Experienced, powerful and aggressive, Bostjan Cesar has emerged as a rock at the heart of Slovenia’s notoriously miserly defence. Already a veteran of over 40 international appearances, the Grenoble centre-half was a key figure as the Zmajceki racked up an incredible seven clean sheets in just 12 qualifiers en route to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Described as “a real competitor” and “a defender’s defender” by former manager Tony Mowbray, Cesar’s height, physical presence and defensive instincts have made him a regular at international level under Matjaz Kek. These qualities have also made him a valuable player in Croatian, French and English club football, with the 27-year-old having enjoyed spells with Dinamo Zagreb, Marseille, West Bromwich Albion and, most recently, Grenoble.
It was in Zagreb, at the age of 19, that Cesar’s professional career began in earnest, with a five-year spell yielding early success, including a league title in 2003, two Croatian Cups and two Supercups. By 2005, Marseille had seen enough to sign the big centre-half on a three-year deal, and he went on to feature frequently for the French giants in a season that witnessed them reach the final of Coupe de France.
First team appearances proved more difficult to come by the following season, however, and in 2007 Cesar took on a new challenge by joining West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan, linking up with current Slovenia captain Robert Koren. The Baggies had just been relegated from the English Premier League, but Cesar helped them bounce back at the first time of asking, performing solidly in a triumphant title-winning campaign.
A permanent move did not materialise though, and the centre-half returned to Marseille before signing a two-year deal with Grenoble in January of last year. Cesar has since become a first team regular at the Stade des Alpes, and will arrive in South Africa hopeful of further enhancing his reputation. It will also be worth keeping an eye on his duel with Wayne Rooney when Slovenia face England on 23 June. The pair enjoyed quite a battle when the sides met in a friendly last September, and Cesar – who accused Rooney of deliberately injuring him – has promised to make the rematch “an unpleasant experience” for the Manchester United star.