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Fullname: Filip Benković
aka: Filip Benkovic
Born: 12 July 1997
Birthplace: Zagreb, Croatia
Signed: 31 Aug 2018 (on loan from Leicester 1yr)
Left: 31 May 2019 (back to Leicester)
Position: Centre-back, Defender
Debut: St Mirren 0-0 Celtic, SP, 14 Sep 2018
Squad No.: 32
International Caps: ? [complete at end of career]
International Goals: ? [complete at end of career]
|“I came here to get trophies, to be part of it, and to help the team. The least I can do is give everything I have on the pitch.”
Filip Benkovic (Dec 2018)
Croatia had reached the World Cup final in 2018 against the odds, and so the country’s standing in football was at a high. Filip Benkovic was not in the squad, but was a highly promising talent whom Celtic in desperation grabbed on loan for a season due to need for better central defensive cover. The defence in the past season had been deteriorating, and Celtic were recently knocked out the Champions League qualifiers so needed to placate the support who were in uproar due to a very poor transfer window which saw Celtic lose greater talent with little in return in new players of promise.
In came Benkovic, and from the off it was clear that he had star quality but sadly he wasn’t Celtic’s man, just a loanee. He was a high-cost purchase for Leicester of £13m and they wanted the young player to get some experience.
He was to be a mainstay for much of the first half of the season and helped to shore up a central defence alongside the want-away Boyata. Both were quality but the start of the season was rocky and much had to improve.
Benkovic was a tall and athletic player, not afraid to make a challenge and get stuck in, and you could see his commitment. He physically looked the part for a modern central defender. He never wavered, and he was a model loan signing unlike certain others Celtic have had over the years.
He scored two goals for Celtic, one in a 5-0 league win v Hearts when Hearts were challenging for the top spot in the league and then in a 3-0 win v Dundee in Dec 2018, and you could see from his joy what those moments meant to him. Clearly he was learning and adapting to the game, and enjoying it.
Frustratingly, Benkovic sustained an injury in a 3-0 Premiership triumph over Hamilton Accies in Jan 2019. He completed the 90 minutes, but the extent of the damage to the leg only emerged after the final whistle.
He finally returned in late March, but by this time Celtic had practically wrapped up the league, and there was little left for him to prove. Ajer & Simunovic for the longer term were preferred to play when possible as it was already clear Benkovic was not to stay on at Celtic.
Celtic won the treble, to complete the historic third domestic treble in a row which was exceptional and qualified to the next round of the Europa League. So a fine season and one that Benkovic will hopefully look back on with pride. He was a good part of the success, and will be respected for it.
Ironically he was to return to Leicester to be managed by Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager who had left prematurely during this same season to go and manage Leicester. There were hopes he could return for another season.
In total he played 28 games, far more than many could actually remember him having played due to the loss from the injury spell. He will also be thankful to Celtic as he finally made his international debut for the high-rising Croatian side in a friendly on 11 June 2019 v Tunisia. Without the Celtic loan spell he might not have won that chance to get off the ground running.
We wished him the best.
On return to Leicester under Brendan Rodgers, in season 2019/20 due to factors including injuries & a rejuvenated Leicester City side, he ended up with no first team appearances for his parent club. He was sent out on loan in January to Bristol City but then football all ground to a halt after just a few appearances for Benkovic at Bristol due to the coronavirus pandemic, so he was making little headway. Then he had a loan spell at Cardiff and hardly played, and so on. He was stuck in the reserves at Leicester when really someone of his talent deserved first team experience.
Everything was just going badly wrong. It was clear that not staying on at Celtic, even if again just on loan, had become a bad error and he had been badly advised. His colleague at Celtic, Ajer, won a high profile seven figure transfer to Brentford, so adds to the evidence that Celtic would have been likely best for him, rather than the demoralising loan treadmill.
He was cut with 18 months left on his expensive contract with Leicester despite having been bought originally for 13m, and made zero league appearances for them! To rub things in, he had not won a single further international cap since the one he earned whilst at Celtic.
[…It all continued to go horribly wrong for him… ]
“At Celtic, I follow what the fans say about me and it makes me happy. They are unbelievable. Everybody in Croatia asks me about the Celtic support but I tell them I can’t describe what it’s like – you have to experience it.”
Filip Benkovic (Dec 2018)
“I came here to get trophies, to be part of it, and to help the team. The least I can do is give everything I have on the pitch.”
Filip Benkovic (Dec 2018)
|APPEARANCES||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||TOTAL|
|2018-19||17 (3)||1||2||4||24 (3)|
Honours with Celtic
CELTIC’S £13million loan defender Filip Benkovic has revealed how he turned down clubs in Spain, Germany and Italy to move to Glasgow.
But he accepts that parent club Leicester City could yet recall him in January.
The Hoops snapped up the 21-year-old on transfer deadline day just weeks after he had signed for the former Premier League champions from Dynamo Zagreb.
Brendan Rodgers is hoping to be allowed to call on the Croatian Under 21 international for the whole season.
However, Benkovic has revealed he could head south to England in January if Leicester want him back.
But he’s determined to make an impact at Parkhead.
He said: “I was at Leicester for three weeks and it was great. The price tag was nothing to do with me.
“But I didn’t want to spend all season on the bench so I spoke to the manager and told him how much I respect the club, but I want to improve and the only way to do that is to get games.
“I’m young, I need the minutes on the park and the manager agreed with me.
“I want to play as much as possible, so a season-long loan with Celtic was agreed and Leicester has the option of recalling me in the winter.
“There were other loan options – clubs in Italy, Spain and Germany, but I just wanted to go to Celtic.
“I think this is the best option for me for preparing for football in England and their Premier League – that’s why I am delighted to go to Celtic.
“Because Leicester didn’t sell Harry Maguire, I knew this would be what happened to me. Going to Celtic gives me up to a year to adapt to British football so I am looking at this loan very positively.”
And Benkovic insisted he is full of admiration for Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers.
He said: “Brendan Rodgers is a very big name in football. We had a discussion and I am delighted to be working with such a football expert.
“He told me he’s been following my career for a while and it’s great to work with him.
“Celtic are still one of the great names in European football and they have a massive fan base.
“The stadium is always full and they have supporters all over the world. For their fans, Celtic is a way of life. It’s a privilege to be here.
“I think this is a great stage for me. My goal is not to be sitting in the stands, I want to play and I think this was a good decision for me to come here.”
And Benkovic is looking forward to teaming up with an old friend.
He said: “I already know Jozo Simunovic – we played a couple of games together at Dynamo Zagreb.
“I only just broke through into the first team and he was already there.
“I have obviously spoken a lot with him to find out about Celtic.
“Unfortunately, he has an injury just now, but he should be back shortly.
“Who knows? Hopefully, we may have two Croats in the centre of the Celtic defence soon.”
‘I am a Merry Plough Bhoy’ – Benkovic sets Leipzig target for Celtic
https://thecelticstar.com/i-am-a-merry-plough-bhoy-benkovic-sets-leipzig-target-for-celtic/Oct 2018FILIP BENKOVIC fancies himself as a farmer after being inspired by the Scottish countryside that he drives through every morning on his way to Celtic’s training ground at Lennoxtown.
The on loan Croatian defender arrived in Glasgow from his new club Leicester City for a season long loan deal just before the summer transfer window closed and has made a big impression in the games that he has played in.
He was delighted after Celtic’s 4-2 win against Hibs on Saturday and even led a KT style post match celebration in front of the standing section. Yesterday he spoke to the press ahead of Celtic trip to Germany to play RB Leipzig – where Marvin Compper has also got himself some rather controversial media coverage this morning – see HERE.
Getting back to a player who earns his wages, Benkovic gave this rather unusual insight into his own life plans. Here’s what he had to say to the media yesterday.
“I like living in Glasgow because it’s very similar to life in Zagreb,” he began.
“Everything is moving fast. For young people it’s very good — but I don’t have time for all of this!
“What I do like is that on my drive to training I see a lot of farms on the journey.
“Who knows what will happen at the end of my career. Maybe one day I can open my own farm. I have been thinking about that because my family have worked in the countryside.
“I come from Zagreb, but my grandparents come from outside the city. My father grew up in a small village. Sometimes I used to help my grandparents on a farm — but now I’m too busy with my football.
“I don’t know what my team-mates will think about this. I don’t know what Scott Brown will think. Maybe we can get together in this idea for a farm!”
All rather bizarre from the player that Celtic have long admired but when Leicester offered £13.5m it was too rich for the Scottish Champions. A loan deal was the next best option though, as Benkovic explained.
“I knew Celtic had been watching me for a while, and I was happy about that.
“When this loan move was mentioned, I wanted to come. When a club as big as Celtic is interested in you it can only mean you are doing the right things.
“Now I’m finally here I am so proud, and grateful to Celtic for giving me the chance to play here.
“I have settled in very well. The whole squad has accepted me and I am really happy to be here.
“I was in a hotel at first but now I have an apartment, which is much easier for me. My team-mates have assisted me and I thank them for that — Jozo Simunovic has been a big help since my first day.”
Benkovic has started to build a decent on the field partnership with Derrick Boyata, who is also at Celtic for this season before making a move to a richer league. We all know that particular story so we can hopefully enjoy having two high quality central defenders in the team for the moment anyway.
The Leicester City man is happy to watch, listen and learn from the Belgium World Cup star.
“Dedryck plays for the Belgian national team, which shows his quality. Every day in training, I watch his moves and I’ve learned a lot just from that. I file away everything I learn from him in my head.
“Dedryck also gives me advice, just like Jozo and the other players, which is positive.
“Celtic have a good mix of young and experienced players in central defensive positions.
“That means the younger ones like myself have very good energy, while the older professionals bring their knowledge.
“We can have a good season together but it will not be easy.
“There are a lot of good teams so we must work hard every day, we can’t relax in any game, we must push hard all the time.”
Looking ahead to Thursday night in what is expected to be a very tough shift for Celtic, Benkovic is nevertheless optimistic that the defence can hold firm as he targets a clean sheet. He revels in playing European football and wants to get more experience at that level while at Celtic.
“The biggest game I played was against Sevilla or Lyon. I felt good in these games.
“The match I liked most was a 1-0 defeat to Lyon in Zagreb. Yet it’s still a good memory.
“We played very well and games like that can only give you more experience. This is the level I want to get to one day. I was up against Alexandre Lacazette that night against Lyon, it was very hard.
“European football is top for me. These games against teams like Leipzig are special because the players are all playing for their national teams.
“It’s a challenge for us to see where we are, and to try and be competitive.
“We want to compete and to show that to everyone.
“Leipzig played very good football last year, even Bayern Munich could not say it was a certain three points because of the level Leipzig have reached.
“But we can’t go there to give up. We must fight for the 90 minutes and try to get some points.
“It could be our toughest game. But we have one clean sheet against Rosenborg already, why not another?”