Milan Jovanovic was, according to many Serbia followers, the man chiefly responsible for the nation’s qualification for South Africa 2010. Five goals in eight matches from the left wing certainly support their claims. Liverpool were impressed and duly signed the skilful, cultured 29-year-old to a contract that will take him to Anfield ahead of the 2010/11 season.
Jovanovic started out as a forward for Vojvodina in 1999, and ten goals in 43 outings persuaded Shakhtar Donetsk to sign him four years later. The Cacak native’s solitary season in the Ukraine was invariably spent warming the bench, however, and he therefore choce to join Lokomotiv Moscow.
Again, Jovanovic failed to establish himself as a first-team player and sought pastures new. Standard Liege provided them in 2006, and the player never looked back. In the 2007/08 campaign, he inspired Les Rouches to the Jupiler League title and won the Belgian Player of the Year award, before helping his club retain their title the following season. In January 2009, he won the Belgian Golden Shoe, awarded to the top tier’s star performer over the past 12 months, while he also impressed in the 2009/10 term despite Standard’s struggles.
Jovanovic may have come into the international fold at the relatively old age of 26, but he has certainly made up for lost time since. He scored Serbia’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Finland on his debut, and struck a brace in their 6-1 defeat of Bulgaria the following year.
It was his form in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying that really caught the eye, though. As well as laying on goals for his team-mates, he hit five himself from his left-wing berth, including a late double in the 5-0 win over Romania that confirmed Serbia’s presence among the world’s elite.
Rather than wait for Jovanovic to perform in South Africa, and potentially increase his transfer value, Liverpool, with Valencia and AC Milan also keen, nailed him to a pre-contract in early 2010. “I decided to join Liverpool because they are one of the biggest teams in Europe,” he explained. “They’re definitely one of the ten biggest sides.”
“I’m absolutely delighted it’s all sorted. Now I can focus on Standard and the World Cup. I want to leave the club in a good way and help Serbia do well in South Africa.” As the likes of France and Romania discovered in the preliminaries, Jovanovic’s threat is something to take very seriously.