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Scout Report

Scout Report | Damjan Bohar: Maribor & Slovenia’s lightning fast winger

The essence of ‘scouting’ is to unearth a complete unknown talent from the usually obscure regions of the footballsphere. Slovenia may not be the greatest footballing nation, but Maribor is flying the flag high and Damjan Bohar may well be that talent that everyone remebers. Miran Zore has this Scout Report on him.

Maribor placed Slovenia on Europe’s elite football map once again. The smallest club in this year’s Champions League edition is preparing to fight the elite clubs as an underdog. Champions League football is a lifetime opportunity for the Slovenes, especially for the in-form winger Damjan Bohar, one of Maribor’s biggest prospects.

It wasn’t only a big surprise, it was a true sensation in Celtic’s supporters eyes when they eyewitnessed Maribor’s triumpf in the Champions League play-offs. Marcos Tavares, Brazilian forward and team captain, was Maribor’s number one hero at Celtic Park when he scored a winner in the 74th minute. His goal was enough (aggregate score: 2-1) to secure Maribor only his second Champions League season in club history and first one after 1999.

Damjan Bohar Maribor 2014

Tavares scored the decider is Glasgow, but it was his younger teammate Damjan Bohar who prepared the terrain for Brazilian’s glorious moment. It happened in the first game in Maribor where Celtic pressed hard in the first half and managed to score very early. Callum McGregor kicked the ball in the net after Jasmin Handanović blocked Jo Inge Berget’s shot. Celtic’s early lead spoiled Maribor’s plans but the joy lasted only eight minutes. Željko Filipović passed a deep ball from the centre of the field and at the same time Damjan Bohar fired himself towards Celtic’s goal, collected the ball and equalised. Celtic never recovered from Bohar’s goal and the game finished 1-1.

It was Bohar’s biggest match in his career. Maribor’s coach Ante Šimundža sacrificed him for the reverse match in Glasgow, where he switched formations (from 4-2-3-1 to a bit more careful 4-4-2). Bohar got his chance in 83th minute, nine minutes after Tavares’s goal. He was brought in to hold the ball, to kill time and to seek quick counter attacks if possible. Bohar did what Šimundža requested, but the spotlight was reserved for Tavares that evening.

Only a week after Maribor’s historic success Bohar received more good news. Slovenia’s national team coach Srečko Katanec picked him in the team for Slovenia’s opener in the Euro 2016 qualifications versus Estonia. “Bohar played some great games and scored some important goals” Katanec acknowledging Bohar’s rapid evolution. The youngster is now, with Champions League ticket in his pocket, en route to stardom with a national team call-up secured.

As a child i always rooted for Slovenia, I wore a scarf and a jersey and now, only a few years later, I am part of this team. I can’t describe my feeling right now. This is a very nice reward for my efforts through the years”, Bohar said after an excellent start of the new season.

Who is Damjan Bohar?

Damjan Bohar won his first football trophy with his local club Križevci when he was only six years old. Short, but already very talented, he stood out and showed enough football skills to advance to a bigger club. Regional giant Mura, supported by a once large textile company from Murska Sobota (Prekmurje region), was an obvious choice and it was there where young Bohar played, learned and progressed. In 2004, after economic downturn in the region, Mura collapsed and a year later new club Mura 05 was established. Tighter budget banished the best players and ambitions elsewhere, but some younger players grabbed the opportunity.

Damjan Bohar was one such youngster who benefited from this, his debut coming when Mura was in the second division. After club’s promotion to the first division, the 19 year old Bohar immediately impressed. He scored in his first top division match versus Koper, finishing the 2011/2012 season with 35 appearances and 5 goals and the next one with 33 appearances and 9 goals. That was enough for Maribor, Slovenia’s biggest and most successfull club; they couldn’t afford the risk of losing such a talent. Zlatko Zahović, Maribor’s visionary sporting director, signed Bohar in January 2013, with the player joining in July, after his contract with Mura expired.

Maribor was a big step forward for the young lad, there was a lot to prove and there weren’t many who believed Bohar had what it takes to play for domestic titles and Europa League or Champions League qualification. His first season at Ljudski vrt stadium was a tough one as Bohar was fighting for playing time. But he broke into the team after Ante Čačić was replaced by Bohar’s ex coach at Mura, Ante Šimundža (Maribor’s legend) and played regularly even in the Europa League. Maribor lost only to a later winner against eventual champions, Sevilla, in the last 16 with Bohar in the team, home and away. Domestic season was a successful one for club and player, as he won his first domestic title. He finished the season with 36 matches and 7 goals under his belt.

Style, Strengths and Weakness

This season Maribor switched tactics. Ante Šimundža transformed his standard 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, playing wide with both wingers. Bohar was a left midfielder in the 4-4-2, but benefited the most from the change, as now his speed, ability to change directions of movement can be, playing as a left winger, expressed. Bohar, being only 5ft 6inch, also has good ball control, soft first touch and good technique. But most of all Bohar is a tireless and quiet worker and as such a very popular choice for every coach. Bohar already proved that he can provide what needed and is now a firm fan-favorite.

Being very fast Bohar is constantly pushing forward on the left wing and pressing the opponents very high. With the ball at his feet he is searching for wide space to exploit his pace and cut inside, but is avoiding one on one situations if possible. Physical strength, he weighs only 150 pounds, and is definitely not his strong side and that is the reason for his absence from the team, which seeked a 0-0 draw in Glasgow. The only complaints Bohar is getting in Maribor are related to his soft play in defense, where even slower but stronger opponents can overrun him, and to not shooting from long range when possible.

When Bohar came to Maribor in 2013, he brought his talent and creativity with him. But he lacked one thing: a proper finish and this is the area of his game in which he is working intensively. The results are already there, he now combines his forward runs and passes with a good finish. Bohar scored a goal in the third round of Champions League qualifications versus Maccabi Tel Aviv, he scored versus Zavrč in the League and in the first leg of Champions League play-offs versus Celtic.

Maribor is by far the smallest club in the Champions League, so the team’s biggest asset in this year’s tournament will definitely be a strong collective spirit. It is a common and urgent thing for small and poorer sides who try to mix among the elite. But every team has its stars, even Maribor. Inside Maribor’s compact team Bohar is one of the players who could take advantage of the underdog status, and surprise the international football auditorium. He is a practically unknown player, but in Maribor’s fans eyes already a star in the making. Talented, motivated and for his young age already proven, Bohar now has an opportunity of a lifetime.

The biggest games of his career are just in front of him and Bohar, now a national team player too, already put his brave face on.  “My telephone is not ringing at all. I am calm, I don’t expect and don’t want to move, especially not know when we are playing in the Champions League. My time will come. I can’t wait for the Champions League to start”, Bohar was quoted on the transfer deadline day.

Expert Talk

Here’s what Klemen Kos, Slovenian football journalist and founder of leading Slovenian football website Nogomania told us about Damjan Bohar. Follow them on Twitter @Nogomania.

Bohar is a sublime attacking midfielder who operates almost equally well playing wide or behind the main striker. Due to Slovenia’s lack of creative and inspirational wingers and offensive midfielders he posesses potential to prove his worth in the national team as he managed to do in his club. Consistency, average set piece abilities and perhaps the notion, that he was never a leader-type of player, possibly prevent him from making an outstanding career, however Champions League group phase could turn out to be as vital for his career as goals against Maccabi and Celtic turned out to be. Definitely a player who deserves a special eye during Maribor’s upcoming Champions League adventure.

Written by Miran Zore

You can read all our Scout Reports here. 

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