Zvonimir Boban (Croatian pronunciation: [zʋonimir boban] ( listen); born 8 October 1968 in Imotski) is a Croatian former football midfielder who played most of his professional career for Serie A club Milan, with whom he won four Serie A titles and the Champions League. He was a member of the Croatia national team which attained third place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, with Boban as captain. He was also a member of the Yugoslavian under 20s team which won the 1987 World Youth Championship. Boban scored three times in this tournament, as well as scoring his penalty in the decisive shootout in the final. Having made his debut for the full Yugoslavian team in 1988, Boban, a fierce patriot, switched to playing for Croatia after the national team's inception, debuting against Romania in December 1990. Having appeared seven times for Yugoslavia, scoring once, Boban was capped 51 times for Croatia, scoring 12 goals. Croatia never lost a match when he scored.
Since retiring from playing in 2002, Boban gained a history degree from the University of Zagreb. He has also become a football pundit on Croatian and Italian television, working most notably for SKY Italia. He has a reputation as an outspoken analyst.
Born in Imotski, Boban started his career with Dinamo Zagreb. He made his debut for the team in the 1985/86 season, aged only 16. He went on to play 109 games for the club over six seasons, scoring 45 goals and becomiIn a game against Red Star Belgrade on 13 May 1990, Boban attacked a policeman who was assaulting a Dinamo supporter after a riot had broken out in the stadium This incident made Boban a nationalist icon in Croatia, and is cited by some as the expression of Croatian discontent with the Yugoslav regime. It also earned him a suspension from the Yugoslav national team causing him to miss the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In January 2011, this incident was recognized by CNN as one of the five football games that changed the world.
A.C. Milan signed Boban in 1991 in a deal worth £8 million. Milan immediately loaned him to Bari, as they felt he needed time to settle in Italy without counting as one of the 3 non-Italian players the club was limited to at the time. Despite his best efforts, Bari were relegated in this season, but Boban ably demonstrated his ability in the team and was recalled to Milan. He stayed in the club for nine seasons, and enjoyed great successes with them, helping the team to the 1994 Champions League title and contributing to the 1995 campaign in which they ended as runners-up. Playing 251 games for Milan and scoring 30 goals, Boban won four Serie A titles, as well as three Italian Supercups. In August 2001, with his role at Milan diminished due to the signing of Rui Costa, he was loaned to La Liga side Celta Vigo where he played in only four league matches. Unhappy with his role as a substitute, he retired in October 2001 and finished his last season earlier than he intended.
Boban played a big part in Yugoslavia's win in the 1987 World Youth Championship. He scored three goals for Yugoslavia in this tournament, and also scored a decisive penalty in the final's shootout. At the full international level, he earned seven caps for Yugoslavia between 1988 and 1991, debuting against the Republic of Ireland on 27 April 1988. He played his last game for Yugoslavia on 16 May 1991 against the Faroe Islands, during which he scored his first and only goal for Yugoslavia.
When the nation of Croatia declared its independence of Yugoslavia, Boban left Yugoslavia to play for Croatia. He played his first international match for Croatia in a friendly match against Romania on 22 December 1990. This match was only the second fixture Croatia had played as an independent nation since 1956. Boban played his last match for the national team in a friendly against France on 13 November 1999. He blamed back pain for his decision to quit international football, but would go on to play in two more seasons of club football. In his career with the Croatian national team, Boban won 51 international caps and scored 12 goals.
Boban was a member of the Croatian team that finished third at the 1998 World Cup, captaining the squad at that tournament, as he had at the 1996 European Football Championship. A mistake he made in the semi-final allowed France to equalize immediately after Croatia had fought hard to earn a one-goal lead. To make matters worse, Boban was injured and wanted to come off at half time but stayed on until the 65th minute, when he was replaced by Silvio Maric. France won the match 2–1 and eventually won the tournament. Croatia went on to defeat the Netherlands, with Boban providing the pass to Davor Šuker to score the winner, allowing Croatia to attain third place and receive the bronze medal.
Boban officially retired from football in 2002 after receiving little pitch time at Celta Vigo. On 7 October 2002, Boban organised and played in a farewell testimonial, with Croatia's 1998 World Cup team matching up against a World XI featuring such stars as Rivaldo, Marco van Basten and Lothar Matthäus.
Since retiring from football, Boban, always known to be a literary man, completed his history degree at the University of Zagreb. He graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb in 2004, with a thesis named "Christianity in the Roman Empire".
He also started a career in sports journalism, being the administration president for the Croatian daily sports newspaper Sportske novosti, a co-commentator during live broadcasts of the Croatian national team's away matches on the country's commercially-funded national TV station RTL Televizija as well as a commentator for SKY Italia and columnist for La Gazzetta dello Sport. Boban also owns a bar in Zagreb, called "Boban".
Boban has always maintained that he will never become a coach.