Zeljko Kalac
Željko Kalac.jpg
Kalac in 2012
Personal information
Full name Zeljko Kalac[1]
Date of birth (1972-12-16) 16 December 1972 (age 49)
Place of birth Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Height 2.02 m (6 ft 8 in)
Position(s) Goalkeeper
Youth career
1988 Sydney United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1989–1995 Sydney United 92 (0)
1995–1996 Leicester City 2 (0)
1996–1998 Sydney United 30 (0)
1998–2002 Roda JC 115 (0)
2002–2005 Perugia 79 (0)
2005–2009 AC Milan 38 (0)
2009–2010 Kavala 9 (0)
2010–2011 Sydney United
2013 Hobart Zebras 1 (0)
Total 366 (0)
National team
1992–2006 Australia 54 (0)
Teams managed
2011–2015 Sydney FC (GK Coach)
2015–2017 Western Sydney Wanderers (GK Coach)
2017–2018 Karabükspor (GK Coach)
2018–2019 Melbourne City (GK Coach)
2020 Sydney United
2020–2021 Xanthi FC (GK coach)
2021– NK Urania Baška Voda
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Zeljko Kalac (born 16 December 1972) is an Australian former soccer goalkeeper, who is currently the manager of NK Urania Baška Voda, who play in the Croatian third division.[2] Nicknamed "Spider" due to his tall, gangly figure,[3] standing at 2.02 m., Kalac is the tallest player to have represented the Australia national football team.[4]

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 Italian club A.C. Milan in 2005, the number 18 was already claimed by Marek Jankulovski, who joined at the same time, and so he chose number 16. When he transferred to Kavala, number 18 was also taken, so he settled for number 60.

Club career

Early career

Growing up in the Sydney Croat community, Kalac began his professional career rising through the ranks at Sydney United, competing in the Australian National Soccer League. At the age of sixteen, 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 1991–92 season, the place cemented when Bosnich transferred to Aston Villa later in the season.

When APIA Leichhardt were dumped out of the NSL for financial troubles at the end of the 1991–92 season, Franken returned to Sydney United 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 to third place in the table before being eliminated in the semi-finals. He remained as first-choice throughout the 1994–95 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, with the score 1–1. 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, 20 seconds after Kalac had come onto the pitch, and the Foxes were promoted to the Premiership without needing a shootout.

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.[5][6]

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.


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 club's number one, he held this position for four years.

After narrowly avoiding relegation in 1997–98, Kalac's arrival helped the side rise to fifth in 1998–99 season, earning a UEFA Cup berth. The 1999–2000 season was less successful in the league (finishing eighth) but he helped Roda lift the 2000 KNVB Cup, which Kalac rates as one of his greatest career achievements.[7] 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 A.C. 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.[8]


In July 2002, he was signed by Serie A club A.C. 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.[9]

Kalac stayed with Perugia in Serie B in 2004–05 and played 29 times as Perugia finished third, but were demoted to Serie C1 for financial troubles.


With Perugia relegated again, Kalac joined A.C. Milan in the summer of 2005 on a free transfer.[8] It was not until February 2006 that he made his debut in a Milan shirt, when an ankle injury suffered by incumbent Dida forced a substitution in the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage against Bayern Munich. As a result, he played his first Serie A match since 2004, keeping clean sheets against Palermo and Empoli F.C. He also played in the Coppa Italia tournament until Milan were eliminated by underdog Palermo on a disappointing 3–1 aggregate.

On 21 November 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,[10] 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 25 November 2006 in Milan's 1–0 win over Messina in the Serie A.

On 14 January 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 A.C. 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 20 February. 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 24 April. 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 the San Siro until at least 2009.[11] 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 as he snuffed out a Fiorentina attack moments before the final whistle, a save that earned praise from media and coach Carlo Ancelotti.[12] 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.[13] In the second leg of the tie, he conceded two late goals as Milan were eliminated by Arsenal after a 2–0 loss at the San Siro.

The combination of Christian Abbiati's return from his loan spell at Atlético Madrid and a poor performance in Milan's 5–0 Russian Railways Cup thrashing at the hands of Chelsea F.C. on 4 August 2008[14] spelled the end of Kalac's brief first-team run. He was consequently demoted to third-choice behind Abbiati and Dida, and did not play for Milan again until appearing in the second half of a friendly against Hannover 96 on 29 January 2009, and one Serie A appearance against Juventus as an injury replacement on 10 May. He was released by Milan on 11 August, following an agreement reached with the club.


On 1 September 2009, Kalac signed a two-year deal with Greek Super League side Kavala F.C. joining fellow goalkeeper Charles Itandje in moving to the club and Fanis Katergiannakis who won UEFA Euro 2004. He made his Greek Super League debut for in the 2–2 home draw against Panathinaikos on 18 October 2009.

Following the end of the 2009–10 season with Kavala, Kalac announced his retirement from club football.[15]

International career

Kalac was an Australian international for more than fourteen 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.

He 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 11 August 1992, as a stand in for Robert Zabica.[16] Australia lost 1–0, and he was replaced for the next match by club teammate Tony Franken.

In Australia's final first round match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup between Croatia and Australia, coach Guus Hiddink surprisingly selected Kalac over Schwarzer. With Australia needing a draw or better to advance and with the score tied at one apiece in the second half, Kalac fumbled a long range shot from Niko Kovač and conceded what he later 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 sixteen. 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."[17] His performance sparked criticism in Australia, dubbed by the fact Kalac himself is of Croatian by root.[18]

Kalac announced his international retirement on 4 October 2006. He played his last game against Paraguay on 7 October, along with fellow international retirees Tony Popovic, Tony Vidmar and Stan Lazaridis, coming off as a substitute in the 90th minute for Schwarzer.[19]

Coaching career

On 9 August 2011, it was announced he had signed a contract to be goalkeeping coach at A-League club Sydney FC.[20] Despite the dismissal of Frank Farina at the conclusion of the 2013–14 season, Kalac chose to remain at the club, working under new manager Graham Arnold. At the end of the 2014–15 season, with one year remaining on his contract, it was announced that he would be leaving Sydney FC, eventually being replaced by one of Arnold's closest coaches John Crawley.

On 22 May 2015, it was announced that Kalac would join cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers, reuniting with fellow coach Tony Popovic, whom he worked with at Sydney FC.[21]

On 1 October 2017, Kalac would leave his position as goalkeeper coach at the Wanderers to follow manager Tony Popovic and assistant coach Andrés Carrasco to Karabükspor in the Turkish League. He was replaced by fellow goalkeeping coach Davide Del Giovine, who worked with him as an understudy at Sydney FC and during his time at the Wanderers.[22]

In July 2018, Kalac joined Melbourne City as their goalkeeping coach.[23]

For the 2020/21 season, Kalac joined Sydney United 58 as their manager, the first time he will hold a full managerial position. Kalac has so far signed Adrian Vranic, Danijel Nizic, Jacob Esposito and ex-Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets player, Devante Clut.[24]

Personal life

Kalac's wife is named Diana. They have a daughter Abby and a son Oliver, who is also a goalkeeper playing for the Western Sydney Wanderers FC.[25][26]

Career statistics


Updated 1 September 2009[27]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Australia League Cup League Cup Oceania/Asia Total
1989–90 Sydney United NSL 11 0 ? ? ? ?
1990–91 0 0 ? ? ? ?
1991–92 21 0 ? ? ? ?
1992–93 11 0 ? ? ? ?
1993–94 25 0 ? ? ? ?
1994–95 24 0 ? ? ? ?
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1995–96 Leicester City First Division 1 0 0 0 1 0 31 0
Australia League Cup League Cup Oceania/Asia Total
1996–97 Sydney United NSL 7 0 ? ? ? ?
1997–98 15 0 ? ? ? ?
Netherlands League KNVB Cup League Cup Europe Total
1998–99 Roda JC Eredivisie 33 0 ? ? ? ?
1999–2000 30 0 ? ? 4 0 ? ?
2000–01 20 0 ? ? 0 0 ? ?
2001–02 32 0 ? ? 7 0 ? ?
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
2002–03 Perugia Serie A 22 0 6 0 22 0 30 0
2003–04[28] 29 0 0 0 113 0 424 0
2004–05 Serie B 29 0 3 0 32 0
2005–06 Milan Serie A 2 0 4 0 1 0 7 0
2006–07 10 0 3 0 3 0 16 0
2007–08 25 0 2 0 5 0 32 0
2008–09 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Greece League Greek Cup League Cup Europe Total
2009–10 Kavala Superleague 9 0 0 0 9 0
Total Australia 114 0 ? ? ? ?
England 1 0 0 0 1 0 31 0
Netherlands 115 0 ? ? 11 0 ? ?
Italy 118 0 18 0 22 0 160234 0
Greece 2 0 0 0 2 0
Career total 350 0 ? ? 1 0 33 0 ? ?

1Include one match at Playoffs
2Include 2 matches at 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup
3Include 6 matches at 2003 UEFA Intertoto Cup
4Include two matches at Relegation Playoffs



Australia national team
Year Apps Goals
1992 1 0
1993 0 0
1994 5 0
1995 7 0
1996 7 0
1997 6 0
1998 3 0
1999 0 0
2000 9 0
2001 0 0
2002 0 0
2003 1 0
2004 7 0
2005 4 0
2006 4 0
Total 54 0



Leicester City
Roda JC
A.C. Milan




  1. ^ "2006 FIFA World Cup Germany: List of Players: Australia" (PDF). FIFA. 21 March 2014. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Former Socceroo Kalac now head coach in Croatia". 14 October 2021. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Zeljko Kalac: Spider man". abc.net.au. 7 April 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  4. ^ Smithies, Tom. "World Cup qualifiers: Harry Souttar poised to become second-tallest Socceroo in clash against Kuwait". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Foxes win damages claim against Wolves". 4thegame.com. 12 September 1996.
  6. ^ "Wolves told to cough up cash". 4thegame.com. 5 August 1997.
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  9. ^ [3][dead link]
  10. ^ "A.C. Milan G Dida out with knee injury". Yahoo! Sports. 23 November 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
  11. ^ "Sky Sports- New Deal for Milan keeper". Sky Sports. 6 March 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
  12. ^ "Pato Helps Milan Win Champions League Decider". Goal.com. 3 February 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2008.; "AC Milan coach Ancelotti delighted with Kalac performance". Tribal Football. 3 February 2008. Archived from the original on 7 February 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  13. ^ "Resilient Rossoneri frustrate Arsenal". UEFA. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  14. ^ "Chelsea 5 Milan 0: Anelka's four-goal haul impresses Scolari" The Independent, 8/4/08
  15. ^ Lewis, Daniel (16 July 2010). "Viduka to play Kalac tribute game". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  16. ^ "Socceroo 1992 Matches". Ozfootball.net. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Schwarzer set for quick return". The World Game. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 9 October 2006.
  18. ^ "Australia vs Croatia: Australian Cheers, Croatian Tears as "Socceroos" Advance to 2nd Round". Spiegel.de. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  19. ^ "Kalac's exit spells end of keeper debate". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 October 2006. Retrieved 9 October 2006.
  20. ^ "Sydney FC Appoints Zeljko Kalac as Goalkeeper Coach". Football Federation Australia. 9 August 2011.
  21. ^ "Zeljko Kalac joins Western Sydney Wanderers - Western Sydney Wanderers". Wswanderersfc.com.au. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  22. ^ "Hayden Foxe named Wanderers Caretaker Head Coach - Western Sydney Wanderers". Wswanderersfc.com.au. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  23. ^ Lynch, Michael. "Victory sign King Kenny, City bring in Rado Vidosic and Kalac". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  24. ^ "Zeljko Kalac close to Sydney United manager role with A-League assistant job at Macarthur FC beckoning - The Covert Agent". Goal.com. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  25. ^ Hall, Matthew (12 March 2006). "Kid is confused as Dida does daddy out of game". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  26. ^ "Soccer 2006. Socceroos goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac meets his children..." Getty Images. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  27. ^ "Zeljko Kalac Profile". A.C. Milan official site. Archived from the original on 2 July 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  28. ^ "Coppa Italia 2003–04 2nd Round". La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian). Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  29. ^ Zeljko Kalac at National-Football-Teams.com