Liverpool have been linked with a fair few players over recent days but the most interesting out of all them is Croatian goalkeeper Marijan Antolovic. At 6ft 5, he is a good height for a keeper and he was named Goalkeeper of the Year in the top division of Croatia after helping to guide un-fancied Cibalia to an unlikely third place finish last season. So where has this guy come from?
Born in Vinckovci Croatia, Antolovic joined his present club HNK Cibalia at the age of 18 and has made his way to becoming first team goalkeeper last season. The 2009/10 campaign was his breakthrough season as he impressed fans and critics alike with his performances in goal. Still relatively inexperienced at senior level, Antolovic has really excelled in a team like Cibalia which is not known for its expansive play. The defensive style the team plays mean Antolovic has been called upon many times to make good saves to keep out superior teams. Cibalia have certainly relied upon the young keeper a lot this season, and he hasn’t disappointed playing critical roles in achieving the victories and draws required to attain their third place finish. Shown below is some footage of Antolovic helping Cibalia to hold out against Dinamo Zagreb away from home:
Such performances helped Cibalia to their highest ever finish in the Croatian top flight, one that can be heavily attributed to Antolovic’s heroics in goal. During the season he once went 551 minutes without conceding a goal, a remarkable feat in any country. He was rewarded with nine man of the match awards during the season and was rated the “best goalkeeper of the Croatian First League” by leading Croatian sports journal Sportske novosti. At the end of the season he was also named in the team of the season by the same sports journal.
Still only 21, Antolovic’s whirlwind of a first campaign has seen him catapulted to becoming one of Croatia’s most promising young players and this season has seen him start for Croatia’s Under 21 side. Senior coach Slaven Bilic has stated he believes Antolovic will become Croatia’s number one goalkeeper in the not too distant future. His style of play could be described as cultured. He is good on the ball and can use both feet, and is not afraid to come and collect crosses or to rush out and close down one-on-one chances. He appears to be a decisive and confident goalkeeper who knows his talents and attributes, and utilises them to the optimum. It seems he has impressed enough to be of interest to both Liverpool and Spurs, and although he is a talented young keeper, he has only had one season in senior football, which may make him a bit of a risk to sign. In any case, Antolovic has had a great season in Croatia and he will hope to develop his game in the coming years to become what Bilic believes he can be, Croatia’s number one.
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