He’s the man whose goals effectively won Eintracht Frankfurt’s first piece of silverware for 30 years, but what else do you know about Ante Rebic?
bundesliga.com shines a light on an Eagles hero-for-life, whose stunning goal for Croatia against Argentina in FIFA World Cup Group D wrote him into his nation's history books.
“When he came to us in the summer, a few people smiled. But you can see that when he delivers what he’s capable of, he plays like he did today,” said head coach Niko Kovac. This was back in February 2017 after Rebic had shone in a 2-0 win over derby rivals Darmstadt that kept the Eagles on course for a top-six finish.
Since then, Rebic has performed consistently well for Kovac, scoring nine goals and assisting three in all competitions in 2017/18. Yet it is his impact on the big games, against the top teams, that underlines his true potential (as also evidenced with his stunning finish against Lionel Messi's Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup). Against Bayern, Rebic scored in the DFB Cup final for the second season running, and once again it was remarkable just how composed he looked amid such high stakes.
In the 2017 final against Borussia Dortmund, he collected a pass with a perfect first touch and finished stylishly past the goalkeeper with his second; against Bayern, he did the same thing for each goal, his first touch, while running at full speed, taking him away from the defenders and his second finding the back of the net.
Strong, powerful and clinical, he is the perfect player for a counter-attacking side like Frankfurt, and while his usual position of being a wide forward means he may not be as prolific as other attackers, he recognises the importance of tracking back. He covered every blade of grass during his 89 minutes on the pitch, and that he was picked to start ahead of Sebastien Haller was a stroke of tactical genius by the coach.
Kovac knows all about Rebic having called him into the Croatia squad for the crucial FIFA World Cup play-off against Iceland in 2014. Rebic featured in both matches to help his country reach the finals, but then blotted his copybook somewhat with a red card in the tournament’s group match against Mexico.
He spent two and half years out of the national team fold between June 2015 and November 2017, but has been named in the final squad for the upcoming World Cup in Russia, and it is no more that the 24-year-old deserves.
“I'm really happy to be back in the national team squad,” he said back in November. “It was very emotional, but one thing is clear - I’m not thinking about next summer’s World Cup finals just yet. My main priority is to do well with Eintracht this season. If I do that, everything else will fall into place.”
It has been a remarkable journey for a player whose talent has always been evident but who has sometimes struggled to settle. He made just ten Bundesliga 2 appearances on loan from Fiorentina at RB Leipzig in 2014/15, and was unable to help Hellas Verona avoid relegation to Serie B during a loan spell in the second half of 2015/16.
In Frankfurt, however, Rebic appears to have found home, and thanks to his goals on Saturday, he will always be welcome in Germany’s fifth-largest city. After that goal against Argentina, he has discovered similar adoration in his homeland.