Marin Pongracic will add a winning mentality and European experience to Wolfsburg’s already resilient backline. - © Antonietta Baldassarre / Insidefoto via images/Insidefoto
Marin Pongracic will add a winning mentality and European experience to Wolfsburg’s already resilient backline. - © Antonietta Baldassarre / Insidefoto via images/Insidefoto

Marin Pongracic: Who is Wolfsburg’s Croatia U21 international?

Wolfsburg may already have the joint-meanest defence in the Bundesliga this season, but that has not stopped them strengthening their backline with the signing of Marin Pongracic from Red Bull Salzburg.

Allow to bring you up to speed on the latest member of the Wolf pack...

Marin Pongracic

Age: 22
Club: Wolfsburg
Position: Centre-back
Country: Croatia (3 U21 caps)

Key stats

Born in the Bavarian town of Landshut, Pongracic holds dual German and Croatian citizenship. Spotted by Bayern Munich at an early age, he cut his teeth in the record Bundesliga champions’ youth academy before being lured to regional neighbours Ingolstadt at the age of 16 in 2013. He made 38 appearances at U17 and U19 level for the club, but the promise of professional football back in Munich – albeit with city rivals 1860 – proved too strong to resist three years later.

After establishing himself in the Lions’ reserve team in 2016/17, Pongracic made his senior debut in Bundesliga 2 in April 2017, featuring seven times for the first team in their ultimately unsuccessful bid to avoid relegation. Nevertheless, those games provided Salzburg with ample evidence of his talents and they snapped up the 6’3” (1.90m) defender in summer 2017 on a four-year deal.

There he worked under current Borussia Mönchengladbach boss Marco Rose and former RB Leipzig assistant coach Jesse Marsch, making 56 appearances in all competitions for Salzburg, including one in the UEFA Champions League and nine in the Europa League. Pongracic, who made his debut for the Croatia U21s in August 2017, helped the club to the Austrian league title in 2018 and a league and cup double the following year.

Plays a bit like: Mats Hummels

Like the Borussia Dortmund stalwart, Pongracic appears to glide effortlessly across the pitch. Excellent at anticipating and intercepting passes forward, one of his greatest strengths is his ability to bring the ball out from the back. Never one to simply hoof it clear, Pongracic – like Hummels – can instigate attacks from deep, mixing clever passes on the ground with laser-guided long balls into a teammate’s path.

As comfortable breaking up attacks as he is at starting them, Pongracic’s ability on the ball was one of the reasons Wolfsburg signed him. - GEPA pictures/ Mathias Mandl via images/GEPA pictures

Did you know?

Although the surroundings in Wolfsburg are new to him, there are nevertheless a couple of familiar faces for the Wolves' new No.22 at the Volkswagen Arena. He was a teammate of Xaver Schlager’s at Salzburg between 2017 and 2019, and has also played alongside Josip Brekalo twice in the Croatia U21s, winning one and drawing the other.

What they’re saying

“He’s quick and good at building play from the back. Despite his young age, he has also gained considerable experience at both domestic and European level during his time at Salzburg.” – Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schäfer 

“The two-and-a-half years with him were an exciting time, in which he continually showed his great potential.” – Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund

“I’m looking forward to the new challenge in the Bundesliga. VfL Wolfsburg are an ambitious club with high expectations, with whom I want to take the next step in my career.” - Pongracic