Leverkusen - Having initially been signed to provide defensive cover, Tin Jedvaj has since gone on to exceed all expectations at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, proving to be one of the summer’s star signings.

Indeed, as well as establishing himself as a reliable first-team regular in the UEFA Champions League participants’ star-studded ensemble, the 18-year-old has even penned his name in the Werkself’s history books after scoring Leverkusen’s landmark 2,000th goal in Germany’s top flight in Matchday 3’s 3-3 draw with SV Werder Bremen.

Völler puts his contacts to good use

The Bayer 04 scouts first came across the talented Jedvaj thanks to a tip-off from sporting director Rudi Völler’s connections in Italy. The club needed a replacement for Real Madrid CF loanee right-back Daniel Carvajal and, with the young Croatian having featured in just two Serie A matches for AS Roma after joining the Giallorossi from GNK Dinamo Zagreb in the summer of 2013 at the age of 17, a long-term loan move to Leverkusen presented itself as a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Jedvaj now has two full seasons with Bayer 04 to further his footballing development, whilst gaining invaluable first-team experience. Thereafter, the Bundesliga heavyweights have first refusal on the youngster, who is under contract with Roma until 2017.

Flexible across the back four

“Tin Jedvaj is a big talent, that we’ve had on our radar for a while now. We hope that he’ll be able to take the next step forward in his career during his time with us. His signing will provide our squad with a useful addition in our defensive department, whilst adding another promising youngster to our ranks,” claimed Völler upon the rising star’s unveiling.

That claim has since proven to be one of the understatements of the season so far, with Jedvaj becoming an integral member of Bayer 04’s defence before going on to make his senior debut with the Croatian national team in a 2-0 friendly win over Cyprus. Not only has he leap-frogged seasoned professionals such as Roberto Hilbert and Giulio Donati in the pecking order, Jedvaj has also demonstrated his versatility, featuring in every position across the back four this season.

Furthermore, the son of a former Bosnian footballer has all the requisite qualities for the pinnacle of his profession. Being technically adept and robust serve him well at the back, while his vision and desire to offer support on the overlap have seen him impress going forward in the nine Bundesliga appearances he’s made thus far in 2014/15.

Strength of character

That’s not say there aren’t facets of his game that still need improving, his lack of experience saw his positioning come into question when he put the ball into the back of his own net against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 2. However, the setback saw Jedvaj demonstrate maturity beyond his years, as evidenced by the equaliser he scored to repair the damage. “My team-mates helped me a lot during half time and told me that I should just keep playing the way I was playing,” explained the 18-year-old.

It’s not just his fellow professionals offering support either. “He’s very well trained in a tactical sense,” praised Bayer 04 head coach recently. “He has a great feel for central positions and knows when he can push forward. He’s incredibly consistent.”

‘Thiago Silva is my idol’

Backwards or sideways passes are rarely seen from the Croatian, who by his own admission has orientated his style of play to fit the model of Brazilian and Spanish defenders. “Thiago Silva is my idol,” admitted the Zagreb native.

Comparisons to others aren’t always welcome, yet there was little he could do about being hailed as the “Croatian Maldini” in his home country. “It’s indeed a great honour for me, but I would rather prove that I’m Jedvaj and not the ‘next’ anyone.”

Tobias Gonscherowski