Dejan Lovren – From child refugee to Anfield’s most expensive defender
Liverpool‘s new signing Dejan Lovren talks about his struggles in Germany and supporting Bayern Munich as a kid. Lovren waits outside Melwood each day to sign autographs for young fans because he used to do the same outside Bayern Munich’s training ground when he was a kid.
“Bayern Munich were my team,” Lovren said.
“I would go to the training ground to see them. I had my photo taken with Giovane Elber, Mario Basler, Bixente Lizarazu… I had all these pictures in my room.
“The guys here (at Melwood) waiting…that was me.
“Every time I sign because I know what it means for the mother and father to see their child smiling. Nobody should mind giving up 10 minutes.”
Liverpool announced the signing of Dejan Lovren from Southampton for £20million. After spending just one season with Southampton, the Croatian international has left the club for European giants Liverpool. He became the most expensive defender to sign for Liverpool, but the new Anfield hero struggled a lot as a kid. His family had to leave Yugoslavian city of Zenica (now part of Bosnia & Herzegovina) due to regular violence.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we had stayed but I think somebody would have been killed because it was horrible at that time,” Lovren said.
“In 1992 we were preparing to go to Germany. My parents took the decision and said ‘we don’t have a choice any more’.
“My father and mother’s parents were already there so we were the last to go. They literally took their bags, one little car and went to Germany.
“There was an attack on the market in Zenica a year after we left and a lot of people were killed. It showed to me it is a difficult life.
“It was really difficult for my parents to leave the country at 27, 28 years old, and say ‘come on, we need to go to Germany’.
“You don’t even speak German, you know nothing about the country so you are going like a blind man. And with a three-year-old child like me to take too.
“But you know, I think this is what gave something to me – made something stronger inside me.
“It showed me that life is never easy. You will earn everything with work.”
The German government denied Lovren and his family permanent residency and after seven years they moved to Croatia and settled in the city of Karlovac.
“My grandfather left Bosnia two or three years before the war so he had the papers for him and my grandmother but not for my father and mother,” he said.
“A lot of people had gone to Germany because of the war and they couldn’t help everyone. They could have sent us back even earlier to Croatia or Bosnia because you had a one-year contract which the government might or might not extend each year.
“My parents didn’t know when we would go. Every year they were prepared with the bags. They were waiting for the situation to calm down. After seven years they said ‘now is the time’.
“It was really difficult for me too because I had good friends. Imagine, I was three years in nursery in Germany, four years in the school.
“When you arrive 10 years old in Croatia, I didn’t speak a lot of Croatian at home with my parents, so it was really difficult to write in Croatian.
“I didn’t know how to do that. It took me two years again to know everything in Croatian. It was a difficult time, when the other kids are laughing at you over things like that.
“It is true that difficult experiences make you stronger. My parents gave me everything they could but it was not amazing.
“I know where I came from, it will always be in me. Maybe it was better to happen like this than maybe to have a privileged childhood when you don’t know the real life.”
Dejan Lovren always loved playing football as a kid. He was a part of the youth setup at NK Karlovac and was later signed by Dinamo Zagreb in 2004.
“In Munich I was playing in this little club and I’ve been told they have a picture of me on the wall,” he said.
“They heard about me becoming a ‘star’ and it’s nice to still be remembered there.
“I never expected that I would be somebody one day. I just started playing and when I was 12, 13 I thought ‘wow, I’m playing good!’
“Then Dinamo Zagreb were speaking about wanting to sign me and I thought ‘maybe I can achieve something’.”
Lovren played regularly at Dinamo Zagreb, before Lyon bought him for 10million euros in January 2010. Lovren admitted that he didn’t enjoyed his life in France and was regularly criticized.
“The media there criticised me in many ways,” he said.
“Even from the beginning when I arrived they were asking ‘why is this guy €10million?’.
“It was always ‘why this? why this? why this?’ When I was playing well, nobody was saying I was playing well.
“When I was playing bad, I would be the first one on the front of the paper. It wasn’t easy for me. They didn’t respect me.”
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