Croatia manager Ante Cacic insists he has buried the hatchet with Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and fully expects him to be involved in future World Cup qualifiers.
The Croats arrived in Belfast over the weekend without a raft of senior players, including Lovren, who asked not to be called up for either Tuesday’s friendly with Northern Ireland or last Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Iceland for personal reasons.
Lovren has endured a rocky relationship with Cacic, his former boss at Inter Zapresic, having been left out of the Euro 2016 squad—a decision that saw both sides trade barbs in public.
But he was back in the fold for the September match with Turkey when he was an unused substitute.
And though Lovren has not played a game for his country since before the summer, Cacic insists the door remains open for a player who has impressed since Jurgen Klopp‘s arrival on Merseyside.
“I think we’ve said enough about that this year—for me, there is no case with Lovren,” Cacic said.
“I know that when I feel he is needed for the team he will be called up and of course he will come to play for the national team.
“I was his first senior coach, all the way back in 2006 at Inter Zapresic, I know him very well.
“He was a young player then and he’s shown that he has the capacity to have a respectable career.
“We are all proud of him because he’s playing for a big club in England, one of the two best leagues in the world, along with Spain, which is a great satisfaction for everyone who’s worked with him and especially for him personally.
“To any national team, including Croatia, he’s a needed player, somebody that we don’t want to not use in the future.”