Loka Jovic failed to shoot Real Madrid. Today, 18 months after arriving at one of the biggest clubs in the world, he is on his way back to where he came from.
Despite the setback, there are still plenty of reasons to believe that Jovic has a lot of talent and that, in the right situation, he can become a goalscorer at the highest level in European football. Here are three reasons to remain optimistic about Luka Jovic.
1. He is only 23 years old
Development can be a bumpy road. When players become stars at a young age, it’s tempting to assume that they’re on a rocket to the stars and nothing will get in their way. But this is rarely the case. Sure, Kylian Mbappe could keep improving, and the same goes for Erling Haaland, but for most mere mortals there are setbacks along the way. Raheem Sterling exploded onto the scene at 17, but then struggled to maintain his superstar form at Liverpool for two seasons before reaching new heights at Manchester City. Jack Grealish had failed once as a Premier League teenager before before rebuilding himself in the league and only finally reached his totally terrifying form this year. He is two years older than Jovic.
Many players, even the tallest, don’t take their first bite of the Big Apple until they’re older than Jovic today. Luis Suarez was older than Jovic when he was transferred to Liverpool. Robert Lewandowski, who dominated the Bundesliga for a decade first with Borussia Dortmund and then with Bayern Munich, became a regular holder when he was the same age as Jovic. All this to say that a year and a half of sitting mostly on the bench of Real Madrid does not erase the fact that Jovic had immense success at a very young age, and that this success remains the best predictor of future success. . .
2. Jovic’s underlying numbers are good
Before Jovic left Frankfurt his numbers were really good. Really, really good. Those were the kind of numbers that, well, earn you huge transfer fees for moving to Real Madrid. The year before his transfer he scored 17 goals which tied him for third in the Bundesliga and he scored at a rate of 0.68 goals per 90 minutes – the third fastest rate of all. who played over 900 minutes. His expected goals were equally impressive. At 0.60 xG for 90, he placed eighth in the Bundesliga, at 21. And what’s really scary is that those numbers were actually slightly worse than the season before, when they hit the league’s third-highest xG for 90 at 0.79, behind only megastars Pierre Emerick- Aubameyang and Lewandowski. But, because as a youngster he only played just over 900 minutes, his gross totals of eight goals and expected goals went under the radar.
In Madrid he barely played, but in the roughly 750 minutes he spent on the pitch between La Liga and the Champions League, his underlying numbers have actually been pretty solid. He’s still averaging 0.49 xG every 90 minutes, or about a half-goal every 90 minutes. What has changed is that he struggled to convert those odds, scoring roughly half that rate, 0.24 to 90. Now it’s possible, of course, that by going from Germany to Spain, Jovic suddenly forgets how to score goals. Stranger things have happened. But he’s much more likely to be just in a 750-minute crunch, the sort of thing that happens to attackers around the world all the time. But, when you’re young and at Real Madrid and Karim Benzema is a world-class superstar playing your role, you don’t have the luxury of collapsing in front of the net. It’s certainly understandable that he doesn’t play, but that doesn’t mean he played in a way that should worry you about his career path.
3. Less luxury at Real Madrid
When you have one of the best strikers in the world, having a 23-year-old to support him is a luxury. It would be one thing if Benzema started to decline with age, but the last few seasons have been some of the best of his career. It would be another if you had a young striker in Jovic who showed that he was clearly not good enough for this level. This is not the situation either. Instead, Madrid find themselves in the middle. Jovic still looks, for all intents and purposes, like a young striker who could turn into a superstar. He won’t be playing anytime soon either. It is also moved for huge transfer fees and the associated big salary.
Meanwhile, Madrid, like the rest of the world, are mired in the financial no man’s land of playing a season with fans in the stands, with an uncertain financial path ahead of them. They are also in the process of trying to renew the contracts of Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos while pursuing future free agent David Alaba. Sometimes you have to cut down on luxury items. Lending Jovic makes sense. He has to play lest his temporary drop in form become permanent. It may even make sense for Madrid to sell him off and let him reach the heights that his early career suggests he is capable elsewhere. But all of that doesn’t make Jovic’s potential any less real. He looked at the whole world as a great prospect before Madrid bought him, and not much has really changed since.