Ex-Celtic defender Filip Benkovic struggling again in Belgium

By David Walton

May 5, 2021

Former Celtic defender Filip Benkovic is continuing to struggle after moving to OH Leuven in Belgium back in January.

The Croat was linked with a return to Parkhead at the start of 2021 on a loan deal until the end of the season. The Hoops reportedly wanted an option-to-buy in any agreement [Sky Sports]. This came after a successful loan stint back in the 2018/19 campaign under Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon respectively.

However, in the end, nothing came of it. Celtic failed to sign a new centre-back and Benkovic would join Leuven for the rest of the campaign.

It’s fair to say that things have turned sour for him since. What should’ve been a fresh start for Benkovic has turned into a nightmare. Quite incredible, he’s failed to play a single minute of action for his new club out of a possible 15 matches. He’s been on the bench for 10 of them, but hasn’t ever been trusted to actually play.

This comes after a similarly disastrous loan with Cardiff during the first half of the season. That deal was meant to last the for the full campaign, but after only making one appearance, he was called back in January.

Filip Benkovic just isn’t catching a break; Belgium spell has been a nightmare

Celtic may have dodged a bullet on this one. Despite showing himself to be a strong, agile, and composed young centre-back in his first spell at Parkhead, his confidence is shot.

Since leaving, he’s now had a total of three loan moves. Not one of them has been a success after a move to Bristol for the 2019/20 campaign proved fruitless. Not one of his loan managers have decided to put a run of games into him. There simply must be a reason for that.

It hasn’t been down to injury of course. Benkovic has been relatively injury-free since leaving Celtic in 2019. That looked to be the only thing holding him back during his time here after having a couple of nasty knocks in Glasgow. But his decline has been both rapid yet mysterious.

Filip Benkovic is having a grim time of it in Belgium (Photo by Plumb Images/Getty Images)

He’ll return to Leicester in the summer with his contract expiring in the summer of 2023. That means he’ll only have two years remaining with time running out for him to prove himself with the Foxes.

Another loan move looks likely in the summer, but it’s at the stage now where Celtic should avoid at all costs. Something has happened to Benkovic and nobody can seem to put their finger on it. Is it really just a lack of faith? An attitude problem? Or perhaps just a failure to catch a break? Benkovic spoke about his Cardiff struggles after joining Leuven, and he claimed the coaching staff there were happy with him [OH Leuven Website].

But whatever’s gone wrong, it’s badly affecting Benkovic’s career. After three consecutively poor loan spells, he desperately needs a pick-me-up this summer.

In other news, we discuss why talk of being in Rangers’ shadow for years is overly negative nonsense.