Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Celtic Battling Leeds United & Watford For Benfica’s Defensive Giant: Will He Be Useful For Lennon Next Season?

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According to a recent report by Daily Mail, Premiership giants Celtic are said to be among a trio of clubs currently keeping tabs on Benfica’s Croatian centre-half Branimir Kalaica. The report suggests that the 22-year-old, who currently plies his trade for the Portuguese side’s reserve side, has been surplus to requirements at the Liga NOS outfit, owing to the presence of multiple first-team centre-half options. Having initially acquired him on a free transfer back in 2016, Benfica will be eager to turn a profit on their man this summer.

Although the report has clarified that Celtic are interested in Benfica’s Branimir Kalaica, they are set to face competition for his services from the likes of Watford and Championship frontrunners Leeds United. It is further claimed that the Whites are looking to strengthen their squad ahead of what looks like it could be their promotion season. Watford too, are reportedly trying to add more defensive options to the roster for Nigel Pearson to work with. With that said, though, it could be argued that the most immediate requirement is at Parkhead.

What Is Celtic’s Current Defensive Situation?

When the Premiership campaign was brought to a halt earlier this year, the Hoops were pretty close to securing the league title. Despite the early competition from Old Firm rivals Rangers, the Parkhead side were able to regain the obvious ascendancy in the second half of the season. While the goals and assists produced by players like James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard had a massive part to play, the defensive contributions from the likes of Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien simply cannot be underplayed.

The Hoops currently possess four recognised centre-half options to choose from, but the massive question marks surrounding the future of young Kristoffer Ajer is sure to be a concern for Lennon going into the summer window. Having already released Jozo Simunovic, the Parkhead club have been left with Ajer, Jullien, Elhamed and Hendry as the four choices for the role. While the former two were the first-choice all through the campaign, Elhamed was utilised sparingly by Lennon, and Hendry was shipped out to Melbourne City on loan for the second half of the campaign.

Celtic Are Interested In Benfica’s Branimir Kalaica - Kalaica carries the ball
FARO, PORTUGAL – JULY 14: Benfica’s forward Branimir Kalaica during the Pre Season match between SL Benfica and Vitoria Setubal at Estadio do Algarve on July 14, 2016 in Faro, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

What Would Branimir Kalaica Add To This Celtic Defence?

The Croatian youth international was a former product of the Dinamo Zagreb academy, from where he joined Portuguese outfit SL Benfica back in the summer of 2016. Despite developing at a decent pace and showing some good attributes at the back, the 22-year-old has largely been limited to the European club’s reserve side.

Standing at around 1.95m tall, the big Croat would offer an excellent physical presence at the back to any team he joins, while he also boasts strong defensive instincts as well as positioning. Despite having been at Benfica for over four years now, Kalaica has only played in just one first-team match for the Portuguese outfit.

Celtic Are Interested In Benfica’s Branimir Kalaica: Should Lennon Sign Him?

The Celts will be going into the next Premiership campaign with hopes of getting off to comfortable start and seeing out the title triumph without too much competition. As good as they are in attack, to ensure that Rangers are kept at bay, it would be in Lennon’s best interest to acquire a physically strong yet tactically conscious defender.

Kalaica, at 22, offers not just the two aforementioned attributes, but also massive scope for development in the years to come. Considering his ambitious Celtic’s plans for the upcoming season are, it would make a lot of sense for them to spend money on a defender who is undoubtedly headed for big things later in his career.

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