Number of Slovenian Players to have played in the Premier League: 6
Most appearances: Robert Koren (57)
Most goals: Robert Koren (4)
Appearances: Robert Koren 57, Milenko Acimovic 17, Ales Krizan 12, Jon Stankovic 11, Haris Vuckic 5, Aleksandar Rodic 4
Goals: Robert Koren 4, Jon Stankovic 1
Assists: Robert Koren 4, Ales Krizan 1
All data correct upto Tuesday 13th January 2020
Slovenia’s impact on Premier League football has been one of calmness and tranquillity. Just six Slovenians have taken the opportunity to play in the English top-flight. None have enjoyed glowing and rich success. However, they have to be praised for attempting to make a go of things in the Premier League.
There is no doubt that the player with the biggest impact from Slovenia is Robert Koren. Koren made 57 appearances and leads the marks for appearances, goals and assists. Koren came to these shores in January 2007, signing for West Bromwich Albion, who were playing in the Championship. He made his Premier League debut in the 2008-2009 season, making more appearances than any other outfield player from The Hawthorns in that campaign. West Brom were relegated at the end of that season but Koren did return to the Premier League as part of Hull’s promotion-winning squad in 2013. On this occasion, he didn’t have to experience relegation as the Tigers survived, finishing 16th in 2013-2014. Koren also featured in the FA Cup final in that season as Hull ended up on the losing side of a five-goal thriller with Arsenal. He retired from professional football in 2017.
Koren had scored a winning goal for his country against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup finals. Eight years earlier, another Slovenian had scored on the big stage. Milenko Acimovic opened the scoring in a 3-1 group stage defeat to Paraguay. Acimovic’s performances impressed the hierarchy at Tottenham Hotspur. Signing him on a free transfer, Glenn Hoddle said: “Milenko is a young man with a tremendous ability and a good goalscoring rate for a midfielder.”
Acimovic failed to score a single goal during his frustrating 18 months in English football. In fact, he made just 17 appearances before moving onto pastures new with Lille in January 2004. Six years later, a persistent knee injury forced his retirement aged 33 whilst playing in Austrian football.
The most recent Slovenian to play in the Premier League was Huddersfield’s defender Jon Stankovic. Stankovic had a catalogue of injuries during the Terriers’ recent two-season spell in the top-flight. This meant he was restricted to a meagre 11 appearances. His one and only Premier League goal came away at Manchester City in August 2018. Unfortunately, it was a consolation in a 6-1 defeat to the reigning Premier League champions. Stankovic is still at Huddersfield as they start to recover from a dreadful start on their return to the Championship in 2019-2020.
Ales Krizan made 12 appearances for Barnsley during their one-season dalliance with Premier League football in 1997-1998. After the Tykes’ relegation, the midfielder, who was capped over 20 times by his country, played just once more in two seasons.
The other two Slovenian players to have tasted first-team Premier League football were Haris Vuckic and Aleksandar Rodic. Between them, they made nine appearances, didn’t score and are largely forgotten into the annuals of foreign players whose Premier League experience wasn’t a memorable one.
Slovenia’s Premier League impact has been a quiet one. Apart from Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, they have few well-known players to call on and have once again, failed to qualify for a major finals, missing out on the 2020 European Championships. The chances of a major Slovenia breakthrough on Premier League football in the coming years aren’t exceptionally high.