely help his natural game and boost Kerala’s chances of keeping more cleansheets. However with ISL allowing only 4 foreigners on the pitch at the same time, it remains to be seen whether the duo play together.
What this means for the Kerala Blasters FC
It has been a very healthy transfer window for the club and signings like Lešković will boost their chances for a top 4 finish. The new head coach Ivan Vukomanovic will have a serious headache ahead of him about the 4 foreigners he picks in his eleven. With Luna as the only foreigner in his position, the gaffer will have to bench any two of his other five quality foreigners.
Kerala Blasters have acquired the services of one of the most exciting new defenders in the league in Marko Lešković, and things could only get better from here for the yellow army. However, as Vukomanovic said in a recent press conference, the fans will have to be patient.
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