Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott):
After scoring his first career hat-trick and becoming Partizan Belgrade’s captain at the age of 17, Stevan Jovetic seemed destined for greatness. His unique combination of silky dribbling ability and clinical finishing were bound to attract some of the biggest names in Europe. Therefore it is no surprise that Jovetic has been signed for multi-million pound fees by Fiorentina, Manchester City, and Inter Milan, giants of the game. Yet Jovetic, now 26, finds his career at something of a standstill. In this article I will look at Jovetic’s successes, but will focus on the reasons for a good, yet underwhelming career so far.
Jovetic made his debut for Partizan at the young age of 16, in a league match against FK Voždovac. It was a sign of his talent that just nine months later, he was trusted with the club’s captaincy, becoming Partizan’s youngest ever player to receive the honour. This talent did not go unnoticed, and just five months later, he was snapped up by Italian club Fiorentina for £8,000,000. Jovetic enjoyed a relatively productive time at Fiorentina where he was mainly deployed as a second striker, scoring 35 goals in 116 games. Furthermore, these goals were often of great significance, scoring braces against European heavyweights, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
It was during the summer of the 2010/2011 season however, when the first cracks in Jovetic’s career began to appear. Jovetic learnt that he had injured his cruciate ligament, something which would go on to rule him out for the entire season. At such a young age, an injury like this carries devastating consequences, with many promising young footballers going on to have limited futures in the game after such a large setback. Jovetic however, fought back by scoring 14 goals in 27 games in the 2011/2012 season. It was a fine showing of Jovetic’s mental and physical strength and something which should have set the tone for the rest of his career.
Jovetic’s sublime return from injury caught the eyes of Manchester City in the summer of 2013, who quickly wrapped up a deal worth £22,000,000. It was an unusually slow start by Jovetic in England however, with the forward having to wait over five months to net his first Premier League goal, in a 5-1 win over Spurs. This can partly be attributed to a rotten injury record, with five significant injuries being recorded in his first season with the club. It would not be inaccurate to suggest that Jovetic never really recovered from this slow start, scoring just eight goals in 28 appearances during his two years in Manchester. Jovetic never really endeared himself to the City faithful, with many fans taking a dislike to his Instagram posts whilst on the pitch he was often the scorer of meaningless goals, an occurrence which was in stark contrast to his time at La Viola.
In truth, it was a two year stagnation of Jovetic’s promising career, and he needed to get it back on track. Inter Milan were the team to end ‘JoJo’s’ disappointing time in England, securing him on a loan (with an obligation to buy) deal in July 2015. He made his Inter debut against Atalanta on the opening weekend of the season and not even Jovetic himself could have dreamed of a better start. After coming off the bench, Jovetic curled in the winning goal from 18 yards out in the last minute of the game. He then scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Carpi, the following weekend. Jovetic finally looked like a player who could take his game to the next level, going from useful squad player to crucial match-winner.
Unfortunately for both Jovetic, and Inter, the 2015-16 season mirrored his career up until that point; plenty of early promise but an inability to build on it. In his remaining 21 appearances, Jovetic managed just three more goals, bringing his tally up to six. The Inter manager, Roberto Mancini, was so disappointed with Jovetic that he reportedly asked the board to try to find another club to pay the remaining £11.4 million to Manchester City. In recent weeks, Jovetic has confirmed that he will be staying at Inter for next season, claiming that he was ‘happy’ with how last season went. If Jovetic is truly happy with the past season, then it is a damning indictment of his underwhelming career so far. It can be said without any doubt, that a player of Jovetic’s quality should be aiming to score 15 goals a season, minimum.
Whilst it is easy to get carried away in the disappointment of it all, we must remember that Jovetic is still only 26 and therefore has time to become the player the world thought he would turn into. If he is to do this then he must work hard to get back into the Inter starting eleven, in order to impress Mancini. This will not be easy as he has to compete with players of fantastic quality, such as Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisiç. Arguably the most important thing for Jovetic to do in the 2016/17 season is to prove his fitness. Over the past three years, Jovetic is averaging just 17 appearances per season, it goes without saying that this is simply not good enough. One must hope that an injury-free run will lead to greater consistency in Jovetic’s game and will allow him to cement a place in Roberto Mancini’s side.
Having impressed in the early stages of his career, it is a great disappointment that at the age of 26, Jovetic finds his career at this standstill. The next few years can go one of two ways: Jovetic could overcome his injury problems to become a crucial player for Inter, or he could continue on the same path of mediocrity and end up playing the rest of his career with a ‘what could have been’ mentality. It would be disappointing for most football fans for the latter to become a reality, as it is clear that Jovetic has fantastic ability and anything other than an outstanding career will rightfully be seen as a frustrating waste of talent.