On Thursday the rather unexpected left-field announcement was made that Nikola Katic’s contract had been extended, with the accompanied official blurb about how great he is and all the rest of it.
Don’t get us wrong, we agree, and we’re delighted to see him tied down longer term – he believes like we at Ibrox Noise do that he’s close to the Croatia NT now, and in the coming years we feel he’ll make that step.
Nikola Katic could very well be Rangers’ Virgil Van Dijk.
But the analytical question does have to be the management of him.
Every time he starts to get a serious head of steam, Steven Gerrard drops him.
Last season, we know he got dumped for Joe Worrall and this campaign he’s lost his place to Filip Helander. Despite playing absolutely magnificently.
Thing is, he’s signed a new deal – he’s committed quite frankly the best years of his developing career to this club, with his new deal expiring when he’s 28 (23 now, ends in 2023), so despite the way he has lost his place, clearly there is a strategy in place by Steven Gerrard with regards the long-term development of Katic.
And more clearly the Croat knows what it is, and endorses it.
He knows, evidently, that despite how great he often plays (the best in the SPL in our opinion) he is not going to consistently clinch the jersey. This doesn’t answer the question of why Connor Goldson is undroppable, but that’s another debate for another day.
Without doubt the plan is in place for Katic, he’s aware of it, and he’s happy with it. He would not have signed a new deal to commit effectively five years of his life to Rangers if he was deeply unhappy being dropped and was interested in other options.
The belief is the Croat must have received reassurances about his future, that he will play, and plenty, for him to be committed to half a decade in Govan.
It’s a great signing for Rangers, for Steven Gerrard. It’s unexpected, as he was already in place for long enough, but 2023 does hike his value considerably and when his form escalates and he becomes undroppable (many would say he already is) Rangers will have a defender in the many millions on their hand. And a certain member of the Croatia national squad.
Another one well played.