Dado Prso: The first Croatian to conquer Ibrox
Who can forget about Dado Prso’s spell at Ibrox? The Croatian striker spent three short years in Glasgow, but left a hero.
Brian Laudrup. Jorg Albertz. Lorenzo Amoruso. Stefan Klos. Fernando Ricksen. Peter Lovenkrands. The list of hugely talented imports from Europe to Rangers FC is endless, and long may it continue.
Along with the infinite list of legendary Scots that have represented Rangers over the years, the continuous supply of stars from across the continent have been equally important in achieving success on the pitch.
But one man that is often forgotten about throughout the club’s glittering history is striker Dado Prso, who spent three seasons in the west of Glasgow between 2004 and 2007.
The towering forward may not be remembered for his goal-scoring abilities, but simply the mention of his name will bring a beaming smile to those fortunate enough to have witnessed his displays in blue. A lasting legacy, and one that he can be more than proud of.
Born in Zadar in 1974 as Miladin, he became known as Dado to his closest companions, and began playing football in his youth before moves to Hajduk Split and NK Pazinka as a teen.
But as a vicious war ravaged the country and caused complete devastation, he and his family – like many others – fled home in search of a better life. The move took him to northern France, where he continued his love of football at FC Rouen and subsequently Stade Raphaelois.
It wasn’t all glitz and glam in the beginning, with the 21-year-old taking up a part-time role as a car mechanic. But the youngster’s world was soon turned upside down when Monaco came calling.
In a miracle of his own making, his display in a pre-season friendly against the French giants caught the eye of then-manager Jean Tigana in 1996.
The legendary midfielder immediately brought Prso to the south coast, before sending him to lower league outfit AC Ajaccio to help further his development.
By 1999, he was back on the scene at Monaco, but failed to win a regular playing spot as the club’s brightest talent David Trezeguet fired in 22 goals on the way to the league title. The Frenchman soon left for Juventus, however, leaving Prso with an open pathway to the starting 11.
He recorded 15 and 16 goals in all competitions across the 2002/03 and 03/04 campaigns respectively, the latter of which witnessing the hitman net four goals on his 29th birthday in an astonishing 8-3 Champions League victory over Deportivo.
He added three more in the tournament as Monaco powered their way to the final, eventually losing 3-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
After mixing it with the very best at club level, the frontman was rewarded with a call-up to the Croatian national team, featuring in the 2004 European Championship and finding the net in their group stage draw with France, with former team-mate Trezeguet scoring for the opposition.
A new challenge at Ibrox awaited after the tournament, with Rangers snapping up the 6’3 forward on a free transfer.
Dundee’s Nacho Novo also joined the ranks under Alex McLeish, and the pair would go on to form a formidable duo in their debut campaign, recording 18 and 19 goals respectively as Rangers snatched the title from Celtic in dramatic fashion.
Their efforts also helped bring the League Cup back to Ibrox, with Prso achieving personal success with a second-successive Croatian Footballer of the Year award going his way thanks to his stunning form for club and country, having secured the prize for the first time a year before.
The numbers declined in the following season as Rangers slipped to third, with Kris Boyd and Lovenkrands taking over the mantle in front of goal. Prso did manage 12 in all competitions, while his four goals in 2006 World Cup qualifying once again earned him the title of Croatia’s player of the year.
More from Inside Ibrox
It would be his third and final time clinching the prestigious award, with his name now standing proudly among other multiple winners. Only Real Madrid’s Luka Modric (8) and the legendary Davor Suker (6) sit above him in the list, certainly not bad company to be in.
But unfortunately for the striker and indeed for the Rangers faithful, the physicality of Scottish football was taking its toll. After retiring from international duty, he strived to play through the pain at club level, but was forced to give in to recurring knee and ankle injuries and call it a day.
After three years of loyal service, his final part of the journey saw him hobble down the tunnel in tears after receiving an emotional send-off from both players and supporters at the end of the 2006/07 campaign.
On a more positive note, however, Dado’s 19-year-old son Lorenzo is now proudly waving the family flag on the football pitch.
The defender is currently plying his trade at Nice, and, although his duties focus on preventing goals as opposed to scoring them, it would be a true fairytale nonetheless should he ever follow in his father’s footsteps and one day make his way to Ibrox.