Express & Star

Filip Krovinovic: The inside track on West Brom's new signing

West Brom bagged their first signing of the Slaven Bilic era last week, bringing in Filip Krovinovic on-loan.

Filip Krovinovic (Photo: WBA)

But who is the new man in at The Hawthorns? We spoke with Portuguese football expert and creator of TugaScoutPT, Alex Goncalves to get his take on the Benfica man.

See what he had to say below...

What qualities can Albion fans expect from Filip Krovinovic? Will he suit English football?

He’s a very creative and technical player, a natural attacking midfielder, with good passing and movement, and is an intelligent offensive footballer.

Big things were expected of him when he arrived at Benfica, and he really lived up to those expectations for some time, performing very well for the team and becoming a first-team regular due to his vast technical ability.

He really is the perfect player to operate just behind an out-and-out striker, confident on the ball with good vision and dribbling, and he would have gone on to be a crucial player for Benfica weren’t it for the long-term injury he suffered in January 2018.

That kept him out of action for 10 months, and Benfica very much felt his absence, which could have been part of the reason that Benfica failed to retain the title back in the 2017-18 season. And it really was unfortunate; when he was injured, he was really needed by the team – but by the time he came back, Benfica had a wealth of depth in midfield and attack, with youngsters coming through the ranks such as Gedson Fernandes, Florentino Luis and Joao Felix, and he really struggled to get back to his previous level.

With regards to whether he’ll be suited to English football, I think it’s a bit of a myth that technically gifted players will struggle simply due to the league they’re playing in. Football is football at the end of the day, and players from overseas have shown in the past that they can adapt to more physical leagues such as the Championship and thrive.

When a player has the qualities that Krovinovic has, they perform to a high standard wherever they are in the world.

Just how much of a coup could this be for West Brom?

It could be huge. After all, he was one of Benfica’s best players for a couple of months or so in 2017/18, and when he suffered that devastating injury, Benfica did struggle. So if he can recapture the form he showed for Benfica pre-ACL injury, he’ll be a tremendous signing for a second division side.

And that is really the big question mark; if he can perform to the standard he did during the 2017-18 campaign, West Brom have a Benfica-calibre player on their hands – which I think most fans would recognise as being a sensational acquisition for a club playing in the second tier of English football.

That said, even if he doesn’t quite reach those levels and falls short of the quality he has shown in the past, West Brom still have a very good player arriving that could really provide the offensive creativity a club seeking promotion are looking for, so whichever you look at it, this is a terrific singing for West Brom, picking up a player that both the 5th best team in Portugal and a Premier League newcomer wanted for the upcoming season, for just 350,000 euros.

Obviously he knows Slaven Bilic well, do you think the new Baggies boss could be the perfect man to get the best out of him?

Absolutely. I do think Bilic played a very significant role in Krovinovic’s decision to join West Brom over any of the other options on the table, and for sure he’ll help Krovinovic immensely.

No doubt there’s a mutual respect between the two of them, and Bilic will give Krovinovic the time and support needed to regain fitness and return to the form that thrilled Benfica fans in the 2017-18 campaign.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

He has a range of strengths, which really make him the ideal midfielder.

Creative and composed, he offers very good vision, able to play the types of passes and forge the type of link-up play that can split defences and create great goalscoring opportunities, while he also has great movement and finishing ability, making him a very good well-rounded central midfielder.

In terms of his weaknesses? Naturally, the main thing you can point to is whether he can fully recover from his long-term injury set back. That’s the real question mark hanging over him and will ultimately dictate just how impressive a signing this proves to be.

He also, unsurprisingly, isn’t the best defensively, although for the role he plays, that’s forgivable.

Who would he compare to in the Premier League/Championship, and why?

Not that he’s on the same level by any means at all, but in terms of style, you could say that there are certainly some comparisons to be made with someone like Kevin De Bruyne.

He’s technically gifted, got good passing range and vision, happy to take on a shot and is good with the ball at his feet.

He certainly likes to play a similar role to the Belgian international, albeit has a long way to go to get to his overall level.

Is he looking like a legitimate star in the future? If so, why?

Well, he is already 23 and he hasn’t yet played a senior game for Croatia, so the time is coming for him to truly fulfil his potential if he is going to be one of the greats. And again, it all comes down to whether he can replicate the form that he showed for Benfica before his injury; if he matches that level, he can go on to be a key player for his country and, with it, a very good player for Benfica and beyond.

But now is the time to show that he can get his career back on track and live up to the hype.

Could this be a stepping stone move for him? Will he be looking to move on if West Brom aren't promoted this season?

I would say so. From a Benfica perspective, this is certainly seen as an opportunity for him to get more game time under his belt and return to full fitness and form before then returning to the senior side the season afterwards.

That’ll likely be the case if he does impress and the club don’t achieve promotion.

He is definitely a player that possesses the quality to play at a higher level, and if he shows even a glimpse of the talent he showed at Benfica, that should certainly become a reality.

Obviously this is just a loan deal, do you think he'll be allowed to move on permanently if it goes well?

Every player has a price, so for the right fee, that’s certainly a possibility. Especially where Benfica are involved.

In the ‘food web’, Benfica know that they are a team that typically sells players, and if they can make a good profit on a player, they’re generally more than happy to see them move on, safe in the knowledge that they have the academy and resources to then replace them with young talent that can fill the void left behind.

At the same time though, Benfica more likely see this loan move as a chance to get Krovinovic back up to peak fitness, and would prefer him to return to the club if he manages to show his true capabilities.

But a permanent move is a possibility should West Brom be willing to pay a fair price.

What sort of permanent price could we see slapped on him in your opinion?

As far as I’m aware, there’s no official option for West Brom to make the transfer permanent within the loan deal, and I can’t imagine Benfica will be overly keen to let him go permanently.

But, again, every player has a price, and I think a fee of around 15 million euros would be accepted considering his age and the depth Benfica have in midfield, which is a similar price that João Carvalho cost Nottingham Forest, for example.

You can keep up to date with Alex's work by following him on Twitter here.