Leon Benko

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Leon Benko
Leon Benko 2007.jpg
Benko in 2007
Personal information
Date of birth (1983-11-11) 11 November 1983 (age 30)
Place of birth Varaždin, SR Croatia, Yugoslavia
Height 1.82 m (5 ft 11 12 in)
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current team
Dalian Aerbin
Number 9
Youth career
1991–2003 Varteks
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2006 Varteks 68 (18)
2006–2008 1. FC Nürnberg 10 (0)
2008–2009 Standard Liège 14 (1)
2009–2010 Kortrijk 32 (5)
2011–2012 Slaven Belupo 27 (15)
2012 Al-Faisaly (Harmah) 9 (5)
2012–2014 Rijeka 50 (34)
2014 Dalian Aerbin 3 (1)
National team
2003 Croatia U20 2 (0)
2004–2005 Croatia U21 17 (0)
2006– Croatia 4 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 22 March 2014.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 16 November 2013

Leon Benko (born 11 November 1983) is a Croatian footballer who plays as a striker occasionally for the Croatia national football team.

A product of Varteks youth academy, Benko also had spells abroad in the German Bundesliga with 1. FC Nürnberg and in Belgium with Standard Liège and Kortrijk. He was the 2012–13 Prva HNL league's top goalscorer.

Club career[edit]

Varteks[edit]

Benko signed his first professional contract with his youth club, NK Varteks, in July 2003, and continued to play for the club in the following three seasons under coaches Miroslav Blažević (2003–05) and Zlatko Dalić (2005–06). In his second season at Varteks he established himself as one of the club's key players, appearing in 27 matches in the Croatian First League.

In the summer of 2005, he also performed well for Varteks in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, scoring all four goals in their 4–1 victory over Dinamo Tirana as well as a brace that included the winning goal in a 4–3 victory over Inter Turku.[1] He finished the 2005–06 season as the club's top scorer, scoring 14 goals in 26 league appearances, and was instrumental in the club's 2005–06 Croatian Cup campaign in which they reached the final before losing to Rijeka on away goals rule. His excellent performances at Varteks earned him the 2005 Hope of the Year award for Croatia's best young player.

Nürnberg[edit]

On 23 May 2006, it was announced that Benko has signed for German Bundesliga side 1. FC Nürnberg on a three-year contract with an optional one-year extension.[2] He made his Bundesliga debut on 12 August 2006, playing as a substitute in the last five minutes of the club's first league match of the 2006–07 season, a 3–0 away victory at VfB Stuttgart.[3] He finished his first Bundesliga season with only seven appearances, having missed the entire second part of the season due to injury problems.

He scored his first goal for Nürnberg on 29 November 2007 in their UEFA Cup group match against eventual winners of the competition, Zenit Saint Petersburg, securing his team a 2–2 away draw. He made a total of four appearances for Nürnberg in the 2007–08 season of the UEFA Cup.[4]

Standard Liège[edit]

On 4 August 2008, Benko moved to Belgian side Standard Liège for an undisclosed fee, signing a one-year contract with an optional extension.[5] He made his debut for the club on 16 August 2008 in their 3–1 away win at FCV Dender in the first round of the 2008–09 Jupiler League, coming on as a late substitute.[6] In his only season with the club he made only 14 appearances due to his injury problems. He managed to win the Belgian First Division title with the club.

KV Kortrijk[edit]

On 30 June 2009, K.V. Kortrijk signed the Croatian forward from Standard Liege until June 2010.[7]

Slaven Belupo[edit]

On 29 January 2011, Benko signed a one-and-a-half-year contract with Slaven Belupo.[8] In his first game for Slaven, he scored a goal in a 2–1 loss against RNK Split.[9] By the end of the season he made ten more appearances for the club and scored eight goals in the process. He opened the new season by scoring a goal against NK Zagreb on matchday 1 in July 2011. He scored seven goals in Croatian First League HNL and ade 3 assist by the end of the mid-season when he was transferred to Saudi Professional League club Al-Faisaly.

HNK Rijeka[edit]

In June 2012, it was announced that Benko will be joining HNK Rijeka. He was given the number 19 shirt.

Benko made his debut for the new club against NK Zadar at the end of the July, and scored his first goal on Matchday 4 of the season against Lokomotiva Zagreb. In his first season with the club he fulfilled the expectations of the club officials and the fans as he was the 2012–13 Prva HNL league's top scorer with 18 goals in 30 appearances. At the end of the season, he was awarded with SN Yellow Shirt award, as the best football player in the 2012–13 Prva HNL, based on post-match ratings awarded by sports journalists over the course of a season.[10] The club finished third in the 2012–13 Prva HNL standings and secured their spot in the Europa League qualifications.

Benko started the new 2013–14 season in strong fashion, netting 11 goals in first 11 appearances. He scored five goals in the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League qualifying phase, including two goals against VfB Stuttgart in Europa League play-off round. His goals helped Rijeka to reach their first ever Europa League group stage where they were drawn in Group I together with Olympique Lyonnais, Real Betis and Vitória S.C.. On 28 September, he scored a spectacular volley against Rijeka's greatest rivals Hajduk Split in Adriatic derby. A month later, on Matchday 2 of the 2013–14 Europa League, Benko scored another volley goal against Real Betis to give his team 1–0 lead on Stadion Kantrida. The match eventually finished 1–1.

Dalian Aerbin[edit]

On 24 February 2014 Benko reportedly signed for Chinese Super League team Dalian Aerbin for an undisclosed fee.

International career[edit]

Benko has been capped for the Croatian national under-21 team and he subsequently went on to make his debut for the country's A-team by appearing in both of their two matches at the 2006 Carlsberg Cup in Hong Kong.

Benko was once again included in the Croatia national football team roster for the friendly match against South Korea on 10 September 2013. He provided a crucial assist for Domagoj Vida who scored the first goal in 65th minute of the match.[11] Croatia went on to win the match, being their second match and second win against South Korea side in the year of 2013 alone. His prolific goalscoring form in his club earned him another call-up, this time for the Croatia crucial 2014 World Cup play-off matches against Iceland on November 2013.

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Standard Liège
Nürnberg

Individual[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "UEFA Intertoto Cup appearances 2005/2006". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Benko potpisao za Nürnberg" (in Croatian). Jutarnji list. 23 May 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bundesliga appearances 2006/2007". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "UEFA Cup appearances 2007/2008". worldfootball.net. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Benko vom Club zu Standard Lüttich" (in German). UEFA. 4 August 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  6. ^ "FCV Dender v Standard Liège : 1–3" (in French). Standard Liège official website. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  7. ^ "Leon Benko trekt naar KV Kortrijk" (in Dutch). belgiumsoccer.be. 
  8. ^ Rupnik, Borna (30 January 2011). "Leon Benko se vratio u Hrvatsku". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Pavlić, Antonija (26 February 2011). "Split sredio Koprivničane". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  10. ^ "Leon Benko o budućnosti na Kantridi". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). 29 May 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "'Blitzkrieg' Hrvatske: U sedam minuta zabili su Vida i Kalinić" (in Croatian). 24sata.hr. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 

External links[edit]