Since club legend Jamie Carragher hung up his boots 2 seasons ago, manager Brendan Rodgers has been searching for a replacement in the heart of the Liverpool defence. The likes of Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure are all established defenders in their own right but none of these defensive hard-men could fill the void left by the Bootle-born Carragher. Initial signs prove that the 20 million signing of Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren might just be a like-for-like replacement for the retired ‘Carra’. A leader by nature and a considerable notable presence in the heart of defence, Lovren promises all that Rodgers’ quite visibly missed in the title run-on last season.
Hardened By Life
Among all the fans who argue that the modern player is a softened, pampered, spoilt millionaire expecting to be escorted from the comfort of his house to the plush training centre should hear the story of Liverpool new centre-back. Speaking to the media before the start of the season Lovren recalled some of his traumatic childhood memories including one that involved fleeing the Balkans – the land of his birth during the war in the 1990s . it is evident this is a player with a healthy perspective on life.
Lovren’s 100-mile escape from the Balkans to Germany where he spent the first 7 seven years of his school life was no cakewalk for a young Bosnian kid with parents who didn’t understand a word in German. Having escaped his village, Zenica, shortly before the heartless massacre of 15 innocent peasants – Lovren and his family lived in constant fear of getting deported until his parents decided to return to Croatia, where he adopted his current nationality, in 1999.
Lovren told the reporters, “When we returned I was 10. I didn’t speak a lot of Croatian. It took me two years again to know everything. It was a difficult time, when the kids are laughing at you.”
Football was like an escape from the difficult life for Lovren and his performances for youth team NK Karlovac soon caught the eye of Partizan. After a difficult spell in France with Lyon, Lovren finally moved to England with Southampton amidst interest from his eventual employers Liverpool in the summer of 2013.
‘He’ll make me a better player’ – Martin Skrtel
Liverpool’s best defender in a season where their defensive frailties were out in the spotlight – Martin Skrtel welcomed the Croatian centre back and told the club’s official website, ‘Dejan Lovren had a great season with Southampton and I am really happy that he is with us. We all need competition because that is what keeps you motivated. He will make us stronger, so I really welcome his arrival – and it will only make me work harder. Liverpool is not only about 11 players. We will have many games this season, so every player will be important.’ The last couple of games suggest that Rodgers prefers the Slovkian centre-half over French international Mamadou Sakho alongside Lovren in the heart of the Liverpool defence.
Embracing the challenge of replacing Carragher
With a goal on his debut against Borussia Dortmund and a top-notch performance against the Saints in the opener where Lovren received a lot of stick; Liverpool fans struck an instant comparison with Carragher. While a comparison of this magnitude could intimidate some, Lovren embraces it. When asked about how he is expected to fill in for the retired Carragher, Lovren said, “Brendan said he has seen me as a leader. I told him I’m still young. I’m 25. But I will try my best. I will lead the team. I don’t have so many experiences like Jamie Carragher but I think it will come with time. It’s a great honour to be compared with a legend like him. I will just keep working and it will come one day: my leadership, maybe. I knew this was my role. I like to talk during the game. It’s the beginning and with time I think I will be better and better.”
Dejan Lovren : The new Carra ?
If the performance put in by the 25 year-old Croatian Lovren against former employers Southampton was anything to go by, Liverpool might just have a world-class centre-back at their hands. Supernaturally calm when defending crosses for a Liverpool defender and comfortable on the ball – Lovren seems to be the defender Rodgers’ hunted for since Carra hung up his boots.