Milan Jovanovic, it is not a name which is known throughout European football but it is a player that Rafa Benitez is taking a chance on by signing the Serbian striker on a pre contract agreement, subject to a medical. A 28 years of age, Jova is no spring chicken but he has been a late developer who has spent most of his time in Eastern Europe with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and more recently Lokomotiv Moscow before joining Standard Liege in 2006. In fact he only made his debut for his country at the age of 26 in 2007 against Finland. He did score on his debut that night though and his potential has certainly been realised in the last few seasons.
So the question will be, will Jovanovic be another Andriy Voronin, taken from a smaller league and thrust into the limelight of the Premier League and failing to deliver? In fact signing Voronin seemed less of a risk than signing Jovanovic now. The Ukrainian had been a seasoned international, playing regularly for his country since 2002, and had played in Germany where he had a 1 in 3 goal ratio for Bayer Leverkusen. Jovanovic on the other hand has been playing in the Belgian league for Standard Liege. For all the things you could say about Belgian football, the standard is no where near the Bundesliga and the fact he has scored 68 goals in 141 appearances for Liege doesn’t tell us much. Emile Mpenza scored 41 in 74 games in his two spells at Standard but he never impressed in England with Manchester City, while Jan Koller’s good goalscoring record at Anderlecht was never replicated during his time in Germany or France.
There are however some good signs that Benitez has not signed a dud. Since making his debut for Serbia, he has scored an impressive 9 goals in 23 international, and the style of striker that he has developed into, may make him an excellent partner for Fernando Torres. Jova does not rely on speed as a striker, he has football intelligence and skill in abundance to make up for any lack of pace. He enjoys playing deep and getting involved in midfield, linking up play behind a target man striker. At Standard, this has regularly been either Igor De Camargo or Dieumerci Mbokani who are both direct in their style of play like Torres, and this should hold the Serb in good stead when trying to build a partnership with the Spanish striker.
Although he is decent in the air, Jovanovic will not be given the Premier League’s top defenders sleepless nights but his technique and hold up play will make the 28 year old an awkward customer. He will certainly be a different style of striker to the the players already at Anfield. In terms of character, the Serb is seen as very charismatic and regularly talks to the press. He speaks English very well and has a good sense of humour, while he is also very ambitious, determined to make up for lost time after spending many of his early years in the lower levels of European football. The left footed Serbian international should be a good addition to the ranks at Anfield.