Small town mechanic to world-class attacker - Woman behind the man: Wife Carole convinced Dado Prso to forge ahead

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By The Telegraph Online in Zagreb
  • Published 24.05.06

Zagreb: Only nine years ago Dado Prso was a car mechanic in a small French town playing amateur football. Next month he will be playing in the World Cup for Croatia.

The story of how the 32-year-old climbed through the ranks of French football to become one of Europe’s most accomplished forwards is one of the unlikelier tales on show at the World Cup. And even Prso admits he can hardly believe the path his life has taken since being spotted by Monaco when playing for tiny St Raphael in the south of France.

“To play in the World Cup is the dream of every player. Only three years ago this dream seemed unrealistic to me. Now, I am eagerly awaiting the beginning of the competition,” Prso said.

Prso, whose real name is Miladin, is an ethnic Serb born in the coastal Croatian town of Zadar. In 1994, during Croatia’s 1991-95 war of independence from the former Yugoslavia, he decided to leave his homeland.

His football career seemed stuck in Zadar. But even NK Zadar passed up the chance to sign him, as did first division side Hajduk Split, who informed him simply that he was “not promising”.

So after a brief stint with local club Pazinka from the north-western Istria peninsula, he left Croatia. His hopes of a professional career were raised when second division Rouen took him on, but his time was spent largely on the bench and pretty soon he headed south to start a new life as a car mechanic in Saint Raphael.

What he earned during the day was usually spent during the night in the Riviera town’s bars and casinos. Once weekly football matches for St Raphael were little more than a past-time.

Prso’s fortunes changed however after he met the woman who would later become his wife. Carole was responsible for convincing him to resurrect his career and in early 1997, Prso finally got a break.

St Raphael played French first division giants Monaco in a friendly, and the young Croat was acclaimed as the man-of-the-match.

Monaco swiftly offered him a contract that he accepted. But, with David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry in the queue ahead of him for a striker’s spot, he was loaned to Ajaccio.

Returning to Monaco in the 1999-2000 season, Prso scored in the last match of the season against Caen.

Though he still struggled to make an impact at Monaco as he battled persistent injuries, in the 2002-2003 season his career took off as he formed a devastating partnership with Shabani Nonda that reaped 38 goals, Prso contributing 12 in 20 games.

By this time he had been brought to the attention of Croatian coach Otto Baric, who named the pony-tailed striker in his squad for a March 2003 European Championship qualifier against Belgium.

Croatia won 4-0, with two of the goals scored by Prso, launching his international career in style. With the retirement of Croatia’s main striker Davor Suker, Prso’s place in the national team was secure. He was also a member of the Monaco side beaten in the final of the 2004 Champions League final.

Despite the attentions of AC Milan, he opted for Scottish giants Rangers where he has been ever since, delighting the Ibrox faithful and helping them to the league title in 2005. (AFP)