Friday, 16 August 2019

"From nowhere" - Has Stevie just engineered something truly surprising?


Nikola Katic’s form has been a topic of celebration lately. While many would argue he didn’t do enough to be dropped last season, and was unfortunate with the signing and appearances clause of Joe Worrall, nevertheless it’s all worked out quite well for the Croat and now he’s becoming first-pick thanks to developing well and getting the mistakes out of his game.

Yes, those errors. Ibrox Noise never criticised him for them, pointing them out but hoping he’d learn from them. He was only 21, after all, and learning his trade.

This season, we can barely remember a single notable error the former Belupo man has even made. He looks every inch the defender he was last season, but with added maturity, composure on the ball, and intelligence.

In short, right or wrong, Steven Gerrard’s dumping of him has made him. It’s made him roll his sleeves up, get better, work harder, mature, and make it impossible, when he got his chance again, to  drop him.

Right now he’s doing that. His goal in Denmark epitomised the cultured, quality defender he’s becoming, and from nowhere Niko Katic looks like a defender whose value is starting to hike well beyond the £2M we paid for him.

Sure, he’s not into the £15M range yet, let’s not be silly. He has one cap for Croatia and he’s only 22, without having delivered at the higher levels at present.

But his performance in the Danish double-header plus his league displays have shown the promise is there to becoming a lucrative performer.

Defenders of his ilk are rare – big bombing tough lads who will throw themselves into the fire and against the wall for the team and their manager, but who have cultured ball control and can score. Katic didn’t have much of the latter two last season – certainly not the cultured ball control.

But now he does – he is supporting midfield and even helping link play – it’s a hell of an evolution for a previous brute-force defender without much else to his game. Now he’s becoming the complete unit at the back, and it’s not like he’s only done it against Welsh sheep herders – he’s done it against one of Denmark’s best teams and was impressive in the qualifiers last season too.

Furthermore, he’s produced for his country at the youth internationals this summer, so this is a player whose stock is definitely on the rise.

Whether Stevie played a blinder, or Katic’s form is in ‘spite’ of being dropped, we don’t know nor care.

We just can’t see Edmundson or Helander shifting him any time soon.

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