Midfielder | Sturm Graz | Austria
Inspired by the great Zinedine Zidane, midfielder Sandi Lovric is one of the most exciting prospects in his native Austria. A relative fixture of Sturm Graz’s first-team at the age of just 21, the central midfielder boasts an ability to control games in a deep-lying role wise beyond his years.
Starting his career in his hometown of Lienz, Sturm Graz saw fit to bring him to Styria when he was just 14 and Lovric would make his way through the club’s B team before appearing in the Austrian Bundesliga for the first time just over two years ago.
Handed a new deal at the club towards the back end of 2017, the purpose of this review is to examine what 2018 had in store for him.
2018 has been
34 games yielded 20 starts, largely deployed as a defensive midfielder.
From the turn of the year, Lovric was all but a regular in the match day squad as Sturm Graz finished second. Appearing in 14 of the club’s 17 remaining league games, his exploits saw him pick up three yellow cards as he attempted to make that anchorman role his own.
Not a defensive midfielder in the typical sense, more of a controller, Lovric’s steady presence at the base of the engine room ensured Sturm Graz were able to hold off Rapid Wien’s’ challenge to finish behind Red Bull Salzburg. Still, rather disappointingly, Lovric’s first-team appearances didn’t mean he was necessarily a guaranteed starter. During one of his fairly rare starts, Salzburg tanked Graz 2-4 in their own backyard and Lovric only featured in one full game during his club’s longest winning streak of the season, a four-match run.
Indeed, that largely summed up his breakthrough campaign. There was an OFB-Cup win over Salzburg as Lovric picked up his first senior trophy, though he played all 90 minutes just once during the club’s route to the final.
So, more of a bit-part player towards the end of the 2017/18 campaign, it was a big summer for Lovric. Unable to embark on the upward trajectory many set him on following his initial breakthrough enough to force his way into the Austrian national side after their disappointment of not getting to the World Cup, his season started early.
A Champions League qualifier against Ajax ended in early August heartbreak and Sturm Graz even fell out of the Europa League reckoning after a miserable qualifier exit at the hands of AEK Larnaca, though Lovric was becoming more a regular starter.
That trend has continued during the first half of 2018/19.
Appearing in 1,104 minutes already, his newly established importance to the side has also seen him record two assists as Sturm Graz attempt to make the top two again, a spot they currently trail by eight points.
Certainly a player capable of dictating games, his understanding of the game does need to improve before he can truly be considered a starlet of international standing. If Lovric can truly nail down the anchorman role, there’s no reason why he can’t break into the national side.