Josip Sutalo is a 23-year-old central defender who currently plays for Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian league. The right-footed defender started his career in the youth academy of NK Neretva Metkovic before joining Dinamo Zagreb’s famous youth academy in 2014. He gradually moved up the ranks in their youth academy before eventually making his first-team debut in a cup match against NK Opatija in 2019. After a brief loan spell at NK Istra 1961, he conquered a regular place in the starting line-up in the 2021/22 season. To this date, he is one of the most important players of Dinamo Zagreb, whilst also being a regular starter for the Croatian national team. He recently got linked to Ajax as their Timber replacement.
Standing at 1.90 meters with an average build, Josip Sutalo is a tall and physically imposing defender. He often bullies attackers off the ball and is very dominant in physical duels, even though he rarely gets outsmarted by the attacker. Sutalo does enough to disrupt the opponent in the physical duels where he doesn’t recover possession immediately, forcing him into mistakes or a pass back. The defender is very good in aerial duels too. He has decent jumping reach, good timing and uses his body well, whilst it also helps that he is 1.90 meters tall. Sutalo has decent acceleration over short distances and is very quick over long distances. He is decent at changing directions while sprinting but prefers to sprint in straight lines. The Croatian defender could potentially improve his sprinting technique. Sutalo has good but not great mobility and adequate agility.
The 23-year-old defender displays excellent defensive positioning. He consequently maintains the right distance between himself and his partners in defence and coaches them accordingly when they are out of position. Sutalo always reacts quickly to runners in behind, displaying good body orientation and concentration to not get surprised by runs in behind. The defender consistently scans and always seems to know where his opponents and teammates are. He almost always gets the timing right and makes the right decision when stepping up, displaying excellent defensive vision and decision-making. The Croatian defender also does well to close gaps out wide, making some strong interceptions.
Sutalo always is in the right place to pick up the opponent’s clearances. He is a decent defender in his penalty area but only needs to improve his positioning when defending crosses from his wing as he fails to cut the passing/crossing lane to the near post. His positioning when defending crosses from the other wing is very good, as he covers the other central defender well. His aerial ability helps him in these situations too. He displays maturity and bravery when defending, sometimes throwing his entire body in front of a shot. Sutalo seemingly is very determined and always displays great concentration.
Josip Sutalo plays in a very possession-based style at Dinamo Zagreb. Sutalo is a press-resistant player, being a very secure and clean passer with both feet over short distances and scanning well before receiving in all situations. He also seems to be a quick thinker under pressure. His passing technique over long distances is good. He dares to play line-breaking passes and has the vision to do so, but he sporadically fails to keep the ball on the ground. Sutalo uses the space in first-phase possession well, carrying the ball into midfield when possible. Sutalo displays incredible composure on the ball after recovering possession, as he always looks for the ball-playing option rather than just booting it clear. He is capable of dribbling past his marker under pressure, displaying good acceleration on the ball.
All in all, Josip Sutalo is ready for the next step. I think he could already be a starter at Europa League level in the top 5 leagues. He is a very complete ball-playing defender at the age of 23. Though, at Ajax he would have a guaranteed place in the starting line-up and he could potentially secure himself a very nice transfer to a Champions League club in the top 5 leagues after one or two seasons in the starting line-up at Ajax. Sutalo would be an incredible replacement for Timber at Ajax.