Jadran Split, founded 102 years ago as VK Baluni, was the first Croatian club to win the Championship in Yugoslavia (1922). Seventy years later, Jadran became the European champion and defended the trophy the following year.
But, after 1993, a long period without big success started. Since then, the club has achieved solid results from time to time, it has played in the Champions League, but it didn’t lift a trophy for years.
In 2021, Jadran’s revival began. The club brought several excellent reinforcements. At the end of the last year, the Split-based time finally ended a long trophyless phase and won the Croatian Cup – the first domestic trophy after 30 years (and the 1991 Yugoslavian Championships). Jadran played in two finals in the second half of the season and won 2nd place both in the Regional and Croatian League.
Founded: 1920 (as VK Baluni)
Roster – Goalkeepers: Ivan Marcelic, Mate Anic, Luka Podrug, Martin Celar. Field players: Rino Buric, Jerko Marinic Kragic, Marino Cagalj, Zvonimir Butic, Duje Pejkovic, Luka Bukic, Ivan Domagoj Zovic, Martin Delic, Niksa Dobud, Andjelo Setka, Marin Tomasovic, Antonio Duzevic, Antun Pavlovic, Roko Bezer, Duje Djula, Luka Dodoja, Andro Galic, Vito Jankovic, Robert Stojanac.
Head coach: Mile Smodlaka.
Arrivals: Ivan Domagoj Zovic (Szolnok), Marin Tomasovic (Jug AO)
Departures: Konstantin Kharkov (Brescia), Maro Tiozzo (San Jose University, USA)
Key players: Jerko Marinic Kragic, Luka Bukic, Niksa Dobud, Rino Buric, Ivan Marcelic, Andjelo Setka, Zvonimir Butic, Ivan Domagoj Zovic…
Last five Champions League seasons – 2022: 7th place in Group A; 2021: Qualifications – 5th place in Group in Syracuse; 2020 (after 10 rounds): 7th place in Group A; 2019: 5th place in Group B; 2018: didn’t play (quarterfinalist of LEN Euro Cup).
Best result: 2x winner (1992 and 1993), semifinalist in 1994
Season 2021/22 – Group A: 7th place, 9 pts (141:173)
Results in other competitions in the season 2021/22 – Croatian League: 2nd place, Croatian Cup: winner, Regional League: finalist.
Road to the 2023 Champions League – Qualification Round 2: 1st place in Group A, 12pts (57:36). Qualification Round 3: Jadran S – Oradea 9:3 and 12:11.
Jadran returned to the Champions League four years ago, but it didn’t play a significant role in its previous three CHL appearances. The beginning of the new season promises that the Split-based side may achieve good results in the 2023 Champions League.
The finish of the packed water polo summer of 2022 saw Croatia winning the European title at the continental championships in Split.
Jadran, which has three reigning European champions on the roster (Marinic Kragic, Bukic, Buric) and 2012 Olympic champion Dobud, continued the wave of successes that the Croatian national team started in Split two months ago. The Split-based side opened the Champions League qualifications by winning 1st place in Group A, played in Split, beating respectable rivals Vasas, Savona, then Sabac and Steaua. Jadran defeated Oradea in both games of the playoffs. The players from Split qualified for the Main Round with six wins in as many games.
It still hasn’t tasted a loss in all competitions this season.
Compared to the previous season, Jadran is without one of Croatia’s new stars Konstantin Kharkov. Still, all other key players remained at the club. The team is experienced and plays better and better.
Jadran is one of just two Champions League clubs that doesn’t have foreigners on the roster (the other one is OSC Budapest).
Since 2020, Jadran has been coached by Mile Smodlaka, who played for Jadran for most of his career, but he achieved his biggest successes at the club’s level playing for Jug (two Champions Leagues).
The results achieved so far and the roster is two of the preconditions which boost Jadran’s hopes that it can battle for the Final Eight berths.
Besides, the composition of the group is a reason for optimism.
Last year, the Split-based side was in a very demanding group. It should have easier tasks in the 2023 Champions League as it will play in Group A. Pro Recco, Barceloneta and Olympiacos are favorites here. The other Jadran’s opponents will be Waspo Hannover, Radnicki Kragujevac, Dinamo Tbilisi and Vouliagmeni. A very balanced battle for 4th place is expected in this group and Jadran is one of the teams that might surprise the three favorites.
On Day 1 (November 15), Jadran will play against Waspo Hannover in Germany.