PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Note: This profile was first written in November 2021. All statistics and facts are correct to that time period.
Who is Borna Sosa?
Borna Sosa was tutored at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, the club of the city of his birth. He made his first-team debut at the age of 17, ten years after joining the academy, but it took another three years to nail down a regular starting role.
Once he was established in the team and playing more consistently, he earned his move to VfB Stuttgart in Germany. Once there, he was unfortunately relegated during his first season in Germany but bounced back at the first attempt, and is now enjoying his third season of Bundesliga football.
Sosa has represented Croatia at every age group from their under-14 group. He was included in their preliminary list for the 2018 World Cup but ultimately did not make the final 23-man squad that reached the final. He only made his debut during this season’s September international break, playing in Croatia’s World Cup qualifiers. It was the culmination of a somewhat bizarre period in his fledgling international career.
Earlier in the year, Sosa attempted to switch allegiances to Germany, for whom he qualifies through his mother. Croatia fans were in uproar, even if that plan was ultimately kiboshed by the fact that he had played for Croatia’s youth teams past the age of 21, meaning FIFA rules made him ineligible to switch. He represented his chosen country at the Under-17 Euros and Worlds Cups in 2015, as well as the 2019 Under-21 Euros, but missed out on this summer’s Under-21 Euros due to injury.
Another little side story for Sosa last summer were significant links to Leeds United, as they sought to replace Ezgjan Alioski, which came amidst inevitable interest from Bundesliga bullies Bayern München. Both stories made clear that Sosa is one of the most underrated left-backs in Europe. Now 23 years old, Sosa is at the perfect age to make a move when the right opportunity presents itself.
Borna Sosa's style of play
Sosa’s standout strength is his crossing. He registered nine assists in the Bundesliga last season and started this term with a hat-trick of them on the opening day against Greuther Fürth. He has excellent delivery from both set-pieces and open play, and he is able to provide width to his team and supply forwards with a lot of crosses. He can execute a variety of crosses and is a danger from any situation.
He is confident on the ball and, like many of the Stuttgart team, always looks to play forwards. He is happy to take risks in possession. In build-up, he has crisp, powerful passing and is calm under pressure. The higher up he receives the ball, the more he looks to open out and play down the line, or make a clipped pass into the striker or space behind.
He is very left-footed but does make good use of different parts of his boot and uses flicks effectively in tight spaces. His solid technique allows him to exploit the space and passes he finds through impressive vision.
Araki and Bjørkan to Sinisterra and Sosa, AIK to CSKA, Belgium to Uruguay – Volume XII of the Scouted Football Handbook shines a light on 25 emerging prospects from right around the world. Available now: https://t.co/EPIMoelfn2 pic.twitter.com/V1WQSk6dnm— Scouted Football (@scoutedftbl) November 1, 2021
The 23-year-old is quick with great acceleration and confidence on the ball. As a wing-back, he tends to have the whole flank to himself and the space to drive into. If he cannot spot a good forward pass, he still looks to progress the ball and will regularly play one-two combinations with a midfielder on his inside so he can drive into space. His end product while at speed is less effective though and he needs to work on either slowing down to play the ball or hitting crosses at speed.
He is good at providing width and looks to make himself available for switches of play. He recognises space, often making good forward runs from deep to offer himself as an option and inject pace into an attack. He is calm on the ball and uses body feints well to create space for himself.
Sosa is listed as 5’9″ tall but his gangly frame makes him seem taller. He is slim, relatively lightweight and would likely benefit from adding some muscle mass and filling out a little to compensate for a lack of physicality and aggression. Defensively, he is fine in deeper areas, where moments of relative passivity are balanced by good footwork making him by no means a liability.
Click here for more detailed under-23 player profiles
However, he needs to improve his defensive work rate. At times he can be slow to track back and get into position and he does not work hard enough to track his man, often lacking intensity and looking slightly unsure of his role. He is better at pressing up the pitch and firing out of the line in midfield. Defending one-on-one, he shows good body positioning and decent spacing; his footwork is adequate but he struggles to change direction quickly and to block crosses, not always getting his angles quite right.
He has good speed to match attackers, though, and can put in well-timed slides when recovering, but is less effective in static duels and struggles to control situations and be assertive. When he must press wide he can rush and overcommit slightly. He clearly does not enjoy defending one-on-one or in deeper areas, and would prefer to be constantly on the ball, driving forwards and contributing in the attacking half.
It is worth noting that these deficiencies are exacerbated by Stuttgart’s style; in another team he would be making fewer bursts into the attacking third. His attacking play is very high tempo and includes a lot of sprints and ground covered, but in other systems he would likely have more energy to track back and would not constantly commit so high up the pitch.
Forecasting Borna Sosa's future
Stuttgart were one of the most entertaining teams in the big leagues last season. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s system gives Sosa the freedom to attack and take risks, and rarely requires him to defend in the final third or in the box.
It is a system that suits the Croatian and, while I think he is a ready for a bigger move, one hopes he would find another equally suitable environment that plays to his strengths. For example, Internazionale and Atalanta could be good destinations for him – alternatively, he could be converted to a winger effectively for many teams.
Stuttgart will likely struggle to hold on to Sosa past the end of this season. He is an excellent threat from wide and, outside of Liverpool, there are few defensive players with such impressive output. At 23 he is at the right age for a move, but Sosa will need to focus on physical development and defensive work if he is going to step up successfully.
Borna Sosa is an excellent crosser, from both open play and set-pieces. He provides width and creates dangers with a variety of deliveries into the box. He’s confident on the ball, too, and is more than willing to take risks in possession.
Borna Sosa needs to develip physically when he makes the step up to a higher level team. He also needs to improve his defensive ability, not least his tracking of players and aggression in duels.