The Kolkata-based side arrived late in the transfer market but has been rampant in acquiring quality players since then. Tomislav Mrcela will prove to be an important part of the spine of the Red and Gold side, which is slowly taking shape.
In this article, IFTWC explores how Mrcela fits into new Head Coach Manolo Diaz‘s side and how he could help East Bengal finish higher in the table this year at the Indian Super League.
Who is Tomislav Mrcela
Tomislav Mrcela is a 30-year-old center-back who has played in Europe, Asia as well as Australia. Born in Perth, Tomislav left the land down under and traveled to Croatia at a young age to join the academy of RNK Split, a lower division Croatian side based in the city of Split.
After playing in the youth divisions and other lower divisions of Croatian football, he became a regular for Druga HNL (second division) side NK Imotski in 2011 at the age of only 20. His consistent performances saw him join fellow Druga outfit NK Mosor.
His solidity at Mosor caught the eye of many HNL (Croatian top tier) clubs. He ultimately signed for Hrvatski Dragovoljac for the 2013/14 season, however, the side got relegated.
Wanting to continue in the first division, Mrcela joined Lokomotiva Zagreb and donned the blue for consecutive seasons, finishing 4th in the league on both occasions. Mrcela made 4 appearances for the club in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers and was a regular starter in all competitions.
Seeking a new experience, Tomislav joined the K League 1 (South Korean top division) club Jeonnam Dragons in 2016. He played for the Gwangyang based team for three years, finishing 5th and 10th in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the Australian made just 2 appearances in the league and the team was relegated.
A-League club Perth Glory signed Mrcela in what was a homecoming for the Croatian-Australian. A regular starter, the 6’4 defender was a very important player for the ‘The Glory’ in their league winning 2018-19 A-League campaign, the year when a certain Roy Krishna was the top scorer of the tournament.
He also played a game in the prestigious AFC Champions League in 2020.
Style of play
The perfect traditional center-back, Mrcela is never afraid to throw his body on the line for his side, has decent control of the ball, can play very impressive long balls, and is a huge threat from set-pieces due to his towering stature.
He has played his entire life in the same position and at 30, is into the most confident stage of his career, where he is not too young to fret about errors or too old to think about injuries and his diminishing speed.
A potential partnership with Adil Khan is on the cards and so is one with the new signing Franjo Prce. Gaffer Manolo Diaz will face some serious headache having three excellent center-backs to choose from.
It remains to be seen in what formation Diaz fields his charges. The coach’s most used structure at Castilla was the 4-4-2 but he is known to not be very rigid with formations.
What this means for SC East Bengal
SC East Bengal has been very smart with their signings, tying the foreigners down to one-year-deals which gives them the independence to choose whether to remain at the club or leave after the season ends.
In Mrcela, the Red and Gold brigade has someone who has plied his trade in various continents and his wealth of experience and leadership abilities will bolster their chances of finishing in the top 4 of the table.
The core of the squad is slowly taking shape and things look very sunny for East Bengal fans who were dampened by the uncertainty of the club’s future only a month ago.
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