Stevan Jovetic Plays Well Against Frosinone Despite Uncertain Future

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Early on in the season, Stevan Jovetic’s move to Inter looked promising. He took over the outgoing Mateo Kovacic’s No. 10 shirt, something he would describe as the realisation of a dream, and he would go on to score three goals in Inter’s first two league games of the campaign. “I could never have imagined making such a great start,” he said.

Fast forward to now, with the Nerazzurri having only six games left to play in Serie A, and that initial momentum has completely fizzled out. Jovetic has only added one more league goal since his bright opening to the season, and through a combination of injury and lack of selection, he has managed a meagre 13 Serie A starts. The shift from Manchester City to Inter, one that was meant to get him out from underneath the stars at Etihad Stadium and back into the spotlight at San Siro, hasn’t exactly worked out, but at least he got another shot to play the 90 minutes in Inter’s most recent fixture, against Frosinone.

He could have been forgiven for looking a little rusty, given that up until that moment he had only played two league minutes since mid-January. But in the midst of a fairly uninspiring Inter performance, he emerged as one of their better players on the day.

Lining up just in behind Inter striker Mauro Icardi, he operated as the primary playmaker in Roberto Mancini’s 4-2-3-1 formation. From that position, he showed off so many of the attributes associated with his well-rounded attacking toolkit. There was the sharp movement, which normally consisted of drifting into left-of-centre locations, and there was the dribbling prowess which allowed him to complete six successful take-ons for the game. There were even hints of that unique style which regularly sees him classified as a nine-and-a-half, in that he mixed invention, by way of creating three chances, with four shots on goal.

Throw in the fact that Jovetic won three of his six aerial duels, competing manfully with Frosinone centre-back Arlind Ajeti, and there was a lot to like about his return to the Inter line-up. The ex-Fiorentina man may not have produced a world-beating performance, but his unobtrusive movement in the lead-up to Icardi’s 73rd minute match-winner, where he floated into space between the lines before laying the ball on for Perisic, highlighted the seamless way in which he contributed to his team. “He has more quality than most,” Mancini said of Jovetic in the post-match, “and I hope he can score important goals [throughout the rest of] this season.”

The question, though, isn’t just whether he will but whether he will be given the chance to do so. After all, this was Jovetic’s first Serie A start since the middle of January, and given the sheer number of attacking options from which Mancini can choose, he may opt to play the likes of Adem Ljajic, Eder and Rodrigo Palacio ahead of him. Then, of course, there’s the broader situation surrounding his future.

Jovetic’s loan deal is such that Inter essentially have to sign him on a permanent basis, from Manchester City, at some point in the future, but that has done little to settle the rumour mill. There are reports that the Nerazzurri are indifferent about retaining his services, and so a slew of teams are said to have registered their interest. Chelsea’s newly appointed coach, Antonio Conte, is said to be keen to bring him to Stamford Bridge, while Turkish giants Fenerbahce are also sniffing around. In that sense, it’s difficult to predict what will come next for the Montenegro international, and his on-and-off campaign hasn’t helped matters either.

Jovetic is undoubtedly a great footballer, but his fitness history, which hasn’t been great in recent seasons, makes him something of a gamble. This problem has again become apparent at Inter, and it’s not as if the player himself is oblivious to it either. “It became fashionable to say: ‘Jovetic is always injured’,” he once complained.

Any manager or technical director would hesitate at the prospect of Jovetic because of this, and though it may be enough to prevent a few clubs from going in for him, he still has a few more games this season to excite potential suitors. He might even do enough to convince Inter to keep him around, especially given the numerous loan-to-buy deals they have to decide upon at season’s end.

It is therefore important for him to make use of the final rounds of the season, to showcase his movement and all-round ingenuity in the final third. He mightn’t have many games in which to do it, but ahead of the always turbulent summer transfer window, his output could have a rather significant part to play in his eventual destination for the 2016/17 campaign.