In an off-season which has seen a complete turn-around in the essence of FC Gifu, one thing which all Gifu supporters are happy about is the return of one of last season’s saviours – Croatian attacking midfielder Stipe Plazibat.
It is fair to wonder if Gifu would have been relegated without his all round contribution last year. He scored both goals in the crucial home win over Gainare Tottori, provided Gifu’s spark in the away draw at Yokohama FC and, along with Kazuki Someya, was responsible for a large chunk of FC Gifu’s attacking invention last year.
What kind of player is he? Having watched him, it seems to me that he excels in an attacking midfield role, where he can link play & can create as well as take chances. His two goals against Gainare were as a result of him bursting forward from a deep position. He was deployed as a forward last season, probably more due to circumstance than design as Stipe’s control is excellent and held the ball up well, but hopefully this season he drop a little deeper to influence play more. Gifu probably need to sign another forward in order to keep Stipe deeper (at the moment you’d have to think that Yuki Nakamura & Hiroaki Nanba are favourites to play up front – after that there are the untested Tanaka & Tiago, while Taira Inoue suffered a serious knee injury last year).
What can we expect from him? I’m on record (if a tweet is record. It is, isn’t it?) as saying that he has the potential to be one of the best players in the league. He was almost too good for Gifu last year, but with a full off season to prepare with his new team-mates I hope he’ll score 10-15 goals and create a similar amount. I’m hopeful Ramos will choose Stipe to build the attacking core around. If he does, Stipe has the natural ability to spark this team into life.