As Arsenal look for potential midfield reinforcements, their scouts were out in Croatia on Thursday and may well have liked what they saw.
Zlatko Dalic’s team were up against Denmark and won 2-1 to go top of the group. While Manchester United fans got excited about Christian Eriksen’s long-range equaliser, the winning goal came from Lovro Majer, the man Arsenal’s scouts were there to see.
Majer only scored his first international goals in November 2021 but has been making waves since. Here, Mirror Football has taken a closer look at the 24-year-old who has been valued at £44m and compared to compatriot Luka Modric – and not just because they share the same initials.
Born in 1998, Majer was just 18 years old when he made his top-flight and European debuts. He started out at hometown club Lokomotiva Zagreb, making his debut in a Europa League qualifier in August 2016, and was on the bench as his team lost a play-off against a Genk team containing future Premier League stars Wilfred Ndidi, Leon Bailey and Leandro Trossard.
Majer’s first senior goal came a few months later when he registered a goal and two assists as Lokomotiva saw off Slaven Belupo. He ended the season with three goals and 10 assists in the league, a goal involvement every 122 minutes (per FBRef), and helped his team finish fifth.
That return also earned Majer his first senior cap for Croatia, with then-manager Ante Cacic handing him minutes off the bench against Mexico in May 2017. He replaced goalscorer Duje Cop in the 2-1 win but would have to wait another four years for his next senior cap.
England fans have had a chance to see Majer in action in the interim, though. He was part of the Croatia under-21 side which drew 3-3 with the Young Lions at the Euros in 2019 and set up Domagoj Brdaric’s goal against the same opponents in the same competition two years later.
In the meantime, he has been strutting his stuff back at home, scoring 11 goals for Lokomotiva in the 2017-18 season and earning a €2.5m move to Dinamo Zagreb. His form there saw him compared to another ex-Dinamo player, Luka Modric, though it didn’t come immediately.
In Majer’s defence, the competition was fierce at the time. it would have been tough for anyone to get past Dani Olmo at the time, with the playmaker earning senior Spain recognition while in Spain, but Olmo’s departure in 2020 laid the foundations for Majer to really step up.
His performances throughout the 2020-21 campaign helped Dinamo cruise to the title, eight points clear of their nearest challengers. He also impressed in the Europa League, earning an assist as Dinamo stunned Spurs in the last 16 before falling to eventual champions Villarreal in the quarter-finals.
By this point, Majer was closing in on a return to the international fold, coming off the bench in a win against Slovakia which helped keep the 2018 World Cup finalists on course for qualification for this year’s tournament. His first senior goals arrived soon after – two of them in a 7-1 win away to Malta – and Croatia sealed their place in Qatar by pipping Russia to top spot in their group.
The form didn’t go unnoticed, and nor did his versatility. Indeed, upon clinching a deal for Majer worth an initial €12m, Rennes technical director and former France international Florian Maurice pointed to the player’s ability to slot in as an eight or a 10.
“I’m really happy to join Stade Rennais FC. I’ve heard a lot of good things,” Majer said upon joining in August 2021. “It’s a big club with big ambitions.
“It’s a young team but full of talent. [Former Dinamo teammate] Kévin Théophile-Catherine told me nothing but good things about the club. He taught me a few words in French (laughs).
“Stade Rennais FC is progressing, it is very ambitious. I think it’s the perfect place and the right time for me to discover something new after having achieved some very good ones with Dinamo. I’m very motivated by the idea of playing with my new partners and meeting the supporters. I join a very good team.”
He had big shoes to fill in the form of Eduardo Camavinga, but he’s made a strong case already. After five goals last term, he got off the mark for the new campaign against Fenerbahce in the Europa League, and he impressed again in the Nations League this week.
Majer’s form wasn’t enough to earn him a start for his country against Denmark, but that didn’t matter. Just one minute after coming off the bench, he fired home from just outside the box to beat Kasper Schmeichel send Croatia top.
After years of watching Modric, the sight of a blond midfielder conjuring some magic out of nothing will have been a familiar one. In Qatar, though, we could see the pair line up together from the get-go.
Arsenal’s scouts, meanwhile, will have been happy with what they saw. Even if they only had 12 minutes in which to see it.