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Zoran Krneta on Liel Abada: “I have a very good relationship with Ange [Postecoglou]...[Postecoglou] was very complimentary about him”

By Brian Maurer

Dean Smith (left) and Zoran Krneta (right) - Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC

Yesterday Charlotte FC announced they were making a club-record transfer, bringing Israeli winger Liel Abada to the Carolinas. Charlotte’s General Manager (GM), Zoran Krneta had this to say about the Israeli international.

The scouting process began in Israel

“We actually knew a little bit about him from Israel…we kind of like to go into these kind of new developing markets…Japan, Israel, various markets like that” said Krneta about the process of scouting foreign markets and monitoring the Israeli winger before he was signed by Scottish club Celtic.

Krneta mentioned that they like to scout these newer markets because they are easier to compete in as every club is scouting the bigger markets in South America and Europe.

Charlotte FC's chance of making the deal started at zero

While The Crown’s front office monitored him at Celtic, Krneta mentioned that the opportunity did not look like it would ever materialize to sign the talented Abada. “I happened to have a dinner with the Chief Executive of Celtic about a year ago…he basically said…zero chance of selling him or if we do sell him he’s going to be one of the big transfers of Celtic” commented Krneta.

The opportunity did come as Abada became less comfortable in Scotland leading to fewer minutes. When pushed on the topic Krneta mentioned that he did not want to discuss the off-field politics that impacted Abada’s decision to leave Celtic and that he was a professional soccer player looking to play soccer.

“I think he believes that this will be the place that the people will judge him and talk about him only on the soccer terms rather than anything else – rather than where he is coming from, what nationality, or what country he’s coming from,” said Krneta of Abada choosing Charlotte.

Abada's resume is highlighted by goals and speed

When asked about what Abada will bring to Charlotte, Krneta said simply “Goals and assists – speed.”

Krneta also mentioned that they spent a good amount of time confirming Abada’s desire to come to Charlotte specifically. “It’s more very important the player wants to be here, wants to play in Major League Soccer, wants to play for Charlotte” stated Krneta. “We are very excited that one of the top young talents in Europe right now, great results, scoring goals, assisting, he’s decided to continue developing in Major League Soccer.”

Abada also appeared to be influenced by how long Charlotte’s staff had been monitoring him. “Everybody likes when he’s wanted and he knew about our interest for about a year or 18 months,” said Krneta. The Carolina crowd clearly played a role in drawing the Israeli talent as well.  “Also, I think he sees potential in Charlotte. He saw the crowds, he saw opening game, he saw the previous crowds opening games. He saw the 35,000, he wants to play in front of a big crowd,” continued Charlotte’s GM.

Krneta was also advised on Abada by former Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou who was coaching when the young winger was signed by the Scottish club. “He’s a [Postecoglou] signing…I have a very good relationship with [Postecoglou]...[Postecoglou] was very complimentary about him…he was like wow he’s a special player.”

An evolutionary move for Charlotte and MLS

With the amount of international notoriety surrounding this type of signing, it looks like both Charlotte and MLS as a whole are queuing up for some massive growth. Krneta felt that the Abada transfer was a clear indicator of this.

“I mean it’s, to be honest, it’s a huge step up since I arrived the last four years…with all due respect to MLS it wasn’t really seen as a serious league let’s say ten, eight years ago even five or six and now this is changing…for us to expect European talents to come here is not realistic but it’s happening and [Abada] is the best example” stated Krneta. 

With one massive signing the aura surrounding Charlotte FC looks to be shifting in a very positive direction.