Croatia's Nikola Kalinic Sent Home from World Cup After Refusing to Enter Game

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2018

OSIJEK, CROATIA - MARCH 23: Nikola Kalinic of Croatia looks on during the International Friendly match between Croatia and Israel at stadium Gradski Vrt on March 23, 2016 in Osijek, Croatia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic said striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home from the 2018 FIFA World Cup after refusing to come on in their 2-0 Group D win over Nigeria on Saturday.

Dalic spoke to the press on Monday and revealed the AC Milan forward alleged he had a problem with his back during his warm-up, but this wasn't the first such occurrence of late, per Football Italia:

"During the Nigeria match, Kalinic was warming-up and should have come in the second half.

"However, he said he wasn't ready to go on because he felt a back problem. He did the same thing against Brazil and England, saying he wasn't ready, and for yesterday's training session too.

"I accepted it calmly, because I need ready and healthy players who can help their teammates. He's not like that, on three occasions he hasn't been ready, so I made this decision."

Milanese journalist Tancredi Palmeri was critical of the Croat, whom the Rossoneri signed on loan from Fiorentina last summer with an obligation to purchase him outright this year:

Tancredi Palmeri @tancredipalmeri

Unbelievable! Milan’s and Croatia’s Kalinic has refused m to come from the bench during the game v Nigeria, and now is on the verge of being expelled by Croatia. What a stupid behaviour

The 30-year-old had an unremarkable season at the San Siro, scoring only six times in 41 appearances—his lowest tally for a campaign since he moved to Italy and his worst since he was at Blackburn Rovers in 2010-11.

Kalinic has 15 goals in 42 international games, but his involvement has fallen in kind with his form at club level.

Milan fan account Amro illustrated the frustration of a Rossoneri supporter who might have thought a good World Cup turn-out would boost the club's chances of getting a good sale out of the player:

Amro @ThatBoyAmro

"Let's hope Kalinic plays well in the World Cup so we can sell him this summer" *Kalinic gets sent home after 1 game for refusing to play*

The news is particularly disappointing as Croatia are lacking in other No. 9 presences bar Mario Mandzukic, the player whom Kalinic was set to replace against Nigeria.

Saturday's clash against the Super Eagles marked Kalinic's fourth successive game starting on the bench under Dalic, who went with Mandzukic and Andrej Kramaric in attack, with Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic flanking them.

Oghenekaro Etebo scored an own-goal before Luka Modric converted a penalty later on, propelling the Croats to the top of the group.

Croatia face Argentina in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday, and it looks as though Dalic will prepare for the fixture with the disadvantage of being able to call upon only 22 players.