Duje Caleta-Car: Guide to Liverpool’s latest centre-back transfer target

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Liverpool have been heavily linked with a couple of deadline day signings in defence, with Duje Caleta-Car touted as one potential arrival. Who is he?!

The Reds’ injury woes have left us outrageously short at the back, but we’d need another centre-back coming in regardless.

Four is the ideal number, plus a youngster challenging for games, and Dejan Lovren‘s Zenit exit left us one short there with the Reds seemingly keen to wait for summer 2021 to land their top choice for several seasons to come.

Needs must, though, so either plans have been accelerated or altered entirely, and Caleta-Car is the name in the frame right now.

Here’s a run-down of his big strengths, style, how he got to this point in his career and what more is to come.

 

Where’s he from and what’s he done?

DUJE CALETA CAR ( Philippe LECOEUR via www.imago-images.de/Imago/PA Images)

A Croatian international, Caleta-Car has 10 caps for his national team, featuring once at the 2018 World Cup en-route to the final and even playing alongside a certain Dejan Lovren recently.

He came through at his local club, Sibenik, before a move to Austria where he inevitably ended up at Red Bull Salzburg – an early hint as to why the Reds might be keen.

In 2018 he joined Marseille and has been in Ligue 1 for the past two-and-a-half seasons, coming runner-up in the league last season when the French top flight was ended early.

This term OM have played 20 league games, with Caleta-Car featuring in 19 of them. He has been largely good, they as team have largely not.

Fans broke into the training ground recently and set a fire, causing a postponement of the weekend match, so perhaps this figures in a player or two wanting out…

 

Big strengths and which side?

Bonus material first and foremost: Caleta-Car has played both sides of defence, right and left of centre, as well as in both a back four and a back three.

His primary role is very much on the left though, where he most regularly features for club and country.

The expectation would be that he’d fill in there right away in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, with other strengths of his game somewhat mirroring our Dutch giant:

  • Range of passing, using both feet
  • Aerial dominance
  • Covering through-passes and reading the game
  • Aggressive in the challenge

Caleta-Car’s statistics back up much of what you’d expect from an absolutely massive centre-back who is on the front foot.

  • 4.4 clearances per 90 place him top at Marseille, 12th in Ligue 1. Gomez (4.3) top for the Reds
  • Around 8 long passes per game from the back is roughly in line with Fabinho‘s distribution this season – with a 50-50 success rate
  • A 68% win rate on aerials speaks volumes as to his dominance there, while his relatively lower tally of 2.6 aerials won per game is due to teams sensibly keeping their crosses and set plays away from him when possible

He’s extremely strong, will no-nonsense clear it when needed but looks for the pass out to the sides whenever possible and loves a crossfield ping.

 

Role with the Reds

LONDON, ENGLAND - Thursday, January 28, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

In the immediate term, the Virgil role seems ready-made for him.

It allows at least one midfielder to push back into the natural line, though it could feasibly mean he’s partnered with Fabinho too, once both are up to speed and fitness, with the Brazilian playing right-of-centre at the back of late.

A Matip and Caleta-Car partnership might lack a bit of pace, but set-pieces would immediately become a positive for the Reds at both ends of the pitch.

Longer-term, the question would be over his ability to produce the same kind of consistency on the right as he has from the left, as he hasn’t featured on that side anywhere near as often for Marseille.

As a curious side-note, Caleta-Car shares the same agency as Rhys Williams…and Ibrahima Konate, who the Reds have been linked with for a summer switch.

Could both, plus Virgil and another of the current crop, form our defensive quartet for next season and beyond?

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