During the last international break, Croatia manager Ante Cacic accused Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren of failing to train hard enough and said the centre half wasn’t a lock to start at this summer’s Euros. Lovren, who has never been shy of speaking his mind, whether the subject is potential transfers or former club managers, soon fired back.
His response was to tell Cacic that if he wasn’t assured of starting for Croatia at the Euros, then he wouldn’t be going to the Euros this summer. If Lovren thought he was important enough to publicly enter a war of words with Croatia’s manager, offer up an ultimatum, and have Cacic back down, well, he may have misjudged the situation. Because Cacic isn’t backing down.
"I said when appointed as coach that the Croatia squad is above any individual," was Cacic’s response today, suggesting that unless Lovren publicly rescinds his ultimatum he won’t be selected. "I will not give up on that view for any player. In Croatia’s locker room there is no place for ultimatums; there should be respect for the Croatian jersey, teammates, and coach."
As it stands, Lovren won’t get the chance to pull out of the squad for the Euros this summer, as he simply won’t be selected for it by Cacic in the first place. It’s sadly predictable, an outcome that Lovren really should have seen coming given there was no way his national team manager could allow a player to undermine him in the manner that Lovren recently did.
While Lovren has recently resurrected his Liverpool career under Jürgen Klopp, some fans have raised their eyebrows at the way he has repeatedly sought to blame ex-manager Brendan Rodgers for his previous struggles. Many also remember the public manner in which he pushed for a Liverpool move, something that made many Liverpool fans uncomfortable.
Still, as he’s shown in recent months, when he’s on his game, Lovren can be a very capable defender, one who would make many sides better and a player who would certainly seem assured—based on form and talent—of starting for Croatia at the Euros this summer. The question now is whether or not Lovren can see sense and dial things back in time to be included.
"I hope he will accept the decision in a mature manner," added Cacic, "and understand that even the best players much put themselves in the service of the group first—and only then think about themselves."