Never so much in goal: now Brekalo is the extra weapon of Juric’s Bull

The attacking midfielder is also decisive in front of goal: he has already signed three goals (on Matchday 13 you never did better) and is now untouchable

Failed middle distance runner, playmaker in the name of his father. Athletics was little Josip’s first love, and in Croatia they say that even on the track he had talent to spare. “He would have had a bright future as a runner if he hadn’t become a footballer,” said Slavko Petrovic, one of his earliest coaches as a child. Then, one day, on a pitch near his home in Zagreb, the current Torino star Josip Brekalo started stroking the ball with his left-handed and never stopped doing it. There was a circle to close, there was an unfinished destiny in the family that he felt he had to fulfill: because father Ante’s talent had been stolen too soon on a battlefield, when the conflicts of the Nineties broke out that they shattered the fragile balance between the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Dad Ante is Bosnian, raised in Bosanska Posavina, and had already begun to pursue the dream of becoming a footballer in the Bosnian youth national teams. At the age of 21, the call for the front arrives, from which he returns home injured and with that dream swept away forever. “His great talent lives through us children as if he too managed to become an important footballer”, remembers Josip often.

The father in Rome

The Brekalos are a family of sportsmen. Bosnian mom and dad, the five Croatian children, all born in Zagreb. One of his three sisters is an athletics technician. His brother Filip is also a footballer: left-back profession, with a marked offensive propensity, he is nineteen and is growing visibly in the B team of Dinamo Zagreb. Fourteen appearances and a goal in Croatian Serie B so far, a crazy similarity in the face with Josip: they are two drops of water. Physically, however, it is quite another thing: Josip is one hundred and seventy-five centimeters of pure technique, Filip is taller. And for him mobile phones are already starting to ring even from Italy. At home, in Croatia, they haven’t missed a Josip match since wearing the grenade because “in the family football has always been our priority: not a day goes by without it being the number one topic”, is still the story of Josip. Dad Ante is bursting with pride for his children, in recent months he is seeing the talent of his eldest son Josip explode and on Sunday he will first be in Rome to enjoy it live, then he will land in Turin for the home match against Empoli on 2 December, an evening in which the club will celebrate 115 years of history. Josip’s class had already shown itself crystal clear on the night of his Serie A debut, anticipated by flattering reports from Germany: this is the story of 17 September, Toro goes to Mapei at Sassuolo. Brekalo does not score, he signs the decisive assist for his long-time friend Pjaca. But it enchants with a wide and quality repertoire, leaving everyone speechless.

Starting to scream

It was no coincidence, it did not remain an isolated performance. And it could not be for this playmaker friend of Modric, with already 30 caps for the national team, bought for 7 million by Wolfsburg when he was not yet eighteen. It was the sunset of the 2014-15 season, Josip played eight games in that Dinamo Zagreb which lined up Pjaca, Dani Olmo, Brozovic, Coric. Since that Emilian evening in September, Brekalo has become the superior intelligence of Toro, the man Juric never gave up: eight appearances, 665 minutes on the pitch, in practice always net of the two matches missed due to injury (Sampdoria and Spezia) and of the first two days of Serie A when he was not yet at Toro, because Vagnati managed to snatch him from a thick European competition on the last day of the market. Since then he has also begun to score: three goals, the first in Venice, the other two at home to Genoa and the last jewel to Udinese. He is the most prolific striker available to Ivan Juric today, but above all he has signed his best league start in his career. Never had he been so central, so protagonist, scoring even three goals after thirteen games. In the previous two seasons at Wolfsburg after thirteen games he had managed to hit the target twice, and he was certainly not considered an essential pawn as he is today in the Toro project.

That promise

In Turin he lives in the center with his wife Dominika and family. They love the pre-hill areas, they fell in love with the city. His agent, Ismet Dizdarevic, revealed how “they are very happy in Turin”. Josip is studying Italian: in the interviews he still expresses himself in English, but he understands very well Juric who prefers to explain the exercises at the Filadelfia in Italian. He is experiencing a “magic moment”, as he explained after the stupendous goal to Udinese: “Yes, the goal was a magic moment, the result of a pattern tried in training: Belotti was good at giving me that ball, I have kicked before … “. On 13 September, on the day of the presentation, he made clear his intentions: “What I want to do here at Toro is to create opportunities, make assists and score goals so that the season is positive for all of us.” Josip is also a man of speech.

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Never so much in goal: now Brekalo is the extra weapon of Juric’s Bull

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