Josip Juranovic got his big footballing break by being a midfield teacher.
And Goran Vucevic reckons his old charge offers an ideal solution to Ange Postecoglou’s Old Firm engine-room conundrum.
The Celtic boss again has to find the right formula for Wednesday night’s night’s clash with Rangers as he deals with a list of absentees. Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Yosuke Ideguchi have all missed out recently through injury and Nir Bitton is banned.
With Tom Rogic expected to play for Australia today, Postecoglou’s midfield options are limited.
New signings Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley look booked for starts and the manager also has James McCarthy available to slot into a holding role. The 31-year-old has started just six games since signing in August but has big-game experience and appears a natural fit.
Vucevic, however, believes there is another ready-made option at the disposal of Postecoglou. The former Barcelona ace, who was signed by Johan Cruyff, was working as sporting director at Hajduk Split when he scouted Juranovic pulling the midfield strings for first club Dubrava.
Vucevic’s attentions were caught by the Celtic star’s abilities in the role and he says going back there for an Old Firm game would pose the multi-skilled player no issue. He said: “Josip from the beginning was a midfield player. He played amazing in that position and for me he can do an excellent job.
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“I’m sure of it. It would not be a problem for him as he is so clever in the head with his football that he can do almost any job and the other thing about him is his character.
“Josip is so positive in his mindset. A lot of coaches like him for this reason because he does not have any problems doing different jobs that any coach asks of him.
“When I signed Josip he was playing for a club called Dubrava. I went to see him and from the very first moment he was a different player from the rest of the guys who were on the pitch.
“He was a midfield player at that time, not a right-back like he is at the moment. He was so good in the middle of the pitch. He was different from the rest because he had a lot of power but also had very good technical ability.
“It was immediate that he was very professional as a footballer and also the character of him was excellent.
“He was able to settle into us very quickly no problem because of that character and nothing has changed with him in that respect.”
Juranovic has found a new regular position as his career has ascended.
After his initial days at Hajduk, experienced boss Damir Buric saw qualities that would make the player an asset to the side at right-back.
Juranovic shone in Split to book a transfer to Legia Warsaw and then moved on to Parkhead after just one full season in Poland.
He is also now first pick for his national team in the position and will head to the World Cup in Qatar at the end of this year. But he has already shown his versatility for Postecoglou.
Juranovic operated from left-back during the early weeks of his Parkhead career and was also used as an attacking right-sided option during Celtic’s pre-Christmas schedule.
Vucevic added: “Of course it is always better for the player to feature in the position that is absolutely best for him.
“After some time we prepared him to be a right-back because coach Damir Buric was very good.
“He had the idea to place him at right-back and every day Josip just became better and better in that role.
“For that reason, he now plays there for the Croatia national team. But he can play three or four positions and one of them is a midfielder, for sure.”
Juranovic has mobility to get around the pitch, lightning recovery pace to get back and help central defenders and also a passing range that saw him pick out two game-changing balls in the narrow victory over Dundee United last weekend.
The first put Jota away to set up a chance that Giorgos Giakoumakis missed. The second and simpler pass released the Portuguese to cross for Liel Abada to score a winner.
Vucevic insists Juranovic would be ready and said: “In each training session, he would offer 100 per cent to the group and it would be the same for the matches.
“Sometimes he had some slight injuries or problems with fitness but even when he did, he would always say that he wanted to play. That’s what I mean about an excellent character.
“I would say he has now played for around six coaches and each one of them likes him because he is that type of guy that a manager wants to have.
“The one who will play everywhere, the one who will play when he’s not 100 per cent fit, the one who will keep running until the 90th minute.
“Josip offers everything and it is for these reasons that today he is a player of the national team and Celtic. It is because the work that he does is so good.”