Kevin Pogorzelski Date: 8th October 2018 at 12:36pm
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As FIFA deputy secretary-general, the vocal presence, determination and strength of character displayed on the pitch will help Zvonimir Boban achieve as much off the pitch as on it.

However, it wasn’t just his swashbuckling midfield performances in an AC Milan shirt that made the Croatian a national icon for a generation, thrust into the politic spotlight as a teenager at Dinamo Zagreb.

In front of national media, a 19-year-old Boban went to the aid of a Dinamo fan being attacked by police as a riot broke out versus Red Star Belgrade, aiming a kick at the head of the officer without hesitation or fear of the consequences.

The former Yugoslav regime were being challenged across its territories and arguably the most important swing of his talented boot became a symbol of those willing to rebel, regardless of how tragic the outcome could be.

“Here I was, a public face prepared to risk his life, career, and everything that fame could have brought, all because of one ideal, one cause: the Croatian cause,” said Boban years later when reflecting on the act.

Born in Imotski, Boban had debuted for the Plavi at the tender age of 16, helped Yugoslavia to a World Youth Championship and after 45 goals in just over 100 games, it was clear that it was far more than unrelenting belief that had him destined for stardom.

The subsequent ban, that saw the teenage prodigy miss Italia ’90, no doubt played a role in leaving his homeland and Zagreb’s loss was very much Serie A audiences gain – an €8 million bid taking him to the peninsula in 1991.

After a season on loan at Bari, were his technical ability were not lost somewhat amongst I Galletti’s futile battle against relegation back to Serie B, coach Fabio Capello gave the mature youngster that chance to shine in a star-studded Rossoneri.

Boban caught they eye by the way in which he would glide across the San Siro turf, spinning away from his opponents like a ballroom dancer, before send perfectly weighted through-ball for the Milan strikers.

This was despite often being deployed on the left of a midfield four to accommodate the physicality of Marcel Desailly, however, rather than diminish his influence, opposition defences struggled against his intelligent movement.

Within two years Boban had two Scudetti under his belt, before playing a vital role in Milan’s 4-0 trouncing of Barcelona’s Dream Team in the 1994 Champions League victory, but could not ensure a repeat the following year against Ajax.

Also relinquishing their Serie A crown to Juventus, it meant the 1994/95 season was one to forget for the Rossoneri, culminating in that defeat to the Amsterdamers, although a third Serie A medal would arrive 12 months later.

As niggling injuries began to take their toll and Milan experienced something of dip, his experience and leadership qualities played an equally important part in the Rossoneri climbing to the top of the Serie A tree once more in 1999.

Unfortunately, the man nicknamed Zorro – more for dazzling performances than protecting innocent victims – ended his career away from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, attempting to squeeze the last few minutes out of a wonderful career at Celta Vigo.

Despite that rather uneventful farewell though, his legacy will be as one of the finest players of his generation and an idol far beyond his footballing achievements.