This article is divided by league's; Croatian First Football League, Croatian Second Football League - both of which are playable in FM21.
Let's start with Croatia's top flight where last year Dinamo Zagreb continued their domination.
CROATIAN FIRST FOOTBALL LEAGUE (Tier 1)
NK Lokomoitva (Last Season: 2nd)Four teams have won the Croatian top flight and Lokomotiva are not one of them. In fact they’ve only been runner’s up twice, one of those coming last season behind traditional powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb. While that may sound impressive, the points difference suggests differently as Lokomotiva finished 15 points behind in second. They aren’t one of the traditional clubs during Yugoslavia’s existence either, only finishing third place on one occasion in the top flight back in 1952. This is near unprecedented territory to the club who with bigger clubs right behind them look to do the seemingly impossible.
HNK Rijeka (Last Season: 3rd)2016/2017 came as a shock to Croatian football is Rijeka finally beat Dinamo Zagreb to the league title after coming third three seasons in a row. What makes it even better is that Rijeka did the domestic double during that season, winning the Croatian cup. Now they are back to finishing in second or third, behind Dinamo Zagreb once more with success far off the cards for Rijeka.
NK Osijek (Last Season: 4th)One of only four clubs to have never been relegated from the Croatian First League, Osijek is the third most supported club in Croatia. Despite this impressive consistency in the small league, Osijek have only won the Croatian Cup once and during its time in Yugoslavia – no trophies. The past four seasons have seen them finish in 4th or 3rd and have yet to break into the top two to reach Champions League football. Out of the traditional big clubs and other strong clubs in Croatia such as Lokomotiva – they look the least likely to gain silverware anytime soon.
Hajduk Split (Last Season: 5th)A force to be reckoned with in Yugoslavia and Croatia until the mid 2000’s – Hajduk Split are the second biggest club in Croatia behind Dinamo Zagreb and the second most successful. However financial mismanagement and political issues have seen Hajduk fall well short of their past glories. Included in this is the thought that many consider the Croatian Football Federation and entire league system to be under control of Dinamo Zagreb’s “unofficial” chairman. Not only do Hajduk have a mountain to climb on the pitch but off of it as well.
NK Slave Belupo (Last Season: 7th)Consistently in Croatia’s top flight but with mid-table finishes being the normal. Too good to be relegated yet nowhere near having enough in the club to break the seemingly large gap to break into the top five places where European places reside, Belupo have nothing really to shout about.
CROATIAN SECOND FOOTBALL LEAGUE (Tier 2)
NK Rudes (Last Season: 5th)Majority of their history have been in the lower leagues, however they achieved promotion to the Croatian Second Football League for the 2009/2010 season. Two seasons in the top flight were followed by now going into their second season back in the second tier after a poorer campaign last season. One of the few clubs who aren’t a feeder club for one of Croatia’s traditional powerhouses, NK Rudes are all on their own as they look to gain promotion once again.
NK Dugopolie (Last Season: 10th)Never been in the top flight of Croatian football, Dugopolje looked at one point to be on the outskirts of pushing for promotion until financial issues dragged the club back down to mid-table mediocrity in the second tier. Low funding from the municipality in which they are located has caused the financial issues and remains a challenge for the club who have an impressive new stadium which meets UEFA standards. This could be capitalized on in the future as no renovations would be needed to host international or European competitions – developing managers take note.
HNK Orijent 1919 (Last Season: 3rd - Lost promotion playoffs)Liquidated in June 2014 due to mounting debts, Orijent were chucked into the fifth tier of the Croatian football league system for the 2014/2015 campaign. Now they find themselves competing in the second tier once more after coming so close to reaching the top-flight. Way easier said then done from the gulf in funding and class in the heavy biased Croatian system.
NK Opatija (Last Season: 1st - Promotion from HNL West)Recent promotion to the second tier after languishing in the lower divisions – things did look well for Opatija. However, the club has been looking into reconstructing their stadium to play in the second division and currently are playing in a different ground as theirs does not meet requirements thanks to the pitch dimensions. The new stadium is currently planned to be built in 2021. However, between COVID’s impact on the economy and the difficulty of the Croatian football system – little hope is seen for Opatija to stay in the second tier.
Best of luck in your FM21 saves. Stay safe and stay healthy.