Davor Šuker (Croatian pronunciation: [dâʋor ʃǔːker]; born 1 January 1968) is a retired Croatian footballer and the current president of the Croatian Football Federation, a position he has held since July 2012. He played as a striker for a number of European clubs as well as for the Croatia national team, where he is the all-time top scorer with 45 goals.
Šuker was born in Osijek. He began his footballing career in his hometown, playing for the local first division team NK Osijek as a 16-year-old. During his final season there, he became the league's top goal scorer. He signed for a bigger club, Dinamo Zagreb in 1989. The war in Croatia halted a promising season for the 21-year-old, eventually resulting in Šuker's move to Sevilla in 1991.
In La Liga, Šuker was highly regarded, showing consistent form with Sevilla and being amongst the top goal scorers for consecutive seasons. He signed with Real Madrid five years later, and was again amongst the league's top scorers, which helped Madrid claim the Liga title, the Supercup trophy and win the UEFA Champions League during his tenure there.
His move to Arsenal turned out to be a disappointment, as he managed to only rarely find his goal scoring form, but distinguished himself in the Gunners' UEFA Cup final berth in 2000. He concluded his career with shorter spells at West Ham United and in Germany, where he played for 1860 Munich.
The crowning moment of Šuker's career was the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where he became the top goal scorer and won the Golden Boot by scoring six goals in seven matches and also won Silver Ball as the second-best player of tournament, behind Ronaldo. His goal-scoring prowess proved instrumental as the Croatians surprisingly took third place, upsetting a strong Germany side, in their debut World Cup as an independent country. Croatia did not lose a single match in which Šuker scored prior to the semi-final loss to eventual champions France.
Named as Croatia's Golden Player for the UEFA 2003 Jubilee anniversary, he came third in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1998, and is also on the FIFA 100 list of the top 125 greatest footballers, the only Croatian on the list.
Šuker began playing football in his home town of Osijek with the club NK Osijek, where he played for the first team between 1984 and 1989. He then moved to Dinamo Zagreb, where he played in the following two seasons and scored 34 goals in 60 Yugoslav First League matches, impressing so much that he earned his first call-up to the Yugoslavia national team as well as the attention of foreign clubs. In 1991, he moved to Spanish side Sevilla.
Šuker made his Primera División debut for Sevilla on 17 November 1991, coming off the bench as a last-minute substitute in their 1–1 away draw at Espanyol. In the following match, at home against Real Sociedad, he made his first start for the club and went on to score a brace to secure his club a 2–2 draw. He finished his first Sevilla season with 6 goals in 22 appearances, but the following season he improved his record to 13 goals in 33 matches. Especially successful for him was Sevilla's first match of the season, away at Albacete, where scored his first Primera hat-trick and helped his club to drive home a 4–3 victory.
In the 1993–94 season, he turned into one of the best players in the Spanish Primera and became the second-best goal scorer of the league with 24 goals, six fewer than Barcelona's Romário. He made a total of 34 Primera appearances that season and also netted five braces and one hat-trick. After this, he played another two seasons for Sevilla, scoring 33 goals in 64 appearances in the Spanish Primera. Šuker also played with Diego Maradona at Sevilla that time (1992–93).
Šuker went on to move to Real Madrid for the 1996–97 season, in which he repeated the success of scoring 24 goals, only he made 38 appearances that season and was third-best goal scorer of the league, behind Barcelona's Ronaldo and Real Betis's Alfonso. During the same 1996–97 season, he managed to score three hat-tricks in the Primera and led Real Madrid to winning the league title. Along with Montenegrin Predrag Mijatović, who signed for the club that same season, he formed the fatal tandem, one that has struck fear in the opposing defenses and brought all too long waited success for Real.
The realization of his dream of capturing major trophies continued the following season, when he won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, although he only played a couple of stoppage-time minutes in the final against Juventus. In the Primera, he scored 10 goals in 29 appearances that season. In the 1998–99 season, his role at Real Madrid nevertheless became largely diminished, despite the fact that he performed well at the 1998 World Cup that preceded the season, and he only scored 4 goals in 19 Primera appearances. By the end of the season, he decided to leave the club after three seasons of playing for them.
His decision to leave Real Madrid also marked the end of his eight-season-long career in the Spanish Primera, which ended with a total of 114 goals in 239 appearances.
For the 1999–2000 season, Šuker decided to make a move to the FA Premier League and signed with Arsenal. He made his league debut on 22 August 1999 in Arsenal's 2–1 defeat to Manchester United at Highbury, coming on as a substitute for the final 15 minutes. He subsequently played another two matches as a substitute before finally making his first start in Arsenal's 3–1 home victory over Aston Villa, where he scored his first two goals in the Premiership. He scored eight league goals – including three braces – in 22 Premiership appearances for Arsenal before moving to West Ham United for the 2000–01 season. With Arsenal, he played in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final as an extra-time substitute. Arsenal lost the Final to Turkish side Galatasaray on penalties, with Šuker missing his. Šuker also scored once in the League Cup against Middlesbrough, and twice in the Champions League against AIK Solna (once at home and once away).
West Ham United
At West Ham, Šuker never managed to find his place in the first team for a long period and only made 11 Premiership appearances for the club throughout the season, scoring twice against Manchester United and Sunderland. He also scored once in the League Cup against Blackburn Rovers. His career in England ended with the end of that season as he decided to make a move to German side 1860 Munich for the 2001–02 season.
At 1860 Munich, Šuker did not make his Bundesliga debut until the 15th matchday of the season on 1 December 2001, when he played all 90 minutes in the club's 1–0 home victory over Energie Cottbus. His first goal for the club came in their first match after winter break, a 3–0 home victory over 1. FC Köln where he scored the third goal with a header. His highlight of the season came on the final matchday in a 4–2 away victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he netted his only brace in the Bundesliga. He finished his first Bundesliga season with a modest record of 4 goals in 14 appearances.
In his last season in 2002–03, he once again only occasionally played for the club and only scored once in 11 Bundesliga appearances throughout the season. He scored his last goal on 2 November 2002 in 1860 Munich's 3–1 home victory over Arminia Bielefeld and the last match of his professional career was on 16 March 2003 in his club's 1–0 home defeat to VfB Stuttgart. In two seasons of playing Bundesliga football, he only scored 5 goals in 25 appearances. In this two seasons with 1860 Munich, he also made a total of five DFB-Pokal appearances in which he managed to score three goals.
Already in his youth, Šuker made 25 international appearances and scored 15 goals for various Yugoslav youth national teams. He was the second best scorer (scored six goals) on 1987 World Youth Championship in Chile. Yugoslavia won the title with a generation of future talents, some of whom went on the represent Croatia following the break-up of Yugoslavia (Robert Prosinečki, Zvonimir Boban and Igor Štimac). Yugoslavia also set a new FIFA World Youth Championship scoring record (which still stands today): they scored an average of 2.44 goals per game, finishing with 22 goals for and 9 against and the best attack was Yugoslavian which scored 17 goals on tournament with Šuker domination (six goals, second-top scorer of tournament and won an Adidas Golden Shoe award).
He played for Yugoslavia in 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic games in Group D matches against Brazil and Nigeria. In 1990 meanwhile, he played in that year's UEFA Under-21 Championship in which Yugoslavia finished second; he was voted for Golden Player of the Tournament. He scored four goals in five games as Yugoslavia won Group 5 and also struck the only goal in Sofia as his side completed a 3–0 aggregate quarter-final victory against Bulgaria. He scored one more against Italy, making it overall six goals in tournament.
In 1990, Šuker was named to the Yugoslavia national team's 22-man squad for the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy, but did not receive any playing time during the tournament.
On 22 December 1990, he made his debut for then newly founded Croatia national team in their friendly match against Romania. In 1991, he nevertheless also won his only two caps for Yugoslavia (on 27 February 1991 against Turkey, and on 16 May 1991 against the Faroe Islands), since Croatia was registered with neither FIFA nor UEFA at the time, and scored his first international goal with the team (against the Faroe Islands). In his second match for Croatia, a friendly against Mexico in 1992, he scored a brace in Croatia's 3–0 victory. He then led Croatia to their first major international tournament, UEFA Euro 1996, with a then record of 12 goals in 10 matches during the qualifying stages.
At the final tournament in England, he scored three goals in four matches, including two in the 3–0 group-stage win over defending champions Denmark, where he set the final score with an unforgettable looping shot over Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. It is still remembered as one of the greatest goals in Euro history, which also earned him a place in the Euro 1996 Team of the Tournament.
Šuker then went on to help Croatia to qualify for their first World Cup as he scored five goals in nine appearances during the qualifying for the 1998 finals in France. He scored six goals in seven matches, netting one goal in every match where Croatia scored, including the winning goals in 1–0 victories over Japan in the group stage and Romania in the round of 16. In the quarter-finals against Germany, Šuker was fouled by Christian Wörns who immediately received a red card, and Šuker scored the final goal in a 3–0 victory. He also brought the team to the doorstep of the Final by scoring the opening goal of the semi-final against France before Lilian Thuram took back the lead for the hosts with his only two international goals and gave France a 2–1 victory for a place in the Final. Šuker scored the winner in a 2–1 victory against the Netherlands in the third-place play-off, leading the Croatian team to their sensational third-place finish in the country's very first World Cup appearance since becoming independent. Šuker won the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer, and the Silver Ball as the second most outstanding player after Brazil's Ronaldo.
After the 1998 World Cup, Šuker continued to play for Croatia in their unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the Euro 2000 as Croatia just missed out on qualification. Šuker, however, was remembered as he kept Croatia's hopes of qualification alive when he scored a 94th-minute winner against the Republic of Ireland at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The win ensured Croatia would have a strong chance of qualifying, but would unfortunately miss out due to their final qualifying game, a 2–2 draw at home to his previous teammates of Yugoslavia. He did manage to score a late goal which was later disallowed, and would have sent Croatia through had it been counted. He finished his qualifying campaign that year with four goals in seven matches.
He was also part of the Croatian team at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea, but only played 63 minutes in their unsuccessful opening match against Mexico, which ended in a 1–0 defeat. In the qualifying for the tournament, he only scored once in six matches. After the 2002 World Cup, he retired from international football but went on to be an icon for many children around the world, but mostly in Croatia where he is still seen as a national hero.
Šuker won a total of 71 international caps during his professional career, 2 for Yugoslavia and 69 for Croatia, and scored a total of 46 international goals. With 69 international caps, he is currently the sixth most-capped player in the Croatian national team, but his goalscoring record of 45 goals for the team will probably remain unbeaten for decades as it has been since his retirement; Eduardo is at second place with 29 goals (as of August 2013). Though his reputation for being one-footed is firmly planted in the statistics: Of the 45 goals he scored for Croatia, all but eight were with his left foot (four with the head and right a piece) and the solitary goal for Yugoslavia in its Euro 1992 qualifying campaign against the Faroe Islands was also with his left foot.
His 12 goals during the qualifying campaign for Euro 1996 was a record until beaten in 2007 by Northern Ireland's David Healy during qualifying for the Euro 2008 as the Northern Irish star managed 13 goals.
Post-career honours and activities
Towards the end of his playing career, Šuker opened his own football school, the Davor Šuker Soccer Academy, with training camps in Zagreb as well as a couple of other cities. To date, he still puts time and effort into the youth academy, which trains many young athletes with career aspirations.
In 1996, in company of two well-known criminals he posed for picture at the grave of Croatian fascist leader Ante Pavelić.
In 2011, he was fined for stealing antique coins left over by another passenger on an airplane. Instead of reporting his findings and handing the coins in, he decided to give them to his girlfriend who then tried to sell them.
In 2015 Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) accused the president of the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), Davor Suker, for preventing freedom of information and for physically blocking journalists from reporting and doing their work.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|1989–90||Dinamo Zagreb||First League||28||12||-||-||-||-||-||-||28||12|
|Spain||League||Copa del Rey||Supercopa de España||Europe||Total|
|1996–97||Real Madrid||La Liga||38||24||5||5||-||-||-||-||43||29|
|England||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|2000–01||West Ham United||11||2||0||0||2||1||-||-||13||3|
|Yugoslavia national team|
|Croatia national team|
|Šuker – Yugoslavia goals|
|1.||16 May 1991||Stadion Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Yugoslavia||Faroe Islands||7 – 0||7 – 0||Euro 1992 Qualifying|
|Šuker – Croatia goals|
|1.||22 October 1992||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Mexico||1 – 0||3 – 0||Friendly|
|2.||22 October 1992||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Mexico||3 – 0||3 – 0||Friendly|
|3.||25 June 1993||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Ukraine||1 – 0||3 – 1||Friendly|
|4.||23 March 1994||Estadio Luís Casanova, Valencia, Spain||Spain||0 – 2||0 – 2||Friendly|
|5.||4 September 1994||Kadriorg Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia||Estonia||0 – 1||0 – 2||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|6.||4 September 1994||Kadriorg Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia||Estonia||0 – 2||0 – 2||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|7.||16 November 1994||Stadio La Favorita, Palermo, Italy||Italy||0 – 1||1 – 2||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|8.||16 November 1994||Stadio La Favorita, Palermo, Italy||Italy||0 – 2||1 – 2||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|9.||25 March 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Ukraine||2 – 0||4 – 0||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|10.||25 March 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Ukraine||4 – 0||4 – 0||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|11.||26 April 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Slovenia||2 – 0||2 – 0||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|12.||3 September 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Estonia||2 – 1||7 – 1||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|13.||3 September 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Estonia||5 – 1||7 – 1||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|14.||3 September 1995||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Estonia||7 – 1||7 – 1||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|15.||8 October 1995||Poljud, Split, Croatia||Italy||1 – 1||1 – 1||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|16.||15 November 1995||Stadion Bežigrad, Ljubljana, Slovenia||Slovenia||1 – 1||1 – 2||Euro 1996 Qualifying|
|17.||10 April 1996||Gradski vrt, Osijek, Croatia||Hungary||2 – 0||4 – 1||Friendly|
|18.||2 June 1996||Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland||Republic of Ireland||0 – 1||2 – 2||Friendly|
|19.||16 June 1996||Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England||Denmark||1 – 0||3 – 0||Euro 1996|
|20.||16 June 1996||Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England||Denmark||3 – 0||3 – 0||Euro 1996|
|21.||23 June 1996||Old Trafford, Manchester, England||Germany||1 – 1||1 – 2||Euro 1996|
|22.||10 November 1996||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Greece||1 – 1||1 – 1||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|23.||29 March 1997||Poljud, Split, Croatia||Denmark||1 – 0||1 – 1||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|24.||30 April 1997||Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Thessaloniki, Greece||Greece||0 – 1||0 – 1||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|25.||10 September 1997||Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark||Denmark||3 – 1||3 – 1||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|26.||11 October 1997||Stadion Bežigrad, Ljubljana, Slovenia||Slovenia||0 – 1||1 – 3||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|27.||3 June 1998||Kantrida, Rijeka, Croatia||Iran||2 – 0||2 – 0||Friendly|
|28.||6 June 1998||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Australia||1 – 0||7 – 0||Friendly|
|29.||6 June 1998||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Australia||2 – 0||7 – 0||Friendly|
|30.||6 June 1998||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Australia||5 – 0||7 – 0||Friendly|
|31.||14 June 1998||Stade Félix Bollaert, Lens, France||Jamaica||1 – 3||1 – 3||World Cup 1998|
|32.||20 June 1998||Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, France||Japan||0 – 1||0 – 1||World Cup 1998|
|33.||30 June 1998||Parc Lescure, Bordeaux, France||Romania||0 – 1||0 – 1||World Cup 1998|
|34.||4 July 1998||Stade Gerland, Lyon, France||Germany||0 – 3||0 – 3||World Cup 1998|
|35.||8 July 1998||Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France||France||0 – 1||2 – 1||World Cup 1998|
|36.||11 July 1998||Parc des Princes, Paris, France||Netherlands||1 – 2||1 – 2||World Cup 1998|
|37.||10 October 1998||Ta' Qali Stadium, Ta' Qali, Malta||Malta||1 – 4||1 – 4||Euro 2000 Qualifying|
|38.||14 October 1998||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Macedonia||1 – 1||3 – 2||Euro 2000 Qualifying|
|39.||10 March 1999||Spiros Louis Stadium, Athens, Greece||Greece||2 – 2||3 – 2||Friendly|
|40.||5 May 1999||Estadio Olímpico, Seville, Spain||Spain||0 – 1||3 – 1||Friendly|
|41.||5 June 1999||Skopje City Stadium, Skopje, Macedonia||Macedonia||0 – 1||1 – 1||Euro 2000 Qualifying|
|42.||4 September 1999||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Republic of Ireland||1 – 0||1 – 0||Euro 2000 Qualifying|
|43.||2 June 2001||Stadion Varteks, Varaždin, Croatia||San Marino||3 – 0||4 – 0||World Cup 2002 Qualifying|
|44.||15 August 2001||Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland||Republic of Ireland||2 – 2||2 – 2||Friendly|
|45.||17 April 2002||Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia||Bosnia and Herzegovina||2 – 0||2 – 0||Friendly|
- La Liga: 1997
- Supercopa de España: 1997
- UEFA Champions League: 1998
- Intercontinental Cup: 1998
- UEFA Cup Runner-up: 2000
- FIFA World Youth Championship: 1987
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship Runner-up: 1990
- FIFA World Cup Third place: 1998
- 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship: Silver Shoe
- Yugoslav First League Top Goal Scorer: 1988-89
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship 1990: Golden Player
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship 1990: Golden Boot
- UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 1996
- ESM Team of the Year: 1996–97
- 1998 FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe
- 1998 FIFA World Cup Silver Ball
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1998
- Onze de Bronze: 1998
- Ballon d'Or (Runner-up): 1998
- FIFA World Player of the Year (Bronze Award): 1998
- Croatian Footballer of the Year: 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
- Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport: 1998
- Croatian Sportsman of the year: 1998
- World Soccer 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century: 1999
- UEFA Jubilee Awards Croatia's Golden Player: 2004
- FIFA 100: 2004
- All-time top scorer of the Croatian national team
- Order of Danica Hrvatska with face of Franjo Bučar - 1995
- Order of the Croatian Trefoil - 1998