|S | Player Pics | A-Z of Players|
Fullname: Jozo Šimunović
aka: Jozo Simunovic
Born: 4 Aug 1994
Birthplace: Zagreb, Croatia
Signed: 1 Sep 2015 (from Dynamo Zagreb est £3m)
Left: 30 May 2020 (freed)
Debut: Ajax 2-2 Celtic, UEFA Cup, 17 Sep 2015
Squad No.: 5
Internationals: ? [which international team played for]
International Caps: ? [complete at end of career]
International Goals: ? [complete at end of career]
This turned out to be one player who could have had the most curious and brief careers at Celtic. Arriving as a work in prospect, he was a young man with a future ahead of him. Good reports and captain of some Croatian national youth sides, including the Under 21s and progressing up the ladder, he was slowly building his career.
Arriving at Celtic in September 2015, he came on to play in a number of matches at a demoralised Celtic, papped out the Champions League and not convincing at home. His debut was a 2-2 draw with Ajax in the Europa League, marked by defensive calamities something that was to be too common that season. Simunovic ended up playing in only four games for Celtic out of 18 in which Celtic kept clean sheets. The defence and the coaching under Deila was out of sorts.
He managed to grab a goal v Dundee Utd in a 4-1 win which was something to savour.
Two major issues. He had arrived at Celtic during the collapse of the Ronny Deila managerial reign, and then he spent much of his duration at Celtic on the medic’s table so missed much of the 2015-16 season after only a few months of play. In fairness, he made it clear he was not going to play through the pain barrier, which was sensible when it was not needed.
Yet this didn’t dissuade foreign admirers, and to the surprise of everyone he was a target for Torino. Next thing you know, just as Celtic had qualified for the Champions League Group stages under Rodgers at a revitalised Celtic, he was gone.
As Celtic still seemed to have defensive frailties, he’d have found chances to come with something to play for. So was he leaving prematurely or were Celtic letting go of him too fast? There were other youngsters around, like O’Connell, but he was ahead in the queue.
Anyhow, before anyone (apart from the medics) had really got to know him, he was almost gone. A large bid came in from Torino, but then all didn’t come to finalise.
Brendan Rodgers Era
He remained at Celtic and went on to be a mostly solid defender highly required in a squad seemingly to struggle with centre halves. Sviatchenko was not convincing and was deemed to not be the long term solution (and was soon moved on despite being popular), so Boyata with Simunovic were the preferred answer.
The three years under Brendan Rodgers was to be a golden period for Celtic, winning nine trophies in a row, and remaining undefeated domestically in one season. It was incredible, and he was most often a regular in this period so deserves respect for his role, but injuries often curtailed his involvement.
First season under Rodger was really frustrating as he was in & out due to injuries, and was the norm at Celtic at this time; the next central defender out of the side & to return from injury is perceived as the best of the lot. It stymied his development.
In season 2017-18, the central pair with Simunovic were doing fine domestically but then it all started to fray. Simunovic started to make clumsy errors and really it wasn’t clear what as wrong. He was sent off clumsily v Sevco in Apr 2018 for a mild contact on Morales (who was a bit melodramatic) but it was an elbow (albeit unintentional & mild) to the face, and he was off. The match was at 2-2 at that point but he as lucky that actually going down to ten men restructured the firs team who went onto incredibly win 3-2! So strangely, probably his biggest error led to a great victory for Celtic.
A legal & fair sliding tackle that sent ex-Celt Kenny Miller flying, but won the ball, in a victory over Sevco was regularly posted & reviewed. On a football front, it was a brilliantly timed tackle that cleanly won the ball and showed his ability; on other fronts it was a major notch on the post for the Celtic fans against Sevco. The ‘Sevco TV’ commentary on this moment was very funny for Celtic fans.
Youngster Ajer was to finally make a name for himself, and provide needed competition, this ended up relegating Simunovic to the bench, but not that all were convinced of Boyata either. However, Rodgers was very public with his intention of awarding players for effort and hard work in training, and Boyata fitted that bill.
Was his problem a misplaced arrogance with an easy oasey style of play? Concentration and hard work was required. Was his heart & mind elsewhere? Seemed to be a pattern as his international dithering of which nation to play with was anything to show.
Simunovic definitely had the talent to make it big, but application is key. He was fast, a good headerer of the ball and could tackle. Maybe he just needed further support or a push.
Injuries didn’t help his form but really his biggest problem was probably in his head. He had the talent to build on but did he want to do it at Celtic? Where was his mind really?
It was a curious contrast. Boyata & Simunovic were both centre halves but whilst Boyata was clumsy he was hard working, whilst Simunovic was skilled but often lacking. He had to pick up his act for his own good, with various supporters criticising his number of free kicks conceded.
Once Benkovic was brought in on loan for a season, it seemed to give all in the defence a kick. Benkovic’s injury though meant that it gave Simunovic a chance again in the first team.
In truth, the central defence was quite poor under Brendan Rodgers who had a history of not knowing how to manage defences. This didn’t help matters, and the defence was repeatedly criticised. Still there was some belief in Simunovic, and he was a regular.
The problem was whether he had fully developed over these three years, possibly not to the level he should have been at but partly again that was the fault of the coaches as much as that of injuries & Simunovic himself. Whilst many had improved greatly under Rodgers, Simunovic was curiously the exception, almost as if he was standing still. The support wasn’t on his back, but more was expected, but it was clear he was happy at Celtic. Never any bad words to the press or any moaning on the pitch, he was in that sense very professional.
Despite any concerns, he was to experience one of the most golden moments at Celtic in its history . In April 2019, Celtic great Billy McNeill died, and it was a very emotional time. Simunovic (as the no.5 shirt holder & central defender like Billy McNeill) in his honour vowed to score a goal in the next match. Out of nowhere, like as if from a fairytale, he scored the winner with a Billy McNeill-esque header in the 67th minute; it was as if it was all feted to happen. It was a miracle, and incredible moment. Simunovic was the a major hero for this incredible moment, finishing 1-0 v Kilmarnock at home (27 Apr 2019). It was an emotional moment for all.
Neil Lennon Era (from 2019)
With Neil Lennon having taken over in 2019 from the prematurely departing Brendan Rodgers, Simunovic had to prove himself again, but this time he had done his apprenticeship and had show his worth. Boyata had left Celtic now, so Simunovic had to fill the void and show he was the main but but the arrival of Julien and the burgeoning talent of Ajer meant there was tough competition. As ever the defence was a major concern in what was an otherwise well regarded squad at Celtic.
He ended up injured early in season 2019/20, the vital season to help seal nine-league titles a row. He was to be out until the early new year. He was pushed back into the first team, and generally settled in fine but had a disastrous performance in the Europa League in the 3-1 defeat to Copenhagen. He was at fault for the first goal in particular, and the critics were out in force. It was to be his last match for Celtic.
COVID-19 soon hit globally in March 2020, and all football was suspended. Surprisingly Simunovic was freed on 30 May 2020 in the first wave of players to be cut in the wake of the financial hit from the COVID-19 impact. Many would say that he never fulfilled his potential, but certainly had his moments that endeared him to the fans. Squad trimming, cost cutting and spending the club’s funds more frugally than ever before was now key in these difficult uncertain times.
Jozo Simunovic will be best remembered for that glorious goal in honour of Billy McNeill and even more for the glorious tackle on Sevco’s Kenny Miller that is oft-repeated. He played a good part in the golden era sealing the trebles, and for that he should be very fondly remembered despite not admittedly convincing everyone.
We wish him the best.
He struggled to find a new club (in part due to injuries & covid situation), but after 18 months Celtic Jozo Simunovic signed for Croatian side HNK Gorica, which all were happy to see. Irony is that many were wishing after the disastrous 2020/21 season that he could have been retained and might have been better than some of the defenders that Celtic use through the season.
|APPEARANCES||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||TOTAL|
|2019-20||6 (0)||0 (1)||0 (0)||8 (1)||14 (2)|
Honours with Celtic
Celtic goalscorer Jozo Simunovic: I believe I’m blessed
Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic hands his shirt over to Liz McNeill, wife of Billy, at the end of the match. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson
Published: 17:52 Saturday 27 April 2019
There were inescapable and powerful feelings exuded by Jozo Simunovic that his match-winning contribution in the 1-0 win over Kilmarnock that places the club on the threshold of title success, and the circumstances in which it came about, were all pre-ordained.
The Croatian centre-back said the “favourite moment” of his Celtic career, and one that will remain with the 24-year-old all his days, he considered was set from when the team bus drove up the Celtic way and witnessed the shrine to Billy McNeill that had engulfed the statue to Celtic’s ultimate No.5, and the captain of the 1967 European Cup-winning side, since his death on Monday night. What followed on a day of celebration for the life of McNeill was no mere coincidence, Simunovic claimed.
“I was surprised on the bus before the game when I saw so many fans. I couldn’t have imagined something like that,” he said. “That gave me an impulse to give even more in this game. I believed it would be a special day for me because of the number five. For everyone, it meant a lot but for me it was special.
“The manager spoke to us about Billy before the game to help inspire us. Everyone knows how big a name he is at this club and the impact he had on Celtic. He was a leader, an amazing guy. Before the game we had a meeting where the manager said a few things about him. That motivated us even more.
“Some people will say that I’m lucky to score with the number five on 67 minutes. But I say I’m blessed. I believe in that.”
That the clock was showing 67 minutes when he netted his header was something that Simunovic, who pointed to the skies, was not immediately aware of. “First, when I scored, I didn’t even watch on screen,” explained the defender. “I had something on my mind and I’m going to keep that for myself, what I said. But, when they start with the ball from half pitch, I turned around and thought ‘you know, maybe it’s that minute’. And it actually was it. It made me even happier.”
Even after the game, there was a moment to treasure when Simunovic gave his No.5 shirt to the McNeill family.
“Trophies are also special, but for me this is something else,” the player said. “In having a chat with Billy’s family after [and giving the shirt] that gave me even more reasons to remember all of this.”
JOZO EXPLAINS CELTIC EXIT
By CQN Magazine on 18th December 2020 Latest News
JOZO SIMUNOVIC reckons his Celtic career was wrecked due to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Croatian defender insists the champions were poised to extend his contract in the summer before being forced to withdraw the offer.
Simunovic left the club after five years in June and is still looking for a new team six months later.
The injury-prone 26-year-old centre-back, who is currently training with his hometown club in Zagreb, admitted he was surprised to be allowed to leave the club he joined in August 2015.
Simunovic, speaking to the Glasgow Times, said: “It was settled that Celtic were going to extend the contract with me and, just a few days before they needed to let me know that they were going to extend the deal, I got the phone call and a letter saying that they are very sorry, but due to the situation with Covid they were stopping it.”
The ball-playing back-four operator, who played in the Hoops’ 2-1 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Hearts on May 25 last year to seal the unprecedented treble treble, has been linked with several clubs since leaving Glasgow.
AC MIlan, who beat Neil Lennon’s men home and away in their recent Europa League Group H encounters, were reported to be interested, but nothing came of the speculation. Turkish outfit Goztepe are the latest club rumoured to be signing the player, but there appears to be no basis to the stories.
Frustrated Simunovic said: “There have been some talks with two or three clubs, but never to the end. Everything was okay and then we wait and wait. But nothing happened at the point when we needed to do something and get to the final point.
“That was just with two or three clubs and there is a lot of talk about other clubs, but I do not know who throws the names out there and where they get your details.”
Simunovic missed a chunk of his last season at the champions after undergoing knee surgery, an injury which has led to questions about his long-term fitness.
He commented: “That is nothing new, as all the time with me there was that cross with the injuries and everything. I understand some clubs that could not get me to sign that they put out this, but it was not true and I expect in the future that if I have talks with a club and we do not do a deal to the end then they can blame the injury because in all my years at Celtic, that was my biggest cross.
“Every time if I was not in the team or on the bench, I knew they would blame my knee. I now have to live with that and for me it is no problem.”
During his time with the Hoops, he lifted five league titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups and Simunovic added: “I had amazing memories there because I won everything that is possible.
“I have many more good memories than bad with Celtic. I cannot moan now about my contract finishing and not being extending there, I need to focus on better things, on the great things I did with the club when I was there with my team-mates – the many trophies, many finals, many derbies and the testimonials, playing in honour of club legends.”