By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
A first team player at 16, Serie A regular at 18 and Champions League superstar at 19, Stevan Jovetic didn’t exactly hang around in making himself known to the footballing world, and he may well be about to make the next step to global notoriety with a move to Manchester City.
Many at Fiorentina didn’t know what to make of the Montenegrin when he arrived from Partizan Belgrade in the summer of 2008. His big mop of curly hair was not befitting of an €8 million (£6.3m) signing who Viola fans had been told could propel their side to the next level after their fourth-place finish the previous season had taken them into the promised land of the Champions League.
For much of his early days at the Artemio Franchi, Jovetic was used as an alternative to Adrian Mutu behind the sharpshooting Alberto Gilardino, and the first-choice pair’s combined 39 goals in 2008-09 saw him regularly forced to make an impact from the bench.
Indeed, it wasn’t until April that Jovetic scored his first goal in the famous purple shirt, but less than six months later he would announce himself in the grand manner.
|JOVETIC AT FIORENTINA
|SERIE A APPEARANCES/GOALS
After finding himself used in a platoon with Mutu at the beginning of 2009-10, as coach Cesare Prandelli looked to make the best of Jovetic, the Montenegrin made Europe sit up and take notice by grabbing a magnificent double against Liverpool in a 2-0 Champions League win in Tuscany.
It was a famous night for the club and proved key to their eventual progression from the group, while the Reds suffered an elimination from which they have arguably still to recover.
As for Jovetic, it proved to be a big moment in terms of belief that he could take on the role of talisman at Fiorentina, and he went on to score 11 goals in all competitions that season, despite the club struggling to make an impression on Serie A.
That was due in part to their exertions in Europe, which ended in a controversial away-goals defeat to Bayern Munich after another Jovetic double had looked set to send the Italians into the quarter-finals.
Just as ‘Jo-Jo’ seemed set to become a Fiorentina legend, he was dealt the huge setback of a knee ligament injury during the build-up to the 2010-11 campaign. It would see him miss out on the entire season, with the club’s struggles under Sinisa Mihajlovic meaning there was no real need to rush him back in for meaningless games as he made his way towards full fitness in the term’s latter months.
One year on, he returned to a very different looking Viola first team, with Mutu having moved on and Gilardino a yard or three shorter in the pace department. It meant that Jovetic was often used more as a traditional striker, but there remained clear evidence that his best work was still coming when allowed to roam between the lines.
He ended the campaign as the club’s top scorer with 14 goals, more than he had scored in his entire Fiorentina career before then, but his best performances always came when playing behind a front man rather than filling in for one, and he was even given the captain’s armband on occasion by Delio Rossi.
Now looking set for a transfer which could change his life for good, the 22-year-old has the chance to pick up where he left off before his knee injury two years ago. With a full season under his belt last term, he can now go into the new campaign with all guns blazing once more. But in whose shirt will he be playing?
If it is Manchester City’s sky blue that he dons, then he could well prove to be a great addition to Roberto Mancini’s side, so long as he is not expected to be a sharp-shooting centre-forward.
With the loss of Sergio Aguero to injury, the Premier League champions need a focal point, in the short term at least, but in Jovetic they would be acquiring a classy link player, able to fashion the kind of openings that the likes of an Aguero or even Edin Dzeko love to feed off.
His nimble feet, clever brain and ability to pick a pass in the final third without the slightest of fluster make him a real catch. Whereas his qualities have sometimes looked like a luxury at Fiorentina, at a club like City they could well be nurtured in a way that could make the Montenegrin a household name across the world.
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