Have Aston Villa set a dangerous precedent with their new record-signing?
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Somewhat out of the blue, Aston Villa paid £7m for Lovre Kalinic – Croatia’s No.1 goalkeeper – who will be available to play in January. The 28-year-old was a transfer target for Villa back in 2016 but his protracted move failed due to his inability to get a work permit. He's now their most expensive shot-stopper and has been brought in just three months after Villa signed their current No.1 Orjan Nyland.
On the surface, it appears the Midlands club have strengthened a weak area with a talented individual who was previously linked with the likes of Crystal Palace, Everton and Watford, but there are some question marks over the signing that need to be answered.
Why the move to Aston Villa?
Kalinic has previously admitted wanting a move to the Premier League, so it’s surprising he’s willing to take a step down to come to England. The first time he neared a move to Villa Park the club was in the top-flight, but now they find themselves outside of the Championship play-offs, five points adrift of the top-six.
The goalkeeper said in 2017: “Of course I'm still dreaming of the Premier League. Maybe I'll go next summer, or in four years, or never. That's also possible”. It’s hard to imagine Croatia’s first-choice goalkeeper would join a second-tier club if he wasn’t guaranteed a starting place at Villa, so Orjan Nyland might find himself out of the side very soon.
It’s also worth noting that while he is first-choice for the national team, Kalinic only took on the mantle over the summer. Just six of his 16 caps have been competitive appearances (3 in the Nations League, 2 in the World Cup qualifiers and one in the World Cup) too.
Being in the Championship still gives him a chance to climb the ladder, however, so regular football at Villa could be a stepping stone to greater things.
Aston Villa are still wasting money on new goalkeepers
Despite Dean Smith saying that Kalinic had been on his radar for four weeks, Villa’s interest in 2016 suggests the club intervened more than the manager. Smith’s revelation would also mean Villa were targeting a new No.1 goalkeeper just three months after signing Orjan Nyland, and Kalinic’s arrival now means they have four first-team goalkeepers in the squad – Orjan Nyland, Kalinic, Mark Bunn (out of contract next summer) and Andre Moreira (only on loan).
Kalinic is Villa’s record-signing for a goalkeeper and his arrival came at a time where the Midlands outfit were being linked with domestic options such as Tom Heaton (Burnley), Fraser Forster (Southampton) and Freddie Woodman (Newcastle). The Croatian international is the third shot-stopper brought in this season and the fifth in the last 18 months (including loans). Villa can’t get the recruitment right, but there is a lot of optimism over Kalinic.
If he comes straight into the side in January, where does that leave Nyland? The Norwegian has struggled this season, conceding 30 goals in 20 games and keeping only five clean sheets, but he joined Villa under the impression that he’d be a regular between the sticks. On the flipside, the Midlands club aren’t paying £7m for backup which may set a dangerous precedent if Kalinic doesn’t hit the ground running like Nyland.
The incoming goalkeeper hasn’t set the Belgian Jupiler Pro League alight this season, conceding 24 goals in 14 games and only keeping three clean sheets for Gent, so he may not make an instant impact at Villa. If Nyland only got three months to prove himself, how long with Kalinic get?