Croatia’s Nikola Kalinic has refused to accept his runners-up World Cup medal saying he is not entitled to one having played no part in his country’s run to a second place finish.
The Ac Milan forward was sent home on the back of his refusal to come on as a late substitute in Croatia’s group game against Nigeria citing fitness issues.
Marko Pjaca would later come on for Mandzukic in Kalinic’s place with Zlatko Dalic later stating after the match that his team finished the game “with a problem” – referring to Kalinic’s back fitness concerns.
Croatia head coach Dalic later told newsmen that the Milan forward would be sent home due to a recurring back problem although many believed he was serving punishment for his refusal to come on in the game against Nigeria.
Speaking to reporters in an arranged press conference, the Croatia national team boss said;
“During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half. However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue.
“The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday.
“I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have [to make] this decision.”
The decision left Croatia short of options in the centre forward position with Mario Mandzukic the only available option in that role.
Dalic’s decision did not prove costly however as Croatia made an incredible run to their best World cup finish, losing 4-2 to France in the final to claim silver.
Despite not featuring in Russia, Kalinic’s international team-mates and coaching staff decided to award him a silver medal but he turned down the gesture as he believes he does not deserve such.
Speaking to SportskeNovosti Kalinic told his team-mates ” Thanks for the medals but I did not play in Russia”.
Despite just completing his €25 million transfer to San Siro this summer, the 30-year old is being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid where he is to replace Fernando Torres.