Six things Rangers fans should know about Nikola Katic

Nikola Katic has joined Rangers on a four-year contract. Picture: Rangers TV
Nikola Katic has joined Rangers on a four-year contract. Picture: Rangers TV
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Rangers have signed the centre-back on a four-year contract for a fee believed to be around £2million. Here’s everything you need to know about the club’s fifth summer signing

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Spartak Moscow were interested

Most Rangers fans will know this already, but in case you didn’t... Russian giants Spartak Moscow were interested in signing the player and were due to meet with the player’s representatives to thrash out a deal. However, they pulled out of the transfer, allowing the Ibrox side the opportunity to snap up their man, which they did with little delay.

He’s experienced for a young defender

While 21 years of age is generally regarded as a precarious time in a centre-back’s career, as confidence-sapping errors in judgement are more common than your average elder statesman, Katic has logged a decent amount of playing time in his career so far. He played 3142 minutes in the Croatian top flight last season, a figure bettered by only three other players in the league. The previous season he played 2561 minutes across 29 games, which was good enough to crack the top 30.

He’s comfortable playing in a three or a two

According to statistics on Wyscout, Katic almost evenly shared time at Slaven between playing as a left-sided centre-back in a two-man unit, and on the left and right of a three-man defence.

Part of his versatility is down to his mobility. Despite being a tall defender he’s not cumbersome or slow, able to move quickly in a straight sprint and on the turn.

Whether Gerrard wants to rigidly stick with a four or three-man back-line, or switch between the two, signing Katic should afford some degree of flexibility.

He’s tall but not robust

The one-cap international is big, even for his position, standing at 6ft 4in. However, he’s still a little wiry by centre-back standards and Rangers may wish for him to bulk out over the course of his four-year deal.

Looking at the player in action for Slaven, he doesn’t physically dominate opposing strikers and can be held off by smaller forwards. The positive is that he doesn’t foul a whole lot, as his 1.23 infractions per 90 minutes was one of the lowest in the league. This contributed to him picking up only two cards (one yellow, one red) all campaign.

While he led the entire league in aerial duels (266) he was only 19th for percentage of those duels won. For a comparison in the Scottish league last season you could look at former Rangers centre-back David Bates, who won 63.2 per cent of his headers, a mark just above Katic. His new team-mate Bruno Alves dominated with 78.68 per cent.

He anticipates play well

Though he may not have the strength to overpower forwards just yet, he’s still an all-action defender, featuring in the top 15 for most of the advanced defensive statistics.

He defends by reading the game, as evidenced by his 221 interceptions, a mark good enough for third in the HNL. This instinct for sensing danger also helped him to finish joint-11th for blocked shots and 15th for defensive duels.

He can go both long and short

In recent seasons Slaven Belupo have occupied a place in the lower half of the league as they look to ward off the threat of relegation.

In order to best keep their heads above water in the 2017/18 campaign, they generally opted for a route one approach in comparison to other sides in their league. As a result, Katic finished fourth in the league for long passes with 216. Two of the players above him? His Slaven team-mates: fellow centre-back Božo Musa and goalkeeper Antun Marković.

That being said, we have to remember that Croatian sides will generally look to pass it out more than your average Scottish team. Katic’s 6.19 long passes per 90 minutes is comparable to Hearts ball-playing centre-back John Souttar, for example.

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