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A Tale of Resurgence : Josip Ilicic Named in Slovenia Squad for Euro 2024

Josip Ilicic waving to the fans after a match

Re-emerging from the depths of depression Slovenia midfielder Josip Ilicic returned to international duty last month after a long gap and is now a part of his nation’s final 26-man squad for the Euro 2024.

Josip Ilicic to Represent Slovenia in Euro 2024

Lighting Up Italy

Ilicic moved to Italy in 2010 after he signed for Serie A club Palermo. But it was at Atalanta that the Slovenian reached the peak of his career. He scored more than ten league goals in each of his first three seasons in Bergamo. By the time he left the team, he had racked up close to a hundred goal contributions in 173 appearances.

His performances saw him enter Serie A’s Team of the Season for 2018/19 and he was also named Slovenian Footballer of the Year in 2019.

COVID and the Battle With Depression

In 2020 his career started facing an unfortunate decline with the arrival of the pandemic. Initially, he was down with the virus and then the depression problems began. The then-Atalanta player Papu Gomez had spoken emotionally about the issues faced by his teammate. “He had the coronavirus and suffered a lot, he fell into depression. His head then comes to a point where it explodes. But now he’s fine, it’s very important for us” he said in a 2020 interview to TyC Sports, an Argentinian channel.

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Ilicic battled through depression and returned stronger than ever. In December 2020 he was named among the 50 nominees for the UEFA Men’s Team of the Year. But a year later, in early 2022 he was once again affected by mental health issues. In August his contract with Atalanta was terminated by mutual consent and he returned to Slovenia to play for his former club NK Maribor.

Ilicic Delivers a Comeback

At Maribor, the 36-year-old footballer scored eight goals and made 11 assists in the Slovenian PrvaLiga in 2023/24. His form saw him return to the national team after a gap of almost three years. He had last played for his country in November 2021. On June 4 the former Atalanta star scored the winner for Slovenia in a friendly against Armenia in the 63rd minute after coming on as a substitute.

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Last month he was named in the provisional Euro squad, and now he has made it to the final squad that will fly to Germany. This has been nothing but a tale of courage and mental fortitude. Ilicic will now look to roll back the years with inspiring displays for Slovenia at the Euros.

Slovenia Squad for Euro 2024

Goalkeepers: Jan Oblak, Vid Belec, Igor Vekic
Defenders: Jure Balkovec, Jaka Bijol, Miha Blazic, David Brekalo, Vanja Drkusic, Erik Janza, Zan Karnicnik, Petar Stojanovic
Midfielders: Timi Maks Elsnik, Adam Gnezda-Cerin, Jon Gorenc Stankovic, Tomi Horvat, Josip Ilicic, Jasmin Kurtic, Sandi Lovric, Benjamin Verbic, Adrian Zeljkovic, Nino Zugelj
Forwards: Zan Celar, Jan Mlakar, Benjamin Sesko, Andraz Sporar, Zan Vipotnik


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