New Atletico Madrid forward Nikola Kalinic has said he did not accept a World Cup runners-up medal this summer as he did not feel he contributed anything to Croatia’s surprise run to the final.
Kalinic, who was still an AC Milan player at the time, was sent home by national coach Zlatko Dalic after refusing to come on as a substitute during the team’s opening game against Nigeria, meaning he then missed the team’s run to the final.
“What happened at the World Cup happened,” Kalinic said. “The coach did not want to count on me and I accepted that. I did not want the medal as I did not contribute during the tournament, did not share in the achievement of the team. We can leave it behind now.”
Former Blackburn Rovers forward Kalinic, who has 15 goals in 42 internationals with Croatia, said he knew he would have to battle hard to earn playing time given his new club’s current first choice strike partnership of Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann.
“We are talking about maybe the two best forwards in Europe,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them. I will have to compete and try and earn time on the pitch. There are many games over the season, and I hope to play my part.
“I know everybody works hard here, but I am not afraid of that. I am looking forward to achieving great things here.”
After making his debut in Saturday’s 1-0 International Champions Cup defeat to Inter Milan at the Wanda Metropolitano, Kalinic could feature again from the bench in Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup in Tallinn against neighbours Real Madrid.
“I felt very good in this great stadium,” he said. “I still have to settle in, this is just the start. Wednesday’s game will be difficult but I hope we win.”