After a lot of debate over the topic, it’s clear and official – Niko Katic’s loan deal has both a recall option in January if we need him back to cover for injuries, or if Split aren’t happy with him and just wish to ‘return to sender’, plus an option to buy if he’s impressed so much they wish to make it permanent.
We don’t know if the option can be activated in January or the end of the season, but it’s there, and the inclusion of it 99% confirms he will remain in Split should he impress. Which he is likely to.
So why does Steven Gerrard not rate Niko?
So many fans are outraged in particular that the underwhelming Jack Simpson is fourth defender, while fans’ pick Katic is thousands of miles away back home. He’s completely fit, and the notion he’s ‘working back to fitness’ is just false.
The reason he’s away? Katic is just too physical for Gerrard. Katic lacks finesse, polish, positional awareness and calm – he is entirely devoid of patience.
Now, none of these are meant to be negative – tough no-nonsense defenders who just want to smash everything in sight are popular with fans, and Rangers supporters especially have loved Niko’s lionheart approach.
But Stevie doesn’t appreciate this kind of style. If Gerrard’s football philosophy of quick, low gravity technical players playing from the back hasn’t dawned on you by now, it never will. Katic was an early signing, before Gerrard had put his plans properly in place on the pitch.
Goldson arrived at the same time, and that was the style Stevie wanted – and Katic, while useful, didn’t fit it, and Joe Worrall instead arrived. Then Helander arrived the following year.
He even spoke of Katic’s faults, saying the lad needed to learn patience, when to stay and when to move for the ball. He called him a ‘project’ but clearly he’s one time moved on from.
It’s telling Gerrard’s favourite three defenders are the composed Goldson, the technical and game-reading Helander, and the quick and strong Balogun. Katic doesn’t fit enough of that. He’s not composed, not technical, doesn’t read the game well at all, and isn’t known for pace. But he’s certainly strong.
As such, even though he’ll give everything he has for Rangers, his is not a style our manager wants in the team.
And we’d be very surprised if he ever wears our shirt in anger again.