Milan Jovanovic: Misplaced Faith On Merseyside

The importance of a successful summer transfer window can often prove crucial for most up and coming managers looking to cut their teeth among the upper echelons of the English top-flight. Take Roy Hodgson and his hapless six-month spell in charge at Anfield for example…

Liverpool failed to strengthen convincingly throughout the summer of 2010, signing a whole host of untested talents and questionable acquisitions that ultimately sent the club hurtling away from their once deserved status as genuine Premier League title challengers.

The highly anticipated capture of Chelsea’s Joe Cole proved something of a disastrous venture right from the very start, Denmark’s Christian Poulsen served only to add a further dose of doubt and disarray right in the middle of the park for the Reds – whilst the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Brad Jones and the great Paul Konchesky himself, hardly shone Liverpool’s waning title hopes in much of an ambitious light.

Yet in the oft-forgotten signing of an emerging left-winger from the Belgian top-flight, a supposedly exciting Serbian international who brought a great deal of promise to Anfield when he too signed for the club in the summer of 2010 – no Reds manager has arguably been met with a player quite so underwhelming or downright ineffectual as Milan Jovanovic.

The poorly equipped Serbian wide-man proved to be just one of the many ill-fated signings who ultimately cost Roy Hodgson his job on Merseyside.

Yet in fairness to the former Fulham, West Brom and England boss – many will be quick to point out that Roy Hodgson actually had very little to do with the signing of Milan Jovanovic at Liverpool. Instead, it was Rafa Benitez who ultimately sourced the Serbian international on a pre-contract agreement prior to facing his untimely dismissal from the Reds in June of 2010.

Jovanovic nonetheless arrived at the club with a fair share of hard-earned potential residing beside his name. The former Shakhtar Donetsk and Lokomotiv Moscow winger had certainly served to impress whilst operating for Standard Liege, scoring an impressive tally of 52 goals in 116 appearances for the high-flying Belgian outfit.

The soon-to-be Liverpool man also amassed a decent reputation for himself with Serbia at the 2010 World Cup. After putting in a string of impressive displays for his nation during qualification for the widely watched tournament, Jovanovic scored a crucial winner against Germany and subsequently thrust his name among the continent’s collective footballing consciousness.

But reputations such as this ultimately stand for very little if they fail to hold up in the long-run. Whilst most Liverpool fans found themselves rather optimistic over the level of quality someone like Jovanovic could soon bring at their club, the ill-fated Serbian simply failed to cut it when push invariably turned to shove among the English Premier League.

He looked largely out of his depth for one thing. Jovanovic proved to be slow, off the pace and severely lacking in terms of all-round creative output.

Despite his previous reputation as something of a talented goal-scorer, the former Standard Liege man failed to find the back of the net across all ten of his Premier League appearances on Merseyside. A rather disappointing outcome in anyone’s books, especially as the Serbian seemingly lacked both the desire and aspiration to really make it work at Anfield.

“I shed lots of tears in England. I felt unhappy everyday over there. London is a nice place to live but everywhere else is depressing.”

Milan Jovanovic

Benitez’ parting gift to Liverpool was once hailed as the outstanding Belgian Pro League Player of the Year. He was largely expected to impress his newfound onlookers alongside each of Milos Krasic and Nikola Zigic among the Serbian national side – but as fate would ultimately have it, neither player would go on to succeed within the wider European game and fulfil their supposed promise.

Maybe their stark misfortune tells us all we really need to know about the ongoing state of discrepancy currently taking place within the Serbian game itself. Although each player seemed worthy of rising to the challenge and trying their hand among a club more than capable of matching their growing potential, none of Serbia’s newly emerged talents served to wholeheartedly impress on the back of the 2010 World Cup, and that remains a rather great shame indeed.

Jovanovic was eventually cast aside by Kenny Dalglish upon Hodgson’s abrupt dismissal at Anfield. He was unceremoniously shipped out to Anderlecht where the winger admittedly scored a few well-taken finishes, before disappearing off the radar altogether and failing to resurface among the tumultuous waters of professional football once more.

Perhaps the former Serbian international was a little harshly treated at Liverpool. Perhaps, had the Reds not sought to rid themselves of the ill-fated winger at the first time of asking, Jovanovic could have fared far better in the eyes of the determined Anfield faithful. With just a little more healthy encouragement pointed in his direction, the Serbian was certainly capable of producing so much more.

But then again, maybe with all things considered, this was one player clearly not up for the task of representing Liverpool upon the grandest club stage of all. Had the Reds not limited themselves to such a poorly sourced array of signings in the summer of 2010, who knows what the red half of Merseyside could have gone on to achieve in the seasons that followed…