Singapore's best European imports: Ten of the best to grace the S.League

Many have come and gone, but who were the Europeans who stood out and left a mark in the S.League? FourFourTwo takes a look at 10 of them…               

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Billy Bone

Midfielder | England | Sembawang Rangers (1996), Geylang International (1999-2001), Home United (2002-2003)

In a professional football career that spanned over 18 years, Bone first began his S.League journey with the now-defunct Sembawang Rangers in 1996.

Bone's stint with the Stallions was a short one as he moved to Malaysia side Sarawak FA the following year. He spent two years with the Crocs during which he won the league title in 1997 before returning to Singapore with Geylang United (now Geylang International) to play under then-head coach Alan Vest in 1999.

Bone returned to England to complete his coaching qualifications before setting up his own football company Sporting Club First Touch 04

A playmaker who packed a powerful shot, Bone - who formed a telepathic understanding with forward Brian Bothwell - was named Eagles captain in 2000 and picked up the S.League winners medal with Geylang in 2001.

He then made the switch to Home in 2002 where he played alongside the likes of Egmar Goncalves and Peres De Oliveira at Bishan Stadium, winning his second S.League title with the Protectors in 2003 - which proved to be his final one in local football. 

Injury meant he had to call time on his career at the tail-end of 2003, and Bone returned to England to complete his coaching qualifications before setting up his own football company Sporting Club First Touch 04.  

Mirko Grabovac

Forward | Croatia | Warriors FC (1999 - 2003), Tampines Rovers (2004 - 2007), Sengkang Punggol (2008)

Spearheading the attack for clubs such as SAFFC (now Warriors FC) and Tampines Rovers, Grabovac won four S.League titles, three Singapore Cups and one ASEAN Club Championship. His personal accolades were impressive too - five Top Scorer of the Year awards, Player of the Year in 2001 and S.League Player of the Decade (1996-2005) in 2005.

A fine creator with a knack of finding space for himself and his teammates in the final third while drawing defenders out of position, Grabovac was lethal in front of goal - his 244 league goals was testament to that.

Grabovac was awarded Singapore citizenship in 2002, earning 12 caps but failed to score a single goal for the Lions before renouncing it in 2008.

He also had a short stint with Sengkang Punggol (now Hougang United) in 2008 as player-coach, but Grabovac did not play a single minute after failing to clear the mandatory Beep test twice and would return to native Croatia later that year.  

Coaching Croatian teams such as NK Imotski, NK Mosor and NK Junak Sinj in the decade that followed, Grabovac was recently appointed as head coach of Warriors for the 2018 S.League season. He takes over the reigns from Razif Onn, and will be hoping to guide the fallen giants back to their glory days.

Photo: FAS

Nenad Bacina

Defender | Croatia | Warriors FC (2000 - 2004)

While Grabovac was putting the ball past opposing goalkeeepers, Bacina was tasked with keeping things tight at the back - something he performed to perfection.

Joining Warriors from Croatian second division club NK Belisce in 2000, his solid defensive partnership with compatriot Veselko Paponja meant they conceded just 15 goals in 22 games that year to claim the S.League title.      

Bacina went on to succeed Nazri Nasir as Warriors captain in 2002 and he skippered the club till the end of the 2004 season before returning to native Spilt to wrap up his playing career.

His association with the S.League would not end here however as he returned to take charge of Woodlands Wellington (2009), Hougang United (2012) and Tampines Rovers (2013).  

Bacina is currently assistant to Bojan Hodak with the Malaysia Under-19 national team, following stints with Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), JDT II and Penang FA.

Photo: S.League