In the space of 12 months, Dejan Lovren has participated in a UEFA Champions League final and World Cup final. That’s more than Sergio Ramos and Jerome Boateng combined can say. Those two tournaments are the pinnacle of world football, so what does that say about the Croatian centre-back? Because for the past few years, Lovren has often been labelled a liability and a sub-par defender, his recent accomplishments suggest otherwise.
Here’s why Dejan Lovren should be a mainstay for Liverpool when the season starts.
On Sunday, we saw a heroic Croatia team fall victim to the irresistible attacking force of France. The 4-2 scoreline was befitting of a World Cup campaign that will go down in the history books as one of the most entertaining. Despite the immense quality they have in midfield, Croatia were the surprise package of the tournament as they went the full distance three times to get to the final. Yes, Golden Ball winner Luka Modrić was the talisman, but at the back, Dejan Lovren was also doing some heavy lifting.
Dejan Lovren played every one of Croatia’s games in the World Cup equating to 651 minutes of playing time. In that time, the 29-year-old averaged 4.3 clearances and 56 passes a game, whilst maintaining an impressive 84.9% passing accuracy. Clearly, the 29-year-old was heavily involved in Croatia’s success, giving his teammates the platform to attack at the other end.
After a gruelling semi-final victory over the originators of football, Dejan Lovren told the media that he’s one of the best defenders in the world as he’s led his club to the UCL final and country to the WC final. Granted, he lost both of those finals but to even get his teams there, when either of them wasn’t favourites, is a massive achievement. Lest we forget, he helped the Reds secure a top-four finish in the league too.
His Liverpool boss came out and supported his claims, saying he was right to make such a bold statement. It’s nice for the German to support his centre-back but I’m sure Lovren would appreciate that more if it was reflected in his team selection choices this coming season. Fair enough, Lovren started 24 Premier League games last season, but many say that was because Virgil van Dijk only came in January. On top of that, Lovren only started so many games because Joel Matip suffered three injuries in which he missed 23 games for the Reds in 2017/18.
However, in the absence of those two ‘first choice’ defenders, Dejan Lovren was the rock at the back that facilitated Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in the final third. For Liverpool, Lovren averaged 1.3 interceptions and 4.9 clearances a game last season. As of today, there aren’t many defenders you’d rather have than the Croatian rock.
For far too long we’ve all been criticising the 29-year-old centre-back for his apparent lapses in concentration. But over the course of the past 12 months, Lovren has proved he can hang with the best at the pinnacle of football. Liverpool would be wise to make him a mainstay this season.