Former Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic finds new club at long last

By Euan Davidson

October 20, 2021

It’s taken since May 2020, but former Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic has finally signed for a club.

The Croatian has returned to his homeland, dotting the i’s for HNK Gorica. They’re a club familiar to Celtic supporters, with dynamic winger Kristijan Lovric on their books.

It took a long, long wait for the Invincible. 17 months, in fact, having been released by former Bhoys boss Neil Lennon [BBC]. Now, though, Simunovic sounds delighted about the opportunity at a Croatian club on the rise.

After signing for HNK Gorica, Simunovic said [Germanijak]:

“It’s a nice feeling to return home, to a club from my hometown, after so many years abroad. I’ve been in this area for the last year, and now I’m home and in football terms.

“And I am overjoyed to be back in the training process and competitive rhythm. I am looking forward to everything that awaits us together.

Celtic 2-0 Ferencvaros | LIVE Reaction

Celtic 2-0 Ferencvaros | LIVE Reaction

“I left Celtic last summer, a lot has happened in the meantime, but nothing has happened until this agreement with Gorica. [I’m] here now, completely focused on every workout, with a great desire to get back in the best possible shape as soon as possible. The injury has been healed, everything is fine, now it’s just a matter of time to adapt to training and matches.”

Great news for former Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic after so long out the game

Despite his injury history, there were plenty of supporters who questioned the wisdom of releasing Jozo Simunovic.

He was no Baresi, but he had plenty of very decent performances for Celtic. He even had his own famous Glasgow Derby moment, sending Kenny Miller into orbit with a tackle that was the definition of “firm but fair” [YouTube].

In all, the former Croatia youth international played 127 times for Celtic [Transfermarkt]. Injuries or no, he was playing at a very decent standard for a number of seasons. That nobody took an informed punt on him until now seems faintly ridiculous.

Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Clearly someone who enjoyed his time with us, and knew his history, it was sad to see Jozo so easily jettisoned. Especially considering the defensive frailties we had last season.

If he’d been able to gain fitness, he would probably have been a regular in 20-21. His impact and experience playing for Celtic could really have helped.

Now though, it’s a new chapter for the 27-year-old. And not before time. Perhaps he can put in a good word with Lovric while he’s at HNK Gorica. More importantly though, he’ll be looking to get match fit and prove why he signed for Celtic in the first place.

We wish big Jozo all the best in the new part of his career.

Read more: Former Celtic captain Paul Lambert commends Ralston for Ferencvaros display