?This time last year, Luka Jovi? had the world at his feet.
After winning the DFB-Pokal the previous season, Jovi? scored 27 goals across all competitions for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018/19 and he was the name on everyone’s lips during discussions over European football’s next best striker.
Specifically, though, he was on Florentino Pérez’s lips too. A few phone calls and €60m later, Jovi? was unveiled at Real Madrid in a move which he admits he initially thought was a practical joke from his agent.
“My agent called me and told me that Real Madrid has called and told me that they love me. And I say, ‘Don’t tease me, please’,” Jovi? revealed (via Marca) about when he first heard about a potential move to the Santiago Bernabéu.
In reality, Jovi? had no reason to think that Real Madrid’s interest wasn’t real. He was one of the hottest prospects in Europe at the time and had shown he could score domestically as well as in the Europa League.
But joining ?Real Madrid comes with its own unique pressure. He cost as much as Luís Figo and more than Ronaldo Nazário, while after becoming the club’s first Serbian player since Perica Ognjenovi? almost 20 years earlier, Jovi? had the expectations of an entire country on his shoulders.
That pressure has shown in his performances too. Jovi? has never been a player to dictate a match or get involved in build-up play all that frequently, but the 22-year-old has appeared to be almost purposely shying away in the Spanish capital.
There could be a few different reasons as to why that is, but one of those reasons certainly isn’t Jovi?’s quality as a footballer.
He was directly involved in 45 goals in 75 games throughout his career in Frankfurt, finishing as the third top goalscorer in the Bundesliga last season – something made even more impressive as he didn’t open his account until matchday six – where he also became the youngest player to score five goals in one top-flight match in Germany.
But it wasn’t just the number of goals Jovi? was scoring that caught the eye in 2018/19. It was also the variety of them too.
Jovi? scored 36 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt, only one of which ever came from the penalty spot. He netted six headers – the same way he’s scored his only goal for Real Madrid so far – while 16 came from his right foot and 13 came from his left.
Although Jovi? was quite clearly the best player at Frankfurt, his form still blew hot and cold at times, and there always seemed to be a pattern to whenever the Serbia international had his ups and downs.
It’s not been an easy start at Real Madrid, but Jovi? did show similar signs of struggle at Eintracht Frankfurt. When he did fail to leave his mark on a game it was almost always whenever his former teammate Sébastien Haller wasn’t on the pitch.
The Frenchman has an incredible ability to bring the best out of the players around him – it’s for that reason he could succeed Olivier Giroud in the national team – and that was vital in Eintracht Frankfurt’s success in last season’s Europa League, as well as the 2018 DFB-Pokal.
At Real Madrid, Jovi? is isolated.
Fans at the Santiago Bernabéu have watched Karim Benzema lead the line for them for over a decade now, a player who combines the link-up play of Haller with the killer instincts of Jovi?, and that is part of the problem for the former Frankfurt star.
It’s not that Jovi? isn’t a good player. But he isn’t what Real Madrid fans want him to be. And that’s a recipe for disaster, especially in front of European football’s most demanding and ruthless supporters.
For Jovi?, things are already too far gone this year. That doesn’t mean he can’t still be a success at Real Madrid in the long-term, but the Serbia international needs to get his mojo back if he wants to replicate his form from last season.
With Real Madrid’s demands leaving very little room for player-development, the 22-year-old will probably need to find his feet outside the Spanish capital.
That doesn’t mean Jovi? needs to be sold – although Real Madrid could just include a buyback clause in any sale that goes through – but a season-long loan spell where the pressure isn’t as intense should do the world of good.
Real Madrid fans only need to look at Martin Ødegaard to see just how useful a loan spell outside of the Santiago Bernabéu can be for a young player.
Things didn’t quite click for Ødegaard last season, but he’s been one of the most impressive players in ?La Liga this season at Real Sociedad and looks set to be part of Zinedine Zidane’s first-team squad next year.
That doesn’t mean Jovi? will enjoy a similar renaissance outside the Spanish capital, but the Serbia international doesn’t look like he’ll start firing on his own accord and he might need a spell elsewhere to finally start living up to his potential at Real Madrid.
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