On January 8, Stipe Pletikosa will celebrate his 37th birthday, and not so long ago, last spring, departing from Russian city of Rostov-on-Don to hometown Split, it seemed as his professional football career had come to the end. Thus, news about signing for new club was a big surprise for everyone.
His agent apparently did a great job finding him new chance to prove himself on the big stage, and Deportivo La Coruna, who are performing above all expectations this season in Primera, certainly is a big stage for veteran goalkeeper. If until the end of current season Pletikosa appears in least 16 games, his contact will automatically be extended for one more season.
It’s no wonder that even today when the beautiful game has evolved beyond all expectations that goalkeepers and other players in such advance years for footballers get chances on highest level. However, it is very rare that someone in advanced footballing years and after a six-month break gets chance in one of the best Leagues in the world. At 37 Pletikosa is currently third oldest player in La Liga, behind legendary Juan Carlos Valeron, 40, who still plays for Las Palmas, and right-back Juanfran, 39, who plays for Levante.
“I’ll do everything in my power to stay in La Coruna more than six months,” Pletikosa said. “I have faith in my abilities and huge experience will be my ally. I’m more than satisfied with Deportivo, which is organized club with familial atmosphere.”
Goalkeepers are different than other players, as they have a longer footballing lifespan than most players in other positions. Perhaps the best example in supporting this claim Columbia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon who, by coming on as a substitute in the 85th minute of the final group game against Japan on June 24 2014, became the oldest player ever to play in a World Cup game at the age of 43 years and 3 days, surpassing the record set by Roger Milla for Cameroon at the 1994 World Cup.
For his whole career, Pletikosa aspired to prove his quality in the best Leagues of the old continent. In spite of realizing that dream by spending one season on loan at Tottenham Hotspur, he didn’t get a chance to prove himself in London. With only one appearance for Spurs in 1-4 home defeat against Arsenal in the League Cup, it was far from what he hoped.
The brightest days of his career happened in his favorite club Hajduk Split, when he earned a call to national team and later a transfer to Shakhtar Donetsk, and in Rostov, whom he captained to Russian Cup success, first trophy in club’s history. And now, more than year-and-a-half after retiring from international football with 114 caps for Croatia, he has reached the biggest stage of his senior career.
This story of Pletikosa and his signing a contract with Deportivo is one full of Christmas spirit and fairytale. Whether it is a swansong or a new beginning solely depends on his ability.