FEATURE: Mateo Poljak’s ‘Perfect XI’


We asked Jets midfielder Mateo Poljak to give us his best side and subs from the players he’s played with and against. Mateo’s top team is flush with Croatian stars, but features Aussie and Asian flavours, too!


Goalkeeper: Mark Birighitti
“Last season Mark showed what a goalkeeper he is, and that helped him make it into camp with the Socceroos. ‘Birraz’ constantly gave us security at the back, and saved us many times.”

Right full back: Sime Vrsaljko
“I played with Sime in Croatia when he was just a young player, but immediately I could see that he was going to have a great career. He has joined Atletico Madrid from Sassuolo. Sime is very physical, quick and aggressive. He also produces great crosses, and provides everything you want from a full back.”

Centre back: Igor Biscan
“I played against Igor when he was at Dinamo Zagreb and I was at Lokomotiva. Igor is an ex-international and Liverpool FC player who also won the UEFA Champions League during his time with the Reds. Igor was equally as good playing as a defender as he was in defensive midfield. He was strong, physical and aggressive, yet still so composed and good on the ball. It was a great feeling to play against someone I admired. He is a perfect example of a leader and captain.”

Centre back: Matthieu Delpierre
“I played against him during his time with Melbourne Victory. Matthieu showed straight away what a great player he is. He was captain of Stuttgart for many years, and that says enough about him. One of the most composed players I have seen in the position of centre back.”

Left full back: Josip Pivaric
“Josip is a left footer who plays mostly as a fullback, but through his career he has played everywhere. At the moment he is at Dinamo Zagreb and was unlucky not to be at the Euros because of an injury. Very energetic, has an engine, and a left foot that always finds the target.”

Centre midfield: Luka Modrić
“I played with Luka at just one tournament when I joined the Croatian U19s as a youth player. Even back then it was known that he was going to be a star! Luka has unbelievable control of the ball, vision, and he was always a couple of steps ahead. He sees things that other players don’t.”

Centre midfield: Luka Modrić

Centre midfield: Milan Badelj
“Through all youth selections Milan was always the best player. He used to play more offensively, because he is technically perfect and so intelligent. He partnered Luka Modrić at UEFA EURO 2016 as a centre midfielder. He was one of the best players at Fiorentina in Italy last season.”

Left wing: Ivan Perisic
“Ivan could always beat anyone one vs. one, and he was always the player who made the difference. His Left and right feet are the same, there was no difference in quality. And Ivan has pace to burn. He performed exceptionally at the EUROs and now many teams are interested in him.”

Ten (Attacking Midfield): Shinji Ono
“Shinji is known as Tensai which means genius in Japanese, and he definitely was. His vision, technique, and passing were superb. As well, outside of football he is the most humble player that I have ever met. It was definitely a pleasure to play alongside him!”

Right wing: Thiago Neves
“I played against Thiago Neves during the 2014 AFC Champions League when he was with Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia. He was technically very good, especially in tight areas when you’d think that he had no chance of keeping the ball – he would still somehow find the way out and create something dangerous. It was hard to mark Thiago because as a winger he liked to come into the centre of the park and play little one-twos around us. I was impressed by his ball control.”

Striker: Bruno Fornaroli
“I think Bruno is the definition of an ideal striker – a player who scores, makes assists, keeps the ball, and who just contributes so much for the team. He arrived with little fanfare but became a massive name in the Hyundai A-League through his performances last season.”

Striker: Bruno Fornaroli

Substitute: Ante Covic (Gk)
“I spent three years at Western Sydney Wanderers with Ante and he was arguably one of the best players in that period. A lot of credit goes to him for our AFC Champions League title in 2014. A leader.”

Substitute: Aaron Mooy
“Aaron’s technique, passing and set pieces are unbelievable. It was obvious he had quality when I played with him at Western Sydney, but he has gone to a new level since he moved to Melbourne City and now Manchester City. He became one of the best players in the Hyundai A-League and for the Socceroos as well.”

Substitute: Dejan Lovren
“I played with Dejan at Dinamo Zagreb. He came to Dinamo when he was young, but in a couple of years he progressed quickly to the first team. He is probably the best player that I have ever seen in the air. He is also technically very good for a defender and very good with both feet. A complete player.”

Substitute: Elkeson
“Elkeson is another player I played against in the 2014 AFC Champions League. Back then he was at Guangzhou Evergrande, and he is now at Shanghai SIPG in China. Elkeson can play as a wide striker and has great pace, a powerful shot – he’s also very direct and a good dribbler. In our games against Guangzhou he was definitely the biggest threat.”

Substitute: Mario Mandzukic
“Mario is another player I played against when I was at Lokomotiva Zagreb and he was at Dinamo. Mario is a hard working striker who never stops and puts defences under so much pressure. I found it very hard to get on the ball with him against me. His strengths include his headers and his nose for goal – he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has proved his quality at tops clubs such as Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in Germany, Atletico Madrid in Spain, and Juventus in Italy.”

Coach: Scott Miller

Head Coach: Scott Miller
“I have put ‘Gaffa’ as the Head Coach of my best 11 because I think that to lead a successful team you need more than just a coach with football knowledge, you need someone who is going to know and understand the players to know how to get the best out of them, and to know them as characters. He knows! Scott communicates with the players and respects their opinion. He is ambitious, determined and supportive, and most of all he believes in the players.”