“One of the best defenders in the world”

Nine months after Harry Kane and Tottenham nearly ended Dejan Lovren’s Liverpool career, he got the revenge he deeply desired.
Mari Lunde  |  12th July 2018

As crying kids and disgruntled adults slowly decamped the Pier Head fan park in front of the royal Liver Building Wednesday night, at least one Liverpool resident was made up.

Dejan Lovren has made it to the World Cup final, six weeks after he played in the Champions League final. He is a player that deserves all the credit he gets — which isn’t a lot, to be fair. Lovren to provide an assist in the final is 10/1.

Who would have guessed?

Definitely no one at Wembley on October 22nd last year.

“Best defender in the world”

After Croatia had secured their spot in the final, Lovren spoke to beIN Sports and made some bold claims that have united keyboard warriors in fury.

“I think people should recognise that I am also one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”



It is not the cleverest move, bigging yourself up like that right before a World Cup final, especially when you have a history of monumental screw ups, but I can’t help but admire the lad’s confidence and arrogance. A winning mentality in what many have considered a fragile mind. It’s clearly anything but. Croatia are 7/4 to win the World Cup.

Life as a Refugee

Life has never been easy for Dejan Lovren. He faced an uphill battle from childhood, caught up in the Bosnian civil war that broke out when he was only three years old. The conflict saw his family forced to pack a bag and flee the country, driving themselves to Germany where they settled for seven years until they were told to leave. Go back. They moved to Croatia, where a young Dejan with a German accent was picked on in school. The family was poor and could go weeks without money. His family’s misfortunes only made him more determined to succeed on the pitch.

Even after securing professional contracts with Dinamo Zagreb, Lyon, Southampton and eventually Liverpool, he could still not catch a break. He had married his childhood sweetheart in 2013 but they experienced some marital problems, and parts of the British press reveled in it. Two break-ins at his home in Liverpool had a huge impact on him and his family and effected his form at the start of the 2017/18 season.

Early season struggles

When the second goal went in at Wembley in Tottenham’s 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool, most fans assumed that was the last we would see of Lovren in a Liverpool shirt. It was shocking. A performance the Anfield Wrap’s Ben Johnson dubbed “Probably the worst performance ever seen by a Liverpool player” in the match ratings, and that he shouldn’t be allowed back within the city limits.

He lasted only 31 minutes before Klopp removed him from a situation where he was causing just as much pain for Liverpool as Harry Kane. Speaking after the match, Klopp called the team’s defensive performance bad. Like, really bad. Pyar bad. He said bad three times. Bad, bad, bad.

Lovren was due to start the next game against Huddersfield but conveniently suffered an injury in the warm-up. He first came on as a sub in the last minutes at London Stadium against West Ham early November. A few uneventful performances and the introduction of new signing and centre-back partner Virgil van Dijk in January gave Lovren the confidence, stability and calm required of him to “take Liverpool to the Champions League final”.

World Cup contenders

It wasn’t an elegant performance he put on against England in the semi-final but it was sturdy, minimizing the threat of Harry Kane. He brought the level of shithousery that opposition’s supporters loathe but you desperately want to see from your own. Many England fans have taken their Lovren fume to social media — saying he should have been sent off, calling him all kinds of names that I’m not allowed to spell out here – but chances are they would have adored his performance if he played for them. Double standards are strong in football.

So, is he one of the best defenders in the world? Meh. It probably came out wrong, or he got too caught up in the moment, too elated and euphoric over what his country had just achieved. For a nation with a population of just above 4 million people, few had Croatia to reach the World Cup final. Despite fine players like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic they have come further than expected. And Dejan Lovren is an integral part of the Croatian team. Mario Mandzukic to Score & Croatia to Win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (90 Mins & E.T) is 10/1.

Going from bad bad bad to pocketing Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and having few problems with Harry Kane in the space of three months is impressive.

Unless he injures himself in the buildup, he is only the fifth Liverpool player ever to play in a World Cup final.

All the best Degsy.

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Follow Mari Lunde on Twitter @mareylunde
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