Lovre Kalinic is still getting a little bit of love from Aston Villa during EURO 2020.
Words: Matthew Cotter | @MattCotter_
Whilst Villa’s No1. Emi Martinez is flying high at the top of Group A in the Copa América; it is easy to forget that another of Neil Cutler’s goalkeeping group is away on international duty this summer. Lovre Kalinić, despite a turbulent time at B6, has been a mainstay in the Croatia squad since before his move to Villa.
When, in 2018, Villa announced they would be signing a 6ft 7″ World Cup Finalist, international goalkeeper for the Sky Bet Championship, it likely had many Villa fans elated at the new transfer direction following the substantial investment from the NSWE Group. But a mix of poor performances and injury trouble has meant that the Croatian has become Villa’s somewhat forgotten man.
Throughout the EURO 2020 campaign, Villa’s media team have persisted with posts wishing the 31-year-old well in his group-stage matchups. Kalinić hasn’t featured in a Premier League match-day squad since sitting on the bench in a 6-1 defeat to Man City in January 2020. Due to this, it is clear a few Villa fans may have let the Croatian shot-stopper slip their minds.
“Is this guy still on the books!?” one fan said, surrounded by a myriad of gifs, memes and videos all with a common theme. We, as a club, collectively managed to forget about a giant international goalkeeper on our books!
It is easily done, however. Since Kalinić’s first start for Aston Villa in January 2019, six other goalkeepers have started in between the sticks in competitive first-team games (Nyland, Steer, Heaton, Reina, Martinez and Onodi). He also spent the second half of the 2019-2020 season at boyhood club Hajduk Split. It is a possibility that Villa fans mistook this move as a permanent one.
So, can we ever expect to see Kalinić in a Villa matchday squad again?
Truth is, probably not, but it is not a completely unfathomable concept. His performances at Hajduk Split show that there is still a more than competent goalkeeper to be had with Kalinić. 11 clean sheets in 21 games and an average of only 0.8 goals conceded per game demonstrates the quality Kalinić possesses.
Another factor that could impact whether Kalanic stays at Villa is Jed Steer. Villa’s playoff hero would have been disappointed when Villa opted to bring in Martinez from Arsenal rather than giving Steer the nod in the absence of Tom Heaton.
As reported by the Sun earlier this month, a loan move for Steer is a possibility and with Tom Heaton leaving for Manchester United on a free transfer, Villa will be soon needing to decide on a second-string goalkeeper.
Nothing will be decided until the return of all players to Bodymoor Heath, following their respective international tournaments. However, Aston Villa’s Sporting Director Johan Lange will have no trouble with moving Kalinić on, if he feels the Croatian is dead weight.
It is unlikely that Villa fans would lose sleep over losing Kalinić. After all, some forgot that he was even still here! It would, however, once again feel like a missed opportunity for Villa. Comparisons could easily be made to a certain Bjorn Engels who has departed Villa just this week. Both, despite being promising prospects on arrival, have wholly been underwhelming.
Whatever the outcome, if Kalinić is to see the field at EURO 2020, it would be expected that Villa supporters would come together to wish one of their own well. Well, unless it was against England!