Last Sunday, Union Berlin announced the exciting signing of Croatian international full-back Josip Juranovic on an initial four-and-a-half-year deal. The 27-year-old made the switch from Scottish Premiership champions Celtic for a reported club-record fee that could rise to over €10 million and was thrown straight into action in mid-week, starting and setting up a goal in Union’s 2-1 win over Werder Bremen. Below, we delve into what to expect from the defender.
|1. FC Union Berlin
Josip Juranovic is a defender who excels offensively rather than defensively. With an average of 5 progressive passes per 90 minutes played, the experienced full-back ranks in the 97th percentile of fullbacks, meaning that only 3 percent of all full-backs average more progressive passes than him.
Having flourished in a four-back, possession-heavy Ange Postecoglou system in Glasgow, the transition to wing-back under Urs Fischer could be seen as a slight concern, although from looking at his attributes and qualities, it’s fair to suggest that it will bring the best out of the Croat.
Despite being one of Celtic’s most important and consistent players since he joined the Scottish giants in the summer of 2021, his defensive capabilities have always raised questions as to whether he would be a success in a more competitive league. That’s why the switch to Union and their wing-back system could be a masterstroke for both parties.
Juranovic is by no means a liability defensively, but compared to his attacking output, it does leave something to be desired. He is just 1.73 metres tall (5 '6), so he is noticeably vulnerable in the air, winning a measly 0.33 aerial duels per 90 over the past year. He does, however, average 2 tackles per 90, so he recovers well, which is useful for a wing-back.
Another aspect of his game which will be useful for Union is his ball-striking ability. In Union’s 5-back system the wing-backs need to be able to cross the ball, something that Juranovic is well versed in.
Having been brought in following Julian Ryerson's move to Dortmund, Juranovic will compete with aging Union captain Christopher Trimmel to start at the right wing-back position and should get plenty of playing time right away, with Urs Fischer known as a coach who likes to rotate.
To wrap up, there is a lot to be excited about for Union fans. The signing of a player that was heavily linked with some of the biggest clubs around Europe – Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in particular – is a real statement of intent from Union.
Union Berlin are having a brilliant season, both domestically and in Europe, and as the season wears on, the capital club will need experienced players to see them over the line, whether that be in the fight for European football or in the latter stages of the Europa League.
For that reason alone, there can be no doubt that a player who, as recently as December, started in a World Cup semi-final is an astute signing for a club with hopes of turning an already great season into one that will be etched into their history books