There’s little doubting Niko Katic’s rise from developing youngster and fan favourite to colossal all-encompassing stopper in red-hot form has been one of the standouts of Rangers’ season so far, as the Croat went from promising £2M signing to looking like his value will rise into the stratosphere.
This summer he starred for Croatia’s U21s during the mid-year Euros, and despite the team’s failure overall in the tournament his own displays came in for much praise. Indeed, that appears to have been the making of him and he’s begun the new season at Ibrox superbly.
However, the-now 22-year old wasn’t called up for the recent international break, either due to carrying a small knock or the more likely possibility that he’s no longer eligible for the U21s – of course, he was 22 this summer but the eligibility rules for these championships are based on how old a player was at the start of that qualifying campaign, and obviously he was of the correct age back then.
Which leaves him in an interesting place – is Niko Katic ready for the big time now? To join his club team mate Borna Barisic in being a regular for the senior national team?
Croatia’s two main CBs are Vida and Lovren – the former sure isn’t getting any younger but still has legs in him at 30, while Liverpool’s Lovren is exactly the same age.
Katic has 8 years on both and arguably better form – but obviously lacks the experience. But the other two options selected by Zlatko Dalic were Tin Jedvaj and Matej Mitrović, 23 and 25 respectively.
All of these are quality players.
But Katic has to be knocking on the door now, and competing with all four for a call up – Borna Barisic, despite his questionable Rangers form, is an absolute mainstay now of the NT – which makes him a valuable asset. Katic, however, is utterly nailing his domestic form, did it for his country too in the summer, and Dalic must be looking at him now as a serious option for the next raft of internationals.
It’s an amazing situation for Rangers to be in – to have a regular international for one of the best national teams around, while having another who’s on the verge of getting the same call.
We’re huge fans of Katic, and he’d deserve every ounce of success a precious call up gave him.