Zeljko Kalac

Zeljko Kalac

Football player infobox
playername= Zeljko Kalac
fullname = Zeljko Kalac
nickname = Spider

dateofbirth = birth date and age|1972|12|16
cityofbirth = Sydney, NSW
countryofbirth = Australia
height = height|m=2.02
nick name = spider
currentclub = AC Milan
clubnumber = 16
position = Goalkeeper
youthyears = 1988
youthclubs = Sydney Croatia SC
years = 1989–1995
clubs = Sydney Croatia
Leicester City
Sydney United
A.C. Milan
caps(goals) = 092 (0)
001 (0)
030 (0)
115 (0)
079 (0)
037 (0)
nationalyears = 1992–2006
nationalteam = Australia
nationalcaps(goals) = 054 (0)
pcupdate = 02:12, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
ntupdate = 8 October 2006

Zeljko Kalac (Croatian: "Željko Kalac"), IPA|ˈʒɛʎkɔ ˈkalats] (born December 16, 1972 in Sydney, New South Wales) is a Croatian Australian football goalkeeper, who currently plays for AC Milan. He is nicknamed "Spider" thanks to his height (2.02m or 6ft 8in) and large armspan.

Club career

Early career

Growing up in the Sydney Croatian community, Kalac began his professional playing career rising through the ranks at Sydney Croatia SC (now Sydney United), competing in the Australian National Soccer League. At the age of 16, he was included in the first team alongside first-choice keeper Tony Franken, playing the first eleven games of the 1989-90 NSL season in Franken's absence, before returning to the substitute bench - a place occupied throughout the 1990-91 season as a stand-out Franken remained fit and was first choice all season.

In the off-season, Franken transferred to local rivals APIA Leichhardt, but Kalac was now competing for a place with a young Mark Bosnich (a former rival at Marconi Fairfield), who had returned from an unsuccessful spell at Manchester United. Kalac would start 21 out of 26 games in the 91-92 season, the place cemented when Bosnich tranferred to Aston Villa later in the season.

When APIA Leichhardt were dumped out of the NSL for financial troubles at the end of the 91-92 season, Tony Franken returned to Sydney Croatia to resume keeping duties, however selections were not as clear cut as before. Appearances were shared throughout the 1992-93 season and Kalac became first choice throughout the 1993-94 season, helping Sydney United (as the club is now known) to third place in the table before being eliminated in the semi-finals. He remained as first-choice throughout the 94-95 season, again reaching the semi-final stage of the competition.

Move to England

In 1995, Kalac followed many Australian players in a move to Europe with English Division One side Leicester City. Here he only made three first team appearances, one each in the league and League Cup, and his final appearance as a substitute in the 1996 Division One playoff final against Crystal Palace. He came on in the final minute of extra-time as Leicester manager Martin O'Neill believed that due to Kalac's size, he would be able to save penalties during the shootout. But Steve Claridge scored at the other end with the last kick of the game, literally 20 seconds after Kalac had come onto the pitch, and the Foxes were promoted to the Premiership.

With Kevin Poole remaining as first choice keeper, a transfer deal was agreed for Kalac to go to Wolves along with fellow Australian Steve Corica for £1.75m. But after making the move to Wolves he was unable to attain a UK work permit, and amid a long appeal process, the deal fell through and he returned to Sydney United. [citeweb|url=http://www.4thegame.com/club/lcfc/news/16288/ |title=Foxes win damages claim against Wolves|date=12 September 1996] [citeweb|url=http://www.4thegame.com/club/lcfc/news/16729/WOLVES+TOLD+TO+COUGH+UP+CASH.html |title=Wolves told to cough up cash|date=5 August 1997]

The next season in the NSL, he played every match for United helping them to the most successful season in over a decade, comfortably winning the league before being beaten in the grand final.

A move to England was again on the cards in 1997 at Portsmouth. Terry Venables, who was also coaching the Australian national side at the time, sought to sign Kalac but he was again denied a work permit and the deal fell through.

Roda JC

In 1998, he signed with Eredivisie side Roda JC who were seeking to fill the gap left by Ruud Hesp's departure a year earlier. Starting as the clubs No1, he held this position for four years.

After narrowly avoiding relegation in 97/98, Kalac's arrival helped the side rise to fifth in 98/99 season, earning a UEFA Cup berth. The 99/00 season was less successful in the league (finishing eighth) but he helped Roda lift the 2000 KNVB Cup, which Zelkjo rates as one of his careers greatest achievements. [http://www.rodajcspelers.nl/oudspelers/extras/kalac/kalacextrainterview.htm (Dutch) ] A promising 2000/01 season (finishing fourth) earned a UEFA Cup place the following year that would be a memorable campaign. Roda progressed as far as the fourth round, pressing AC Milan to penalties. After a number of saves throughout regular time, Kalac saved two penalties in the shootout from José Mari and Kakha Kaladze, but it was not enough as Milan went through 3-2. [ http://www.uefa.com/competitions/uefacup/history/season=2001/round=1554/match=68815/index.html Milan win San Siro shootout ]


In July 2002 he was signed by Serie A club AC Perugia, quickly cementing his place as first choice, helping them to a place in the Intertoto Cup. The Italian side went on to win their cup final, Kalac not conceding once in the competition. The domestic season ended in relegation after finishing fourth last and losing a playoff against Fiorentina. [ [http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=303611&cc=3436 ESPNsoccernet - Europe - Fiorentina complete return to Serie A ] ]

Kalac stayed with Perugia in Serie B in 04/05 and played 29 times as Perugia finished third, but were demoted to Serie C1 for financial troubles.

AC Milan

With Perugia relegated again, Kalac joined AC Milan in the summer of 2005 on a free transfer. [ [http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/news/kind=1/newsid=326025.html uefa.com - UEFA Champions League - News & Features - News specific ] ]

It wasn't until February 2006 that Kalac made his debut in a Milan shirt, when an ankle injury suffered by incumbent Dida in the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage against Bayern Munich. During Dida's recovery he made his first return to Serie A since 2004, keeping clean sheets against Palermo and Empoli. He also played in the Coppa Italia tournament until Milan were eliminated by underdog Palermo on a disappointing 3-1 aggregate.

On November 21, 2006, Kalac made his second UEFA Champions League appearance for Milan as he came off the bench in the final 15 minutes of the group match against AEK Athens. Dida tore knee ligaments and was predicted to be out for two to three months, [cite news|url=http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/news?slug=acmilandida&prov=st&type=lgns|title=AC Milan G Dida out with knee injury|date=2006-11-23|publisher=Yahoo! Sports|accessdate=2006-12-01] which finally gave Kalac a chance to make more competitive appearances for Milan. Kalac's first full game in the 2006-07 season was on November 25, 2006 in Milan's 1-0 win over Messina in the Serie A.

On January 14, 2007 Kalac suffered an injury against Reggina and was replaced by a recovering Dida for the following match against Lazio. These goalkeeper injury concerns prompted manager Carlo Ancelotti to sign Messina goalkeeper Marco Storari, who became the third goalkeeper in the Milan first team with veteran Valerio Fiori being the fourth. Storari replaced Dida and Kalac in Milan's Serie A matches against Livorno and Siena in mid-February, when both were out with injuries. Despite this extra competition, Kalac recovered from injury in time to play for Milan in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 against Celtic on February 20. In the next Serie A match against Sampdoria five days later, Dida was nevertheless able to make his comeback after being out for nearly one month and subsequently remained in goal until suffering a shoulder injury in mid-April, which enabled Kalac to make further two Serie A appearances before Dida returned in goal for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals against Manchester United on April 24. Kalac finished his second season at Milan having made 10 appearances in the Serie A and another 3 in the Champions League.

In March 2007, Kalac signed a contract extension with Milan, keeping him at San Siro until at least 2009. [cite news|url=http://home.skysports.com/list.aspx?hlid=452645&CPID=21&clid=120&lid=&title=New+deal+for+Milan+keeper&channel=&|title=Sky Sports- New Deal for Milan keeper|date=2007-03-06|publisher=Sky Sports|accessdate=2007-03-09] In the 2007-08 season, he made appearances in the Champions League again after Dida was suspended for simulation in a match against Celtic, helping Milan through to the knockout phase. Kalac made a number of appearances in the Serie A, after Dida suffered a combination of injuries and poor form midway through the season. Kalac notably kept a clean sheet away to Fiorentina on 3 February 2008, earning praise from media and coach Carlo Ancelotti. [citenews|title=Pato Helps Milan Win Champions League Decider| url=http://www.goal.com/en/articolo.aspx?ContenutoId=572869 |publisher=goal.com| date=2008-02-03 |accessdate=2008-02-04; citenews|title=AC Milan coach Ancelotti delighted with Kalac performance |url=http://www.tribalfootball.com/article.php?id=77146 |publisher=Tribal Football |date=2008-02-03 |accessdate=2008-02-04] . Later in the month he collected another clean sheet at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal in a 0-0 draw during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen, producing several good saves in the second half and being named Man of the Match by UEFA. [citenews|title=Resilient Rossoneri frustrate Arsenal|url=http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/fixturesresults/round=15106/match=301892/report=rp.html|publisher=UEFA |date=2008-02-20 |accessdate=2008-02-20] In the second leg of the tie, he conceded two late goals as Arsenal grabbed a 2-0 win at the San Siro to book a place in the quarter-finals.Og han er en fed bøsserøv

International career

He was an Australian international for more than 14 years, but has spent many years as understudy to first Mark Bosnich and later Mark Schwarzer. He was selected as a member of Australia's 2006 FIFA World Cup squad, making one appearance.

Kalac was part of the Australian squad for the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship as second-choice keeper behind Schwarzer. He was again a squad member for the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship again as a second choice, but this time behind Bosnich. His first full international appearance was against Malaysia on August 11 1992, as a stand in for Robert Zabica [http://www.ozfootball.net/ark/Socceroo/1992A.html OzFootball - Socceroo 1992 matches ] . Australia lost 1-0 and he was replaced for the next match by clubmate Tony Franken.

In Australia's final first round match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup between Croatia and Australia, Australian Manager Guus Hiddink surprisingly selected Kalac over primary goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. With Australia needing a draw or better to advance and with the scores tied at one-all in the second half, Kalac fumbled a long range shot from Niko Kovač and conceded what he described as a "shit goal." Fortunately for Kalac and the Australians, Harry Kewell scored later in the half and they advanced to the Round of 16. After the match Kalac spoke of his relief: "You're looking at the ground to eat you up. Obviously for me, it's very relieving to get that result." [cite news|url=http://www.theworldgame.com.au/home/index.php?pid=st&cid=72594|title=Schwarzer set for quick return|date=2006-06-23|publisher=The World Game|accessdate=2006-10-09]

Kalac announced his international retirement on October 4 2006. He played his last game against Paraguay on October 7 2006, along with fellow international retirees Tony Popovic, Tony Vidmar and Stan Lazaridis, coming off as a substitute in the 90th minute for Mark Schwarzer. [cite news|url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/Sport/Kalacs-exit-spells-end-of-keeper-debate/2006/10/06/1159641500298.html|title=Kalac's exit spells end of keeper debate|date=2006-10-06|publisher=Sydney Morning Herald|accessdate=2006-10-09]


*Kalac's preferred playing number (when not the conventional number 1) is 18 and has generally worn this number when playing for Australia. However, when he joined AC Milan in 2005, number 18 was already claimed by Marek Jankulovski, who joined at the same time, and so wears number 16.
*In addition to his nickname "Spider", he is also known in Italy as "Il Coccodrillo" ("The Crocodile"). [ forzamilancuorerossonero.forumfree.net/?t=10656177&view=getlastpost ‘I soprannomi di Pellegatti’, retrieved 2 May 2007 ] Though not confirmed, this may be a reference to the fictional Australian movie character Crocodile Dundee.


*KNVB Cup Winner: 2000 (Roda JC)
*UEFA Intertoto Cup Final Winner: 2003 (Perugia)
*UEFA Champions League Winner: 2006-07 (AC Milan)
*UEFA Super Cup Winner: 2007 (AC Milan)
*FIFA Club World Cup Winner: 2007 (AC Milan)International
*OFC Nations Cup Winner: 1996, 2000, 2004 (Australia)

Career statistics

"(correct as of 3 February 2008)"

"CS" is Clean sheets kept;
"Playoffs/Finals" refers to Australian NSL Finals series and English promotion playoff matches;
"Cup" includes domestic and European cups
"*" 4 appearances were made in 'B' Internationals in 1999.


External links

* [http://www.acmilan.com/InfoPage.aspx?id=14337 AC Milan Player Profile]
* [http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/w/player/154059_KALAC_Zeljko.html FIFA World Cup 2006 Player Profile]
* [http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/players/player=51683/index.html UEFA Player Profile]
* [http://www.oleole.com/blogs/tokyo2007/posts/interview-with-ac-milan-goalkeeper-zeljko-kalac Interview with Željko Kalac - OleOle's Coverage of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007]

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