Once hailed the next Roberto Baggio in his ACF Fiorentina playing days, Stevan Jovetić is a striker able to play all across the front line. His incredible playmaking skills and pace allows him to thrive as a secondary striker and has warranted many ‘big-money’ moves to clubs like Manchester City. However at 27 he his approaching the prime age for a footballer and is finding his career has stagnated. With only 5 appearances for Inter Milan in the first half of the 2016-2017 season, with no goals or assists, Inter manager Stefano Pioli had clearly lost faith in the attacker.
Since then, Jovetić has moved to Sevilla on loan and has had a lightning start to life with Jorge Sampaoli, scoring 3 and assisting 1 goal in 4 appearances; even managing to score against Real Madrid in 2 different competitions, the Copa del Rey and La Liga. So what has changed to convert the barren run to a purple patch?
Looking back to 2013, Jovetić moved to Manchester City on the back of scoring 26 goals in the Serie A season. However, an injury hit 2 years, restricting him to just 18 starts, forced him out to Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan. Just as the striker seemed to be rediscovering his form, Mancini left the club and Jovetić spent the rest of the 2016 on the bench with Ivan Perišić and Gabriel Barbosa pushing him further down the pecking order.
In short, his recent managers did not understand the talented trequartista. In Man City, Sergio Kun Aguero took the striker position with Jesús Navas and Raheem Sterling playing wingers. Jovetić was not able to play his natural game with such a rigid formation; he was not suited to the low intensity pressing game and was isolated in the middle with Sterling and Navas only running the channels. It was the same story in Inter Milan with only the personnel changing. Pioli and Frank De Boer both preferred Mauro Icardi as the striker and relegating Jovetić to a supporting winger or expecting him to fill the back-up ‘lone striker’ role.
However Jorge Sampaoli knows exactly what he will get from the Montenegrin. His fast- attacking and pressing game perfectly suits Jovetić, allowing the striker to play his natural playmaking and poaching game. Sampaoli chooses to play a 4-4-2 when the team needs to defend. Jovetić is the first line of pressing, which allows him to use his pace quickly to close down defenders but conserve energy to attack by having no or minimal responsibilities to track back. Going forward the 4 front players are given freedom to unleash a lethal counter-attack, with Vitolo and Samir Nasri running behind the defence and Wissam Ben Yedder and Jovetić, playing off each other, waiting in the middle to pounce on a cross or a loose ball. The dynamism visible between these 4, and Franco Vazquez when he plays, is clear to see and analyzing the goal scored by Jovetić against Espanyol recently shows the devastating effect it can have.
Jovetić is undoubtedly a talented goal scorer and is in a rich vein of form. He seems to fit right in as the last piece of the jigsaw in Sampaoli’s masterplan. But, is this what Sevilla require to push Real Madrid for the title?
Spanish Football Expert
Out of all the exciting projects happening in Spanish football at the moment, with Sevilla’s possible league-winning campaign, Villarreal’s Champions League investments and Celta Vigo’s Copa del Rey smash, I’d have to say my personal favourite is perhaps the hipster’s choice.
Las Palmas were promoted from the Segunda Division in 2015, and were in trouble from the start of their 2015/2016 league campaign, with only four wins after the first half of the season. By February, however, things began to click. The Gran Canaria side made a Leicester-like comeback and won 7 of their last 13 games which secured the team 11th place in the final table.
Los Amarillos managed to hold on to their key players in the summer despite interest from big clubs. Experienced goalkeeper Javi Varas was linked with several English clubs, star winger Jonathan Viera was rumoured to make a move to bigger Spanish clubs, and Mauricio Lemos was, according to safe sources, on his way to Barcelona a few days before the window closed. These moves fell through, which, combined with top quality signing Kevin-Prince Boateng from Schalke 04, made Las Palmas one of the teams to watch when the 2016/2017 season started.
The way the club is acting, both on and off the pitch, shows they’re not just some regular small club trying too hard. They show with their every move they’re here to stay, and I think they’re a club we’ll see in the Spanish top flight for a long time.
Las Palmas find themselves in the same place they finished last season, 11th, but there’s certainly a lot of opportunities to improve in the final half of the season. With just 7 points up to 6th placed Real Sociedad, the club is in the running for European football next year, and they’ve really given themselves the greatest possible chance of reaching that with a 10/10 transfer window. The loans of former Real Madrid winger Jesé Rodriguez from Paris Saint-Germain and Croatian mega talent Alen Halilovic from Hamburg have given the side just the right amount of creative edge they need in order to reach European football this fall.
Now, listen to this possible starting eleven. Javi Varas – Michel Macedo, Mauricio Lemos, Pedro Bigas, Helder Lopes – Roque Mesa, Vicente Gomez – Jonathan Viera, Alen Halilovic, Kevin-Prince Boateng – Jesé Rodriguez. This, with the likes of Nabil el Zhar, Marko Livaja and Momo right there filling in for the main men, sounds to me like a side ready to fight for European football.
Vamos Las Palmas!