After weeks of mounting speculation, Marseille finally announced their first signing of this summer’s transfer window yesterday afternoon. News broke on Thursday that Les Olympiens had pipped La Liga side Sevilla with a €20 million bid for Red Bull Salzburg defender Duje Ćaleta-Car, who was part of Croatia’s record-breaking World Cup squad in Russia.
Indeed, pressure had been mounting on the club’s sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta for failing to make any significant additions to Rudi Garcia’s squad, while negotiations to bring Mario Balotelli to the Orange Vélodrome progress at an alarmingly slow rate. While Ćaleta-Car is not the most glamorous name in the world, his arrival will buy the former Barcelona transfer guru some time to mull over his next move.
The 21-year-old Croatia international will be familiar to OM fans after their tense encounter with Salzburg during last season’s UEFA Europa League run, which saw them reach the final only to lose 3-0 against Diego Simeone’s imperious Atlético Madrid. Over the course of the past couple of seasons, the Šibenik native has established himself as a vital part of Die Roten Bullen’s defence and deserves the chance to prove himself at a higher level.
The positional side of his game improved no end under the tutelage of Marco Rose and René Marić, while there is no doubt that the aforementioned Garcia is more than capable of helping him reach new heights. The ex-Lille and Roma tactician tends to deploy either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, which the player should have no problem settling into. Given the dearth of centre-backs OM’s coach currently has at his disposal, there is every chance that Ćaleta-Car will establish himself as an automatic starter before long.
While some supporters are understandably frustrated by their club’s failed attempts to bring in a few more fresh faces, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Let us not forget that Marseille were on the verge of financial meltdown before Frank McCourt took charge. While he has been unable to invest as much money as the fans would have liked him to due to Financial Fair Play rules, there is no doubt that the team has improved beyond recognition since his arrival.
McCourt has made no secret of the fact that his long-term goal is to have OM competing to win major domestic and European honours again, but there has to be a sense of realism that this will not happen overnight. Signings such as that of Ćaleta-Car will ensure that the club heads in the right direction, growing on an annual basis. He has all the requisite technical and physical attributes to become one of Ligue 1’s most valuable defenders, not least because he is used to playing for a team which enjoys the lion’s share of possession in the vast majority of games they play.
Of course, only time will tell whether Ćaleta-Car does fulfil his almost limitless potential and become an instant hit with OM’s vocal and passionate fanbase. In Salzburg, he was given the opportunity to learn the game within a club which places huge emphasis on youth development. Now he must raise his game and prove exactly why he represents very solid business for Marseille and McCourt.
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