By Wayne Veysey

3rd Jul, 2020 | 7:00pm

Exclusive: Celtic & Leeds race to sign giant Croatian centre-back

Celtic, Leeds United and Watford are plotting moves to sign highly-rated Benfica defender Branimir Kalaica this summer, Football Insider can reveal.

The 6ft 4in Croatian, 22, has emerged on the radar of the big-hitting trio as they all look to strengthen their centre-back options ahead of next season.

A recruitment source has told Football Insider that Benfica have high hopes for Kalaica but Leeds, Celtic and Watford are ready to test their resolve to hang onto him this summer and offer the defender a quicker pathway to first-team football at the highest level.

Promotion-chasing Leeds are in the market for a new central defender as they hope to be playing in the Premier League next season.

Scottish champions Celtic are short of defensive cover after seeing Jozo Simunovic leave at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, Watford are aiming to rebuild their squad whether or not they secure Premier League survival this term.

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Croatia Under-21 international Kalaica joined Portuguese giants Benfica from Dinamo Zagreb in 2016 on a free transfer.

The ball-playing, dominant central defender scored on his Benfica debut against Boavista in 2017, but in the last couple of seasons he has been playing for Benfica B in the second tier of Portugal.

Benfica are well-stocked in the central defensive department and they have felt playing for the B side would help continue his development.

Kalaica has impressed for Benfica’s second string and also for Croatia’s Under-21s after coming up against England at the Under-21 European Championship last summer.

In other Celtic news, the club are lining up an offer for an English club centre-forward after a huge development.

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