23 May 2010

On Milan Jovanovic

Well, the worry that Liverpool would find a way to foul it up seems to be put to rest, although I am still afraid of jinxing it. But Milan Jovanovic recently said that the deal's on, contingent upon his contract with Standard Liege coming to an end next month.

And I am pleased, but a warning. Everything I've seen and read about Jovanovic makes me picture him as a slightly crazier left-sided Dirk Kuyt. And a decent number of you probably just swore under your breaths. To make matters worse for those, Kuyt even scored more goals in the Dutch league, arguably more difficult than the Belgian, although he played as an out-and-out striker more there as well. And yet, unsurprisingly, I'm pretty positive Jovanovic will be a valuable addition to the club.

You know my feelings on Kuyt, and despite yours, Jovanovic checks a lot of boxes. Versatile, experienced, fast, hard-working, passionate, cheap, and an attacker – all good things (well, except cheap, but that's sadly still a necessity). Other than fast and cheap (not that £9m is a massive wedge), those are also attributes that Kuyt brings to mind. Liverpool could do with a creative, tricky attacker comfortable out wide – one not reliant on cutting inside and capable of crossing, so Insua's not the only one trying to deliver them from that flank – but Hicks is still looking for someone sucker to buy the club while Gillett scrounges nearby sofas for loose change. Jovanovic fills a big hole, whether he primarily starts on the left, partners Torres, or backs him up.

But don't expect him to be that tricky winger or a 20-goal striker. I've seen him as both a striker and left winger in Liege's 4-4-2 and as a left forward in a 4-3-3. He played similarly for Serbia during World Cup qualifying. He'll probably play similarly at Liverpool, meaning that if the 4-2-3-1 remains, he should vie for the position Benayoun or Babel usually occupies, replacing Torres as the lone striker if necessary.

From what I've seen – somewhere between 5-10 European appearances with Liege and a match or two for Serbia – Jovanovic is much quicker and a far better dribbler, although it remains to be seen if he can replicate that in the frenetic Premiership. No matter how passionate he is, he'll probably never replicate Kuyt's perpetual motion. Let's hope he can copy Dirk's nose for big game goals. Jovanovic's return at international level is better – 9 in 24 compared to 16 in 60 – but the countries he scored against were Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, and the Faroe Islands. Kuyt at least found the net against the likes of France, England, and the US. Maybe his knack for running with the ball makes Benayoun's a better comparison, just Milan's more a forward where Yossi's a midfielder, but in being versatile attackers rather than an out-and-out striker or winger, I see more similarities than differences with Kuyt as well.

This isn't to denigrate one at the expense of the other, or both. Regular readers are well aware of the lengths I travel to defend Kuyt and I truly am happy about Jovanovic's imminent arrival. Yes, on the one hand, it's a free transfer, evoking memories of Degen and Voronin (and Maxi, Aurelio, and Fowler). On the other, he was also courted by the likes of AC Milan and Valencia (and Villa and Everton). And contrary to what some might think, there'd be big clubs after Kuyt if Liverpool ever decided to get rid.

I'll definitely be paying closer attention to Serbia's World Cup, but we'll have to wait and see. Don't expect miracles but don't write him off either – the story of almost every free transfer. Blindfolded darts unless it's a big name on ungodly wages (cough Ballack cough). All in all, it seems a good move, if somewhat spendthrift (even considering a reported £10m in wages over three years). But that's the reality at present.

Besides, how can you not be on pins and needles for a player who says this (from the above link, and others, translated this Serbian interview):
"They might have had a poor season, but Liverpool are still Liverpool," he said. "There will still be a squad of 20 players of the highest quality and everyone waiting for the chance to show what they can do.

"There will be a lot of games and everyone will have the chance to play. I really see this as the place where I want to be. The thought of playing at Anfield is an incredible inspiration for me."


Filip said...

I can tell you that every LFC fan from Serbia is incredibly happy about this transfer, not just because this is (I think) first Srbian player in Liverpool, but also a great addition to the squad. Under new coach for Serbian national team Radomir Antic (he won the Primera with Atletico Madrid, and coached both Real and Barcelona for example), Milan "Lane" Jovanovic on the left, and Milos Krasic from SCKA Moscow on the righ, became the bearers of the game for us. I advise you all to keep an eye on Serbia during WC, and on Jovanovic, you will see that hes been in great shape, and I'm confident that he will trasnfer that to LFC

Filip said...

Also, I really don't look at him as another Kuyt, primarily, I think Jovanovic has much more better ball control, he is a much better dribbler, and his shooting and passing skills are at least on par with Kuyt. But maybe I'm just biased :)

nate said...

I'd take your opinion over mine every time, having seen him a bit more often. Milan (I'm going to struggle to call him that, evoking memories of Baros) absolutely looks a better dribbler, and I probably should have emphasized that more. But Kuyt scored from every angle in Holland, and can still fire some nice cross-field passes when his touch doesn't let him down.

It's just that Jovanovic's workrate and passion seem to be the 'dominant' qualities, moreso than a creative, tricky trequartista-type player that Liverpool's supposedly needed for ages despite how good of a dribber he is. And that evokes the comparison to Kuyt.

Either way, I am excited, and am definitely intending to catch as many of Serbia's games as possible.