Real Madrid pride themselves on having a monopoly on the transfer market. They believe they can buy anyone. With the exception of Barcelona players, that is probably true. If Los Blancos want a deal to happen, the likelihood is that eventually it will.
Their most successful signings, particularly in the Florentino Perez era, have been well thought-out and planned, but the club has a propensity to be reactive with some transfers, and often they are the ones that don’t work out. Because marketing is such an important factor, form often comes into play; if someone plays particularly well heading into the summer or January, they can find themselves instantly in line for a move to the Santiago Bernabéu.
That was the case with Luka Jovic: the Serbian striker signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after a stellar season in the Bundesliga and Europa League. His 17 goals in 32 league games, and ten in 14 on the way to the semi-finals in Europe, caught everyone’s eye.
Moving to the Premier League was one obvious possibility, with Manchester United in desperate need of a striker as Romelu Lukaku was Inter-bound, while staying in Germany also appeared a good fit. Bayern Munich have made it policy to sign the best of the rest in their own country in a bid to nullify the competition, but with Robert Lewandowski still at the top of his game, there was no need for Jovic. The same could not be said for Borussia Dortmund, though. They must be regretting not moving for the 21-year-old.
Jovic only signed permanently for Frankfurt from Benfica last season after a loan spell, but it was clear that his was a signing of impulse by Madrid. Zinedine Zidane was looking at a serious rebuild, and with the club in desperate need of more firepower, signing one of the continent’s breakout strikers made perfect sense.
But this club is like so few others. It takes a certain type of player, with a certain personality, to succeed. Usually, Real sign established, elite players – Jovic wasn’t that, and he has struggled to settle, scoring just once in ten games.
A year ago, it is unlikely that Jovic would have been on Real’s radar, but his £52million transfer thrust him into the spotlight when he wasn’t quite ready. As difficult as it is to reject their advances and turn down the ultimate opportunity knowing it may never come again, making that move can be detrimental to a career.
James Rodriguez signed in the immediate aftermath of starring for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. Just a year into life at Monaco and far from an obvious target before an excellent few weeks in Brazil, he was suddenly under a lot more pressure and, but for a positive first season, he has struggled to cope. He is on the scrapheap and it already looks like there is no way back for Jovic either. He needs to learn from James and get out as soon as he can.
jović has been here 6 months, the man gets subbed in after the 80th minute, gets 80 minutes with a dead midfield or gets benched for 4 straight weeks and y’all are comparing him to a player who has been with this club for ten years & knows his teammates like the back of his hand
— 🌻 (@meshingiv) December 11, 2019
Finding his form from last season seems like a hollow dream right now. He is very unlikely to get chances under Zidane and even if he does, he will know he has to take them convincingly. Stepping away from that entire environment is the right thing to do at this stage of his career, and England is once again a viable destination.
West Ham are reported to be keen to reunite Jovic with his former Frankfurt teammate Sebastian Haller, who himself has been blowing hot and cold since a £45million move to the London Stadium. But if they are to part with the striker, leaving them with Karim Benzema as Zidane’s only realistic senior option up front, Real are likely to want to recoup a sizeable chunk of their outlay, especially in January. Jovic is unlikely to want to swap the bright lights of the Champions League for a relegation battle, either.
Chelsea were linked with him last summer despite their transfer ban, and he could offer Frank Lampard’s side something now they are active in the window again. Tottenham Hotspur are still looking for competition for Harry Kane, and though Jovic may not see himself as a bit-part player, working with Jose Mourinho could reinvigorate his career.
His movement and finishing qualities make him an ideal striker for an English side, and somebody should certainly take a chance on him, be it next month or next summer.
The argument that he is a “one-season wonder” doesn’t have much validity when looking at the consistent growth he enjoyed in Germany. Real Madrid struck a deal for him when he was at his most valuable, and it is understandable that he jumped at the chance to join them, but as has been the case with others before him, they don’t have the patience to oversee his development. The step up has proven too big; Real will already be scouring the market for the next in-form and marketable star, because that is what they do. Life moves fast and Jovic is already yesterday’s news.
Signing players in January is very tough because the best players aren’t usually available. Luka Jovic may well be, and that offers a lot of clubs a great opportunity to sign one of the deadliest finishers around for less than he would have cost last summer.
His best years are still ahead of him, and there is little doubt he can recapture his Frankfurt form wherever he goes. This particular forgotten man could prove a superb coup, and it would be great to see him fulfil his potential in the Premier League.
Harry de Cosemo is on Twitter