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The Goalkeeper Conundrum – With Pletikosa Out, Who’s In?

August 27, 2014




Danijel Subašić is the likely replacement for retiring goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, but the question remains as to who will be taking his spot as the number two.

Subašić, who has been playing for France’s Ligue 1 since 2012, spent five years at NK Zadar and four years at Hajduk Split.  His time at Monaco has been a relatively successful time, but his start to the new 2014-15 season has left him looking lackluster, letting in six goals in his first three matches.


Monaco is currently in 17th place in Ligue 1 with one win and two losses.

Candidates for the number two sport range from seasoned veterans to unproven, but potentially talented youngsters.  Many will be found playing in the HNL, leaving many people to wonder if they are of high enough quality to represent Croatia at the international level.

These fans may be surprised at the caliber of goalkeepers that are available in the domestic league, and should be pleased to watch them play when it’s their time to be called upon.






HNK Rijeka’s Ivan Vargić is should be the first choice to back Subašić up for the national team.  Vargić has spent his career playing in Croatia, but has certainly made a name for himself during his current spell at Rijkea where he helped his team achieve second place in the Prva Liga last season, win the Croatian Cup as well as the Croatian Super Cup, and make it to the Europa League group stages last season and are well on their way to reaching them again.

The veteran 27-year-old goalkeeper is reaching his prime.  He was a member of the Croatian U21 team and received his first senior level call up last season.


A draw back to Vargić is he has never competed at the senior level, leaving him an unproven national team player, but given the right circumstances, he should receive his first appearance soon, and will be given the chance to prove he is a viable option.








Hajduk Split boasts bringing up some of Croatia’s best goalkeepers to date.  Pletikosa had spent his youth career there followed by eight seasons with them totaling to 170 caps with the club. Vedran Runje was also a product of Hajduk, and now, they are bringing up Lovre Kalinić.

Kalinić spent his youth and much of his professional career at Hajduk  and has seven appearances for Croatia’s U21, but has yet to receive an international call up for the the senior side.  At the age of 24, and standing at almost 6-foot-8, Kalinić is working towards improvement and hoping for his first chance at national representation.






Youngster, Matej Delač has been hyped since he was signed to Chelsea FC in 2010 at the age of 17, but he has yet to see any first-team time with the English giant, and has been loaned out every season since to clubs such as Vitesse, Dynamo Ceske, Vitoria de Guimaraes, Inter Zaprešić, Vojvodina, and currently, FK Sarajevo.

As a former player of Croatia’s U15-21 sides, will the young goalkeeper ever get his chance to shine with the big boys? Does he deserve a chance? Hope is dwindling for him, but he remains an option






An even younger keeper that is catching attention is NK Zagreb’s Dominik Livaković. Livaković, who is a regular with Croatia’s U20 squad, has been described by his former coach Ciro Blažević as, “The best goalkeeper in the league (HNL).”

The 19-year-old helped gain promotion for his club this season and will soon deserve a chance representing his country.






Dinamo Zagreb recently brought in Antonijo Ježina, who is a former NK Istra player.  Ježina was the clear-cut number one for the Croatian club until Portugal’s Eduardo stepped in his place.  With proper playing time, Ježina could be a potential call up for Croatia.

The 25-year-old’s first and only appearance  for Croatia came last September in a friendly against South Korea.  He came on as an injury time substitute and conceded a goal within his first minute of play.

Croatia has never been known to produce world-class goalkeepers, but have certainly made more than the best of what we had.  With the combination of young and seasoned goalkeepers, there should be enough talent to protect the net for Croatia leading into the next World Cup.




Honorable mentions:



Dario Krešić – Bayer Leverkusen, age: 30


Oliver Želenika – NK Lokomotiva, age: 21


Ivan Kelava – Udinese, age: 26


Silvio Rodić – Górnik Łęczna, age: 27




Colin O'Haravić
Posted By: Colin O'Haravić 19 comments

  1. Ziva Istina Ziva Istina says:

    Come on. Delac should not be included on the list. In the last four years I think he has played maybe 30 matches at the club level. And, I think that figure is probably too high.

    Serb Subasic gets the nod. One, he gets it by default and he is the best keeper outside of Pletikosa in recent years.

  2. Colin O'Haravić Colin O'Haravić says:

    Delac is 22. He’s got a lot of time to improve and play for a bigger club. And in the past year and a half, he’s had 32 club appearances. He’s got a chance to grow into something impressive if he keeps consistently playing at whatever club he will get loaned off to.

    Obviously Subasic will get the number one spot. Who do you think will be in at number two? What are your “inside sources” or “spidey senses” or whatever telling you?

  3. JP says:

    whoever it is, may he be both a decent shot stopper, with excellent fundamentals (ie positioning/angles), and some experience in game flow/management. it’s really that simple, and all this can essentially be developed. the rest is work ethic and some basic don’t even really need good hands to be a keeper these days.

    if we can get this sort of guy, with some freakish athleticism and a calm demeanour, now we’re talking world class. 95% of goaltending is between the ears.

  4. IvicA says:

    No. 1 Goalie should be between Subasic and Vargic, whoever is in better form. Subasic plays for a better team, so he may get the nod, but if his recent poor form at club level starts to show at international level, then I have no problem with him being yanked for the very talented Ivan Vargic.

    Third goalie can be a young prospect to gain experience. It should probably be one of Livakovic (he did very well for NK Zagreb in the HNL two seasons ago) or Lovre Kalinic (not sure if he’s any good, but he’s young, big, and starts for Hajduk at least).

    Delac, Jezina, Kresic, Zelenika, Kelava don’t play enough or haven’t shown enough to bother calling up.

  5. IvicA says:

    Also, in a couple years hopefully Marko Maric from Rapid Vienna will start to actually play some club minutes and then we can bring him in as third goalkeeper.

    This kid is supposed to be a solid goalie prospect, and he impresses in the junior tournaments.

  6. LAknat says:

    if we put Lovre Kalinic with Lovren and Kalinic on the pitch
    then this result will occur -> 1-2 (croatia lost)
    Lovren did not play well he culpable for the opponent’s goal
    Lovre Kalinic makes an own goal .. yet he plays well thoroughly
    Kalinic score for one goal ,.

  7. Denis Svirčić Denis Svirčić says:

    Good post Colin!

    Lets see how Kalinic does tomorrow against Dnipro. Vargic has done well at Rijeka. Hopefully, they qualify for Europa and we can see him in action against good opposition.

  8. Adame says:

    Not goal keeper related but I read an article on bleacher report about the top players of week 1 in la liga. Mandzukic was 15, modric 11, and rakitic was 3. It’s only week one but hopefully they keep it up. Not sure why but I’m nervous for modric. I’m optimistic about a good qualifying campaign for the euros tho. As soon as we get the keeper situation settled.

  9. Ziva Istina Ziva Istina says:

    Question for any Rijeka fans……..IMHO, only way Rijeka can win the HNL is if the following takes place: Dinamo gets into the Europa League and possible gets out of the group phase. Rijeka loses tomorrow and does not make it. This would allow them to only worry about the HNL and not worry about Thursday Europa League matches. If they make it tomorrow, it will hurt their HNL chances.

    Would you take that, Rijeka fans??

  10. IvicA says:

    Man, I remember Marijan Antolović.

    Dude broke some record in the HNL for the longest clean sheet streak and he was playing for crappy Cibalia. He was only like 21 and Bilić called him out as being a future starting goaltender for the NT.

    Goes off to Poland, then BiH, then disappears. I guess he’s retired now. Still only 25.

  11. ARMADA87 ARMADA87 says:

    I’d take an HNL title over a Group Stage spot in the EL.

    If Rijeka can break Dinamo’s title streak before Hajduk does…. Those bragging rights would hold some weight for some time….

  12. ARMADA87 ARMADA87 says:

    re: our new GK

    do we have a time traveling DeLorean to go back to the 50’s and snatch Beara from his prime and bring him back to present day?

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