Luka Jovic Is Football's Next Great Center Forward

Luka Jovic is the next great center forward. Though Mbappe and Rashford will steal headlines as the future flair players that will bomb down the wings for club and country, neither prospect has a foreseeable future as a reliable number 9. Yes, they are remarkable talents, but their specialties do not fit the center forward position that demands pure finishing ability, a physical presence, and intelligent positioning. Leave flair and panache to the wing players, Luka Jovic will put the ball into the back of the net. Jovic ticks all the boxes of a complete forward. He is intelligent, quick, and clinical. These attributes have seen him draw attention from Manchester City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona who have been linked with $100 million bids for the Serbian.

Though Luka Jovic is a name, you may only have begun to hear this season, his unveiling at the peak of European football is far from a magic trick. At the age of 21, Jovic has already had his full international debut for Serbia. Though he made his debut for the Serbian National team, Jovic was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina where it only took him a couple of years past his 10th birthday before his parents began fielding calls from VfB Stuttgart, Partizan, and the family’s favorite club, Red Star Belgrade. Jovic jumped at the opportunity to play for his boyhood heroes and moved to Serbia to play for the 1991 Champions League winners.

Jovic debuted for the Red Star first team at just 16 years old and, continuing his trend of making impacts quickly, scored for his team after only two minutes. For the rest of the season, Jovic held a consistent role in the first team. This involvement drew attention from bigger fish around Europe and soon, at the age of 19, Jovic was on a plane to Portugal. The Portuguese giants Benfica had purchased Jovic as part of a long term recruitment plan for the team’s success in European competitions. Jovic, however, failed to deliver on their expectations and, in 2017 was sent on a two-year loan to Eintracht Frankfurt that included an option for the German club to purchase the player for just under $8 million after the loan ended. This clause may have been the worst financial mistake in European football history. Frankfurt has since triggered the clause and purchased Jovic as their own. They are expected to flip Jovic to another European side for a bid over $70 million this summer.

When searching for players with whom to compare Jović, the names of great forwards from the past decade spring to mind like Edinson Cavani, Falcao, Robin Van Persie, Luis Suarez, and Robert Lewandowski. The common thread that unites each of these forwards, however, is their age. Each is either on the brink of retirement or is packing up their locker as this season winds down. Jovic, therefore, is the perfect player to fill this emerging drought for reliable and physical center forwards.

In any series of Jovic highlights, the standout factor of his game is his efficiency. Though Jovic is not the tallest, strongest, or fastest player on any pitch, his ruthlessness in front of goal and his determination to find open space place him on a platform apart from his teammates. Numerous times, Jovic seems to appear unmarked in front of goal with the only task of tapping the ball home. Though this looks simple, keep in mind that somewhere on the pitch are multiple defenders cursing themselves for letting him slip away unnoticed. These nuances of his game have allowed him to rack up such high tallies of goals and assists. Jovic scores with his left foot, his right foot, his forehead, his knee, his ankle, and his hips. No matter how he ends up doing it, Jovic gets the ball across the line. This disregard for flair makes him a stitch in the brain of every defender. If they try to play him onto a particular foot, he punishes them with the opposite; after all, Jovic does not have a preferred foot. If they double team him in the box, he will drop to the shoulder of the furthest defender, creating space for his teammates while giving himself a half-second advantage over the defender that must look over their shoulder to mark him.

In all competitions, Luka Jovic has scored 25 goals and assisted another 8. Currently, Eintracht Frankfurt is preparing for a Europa League Semi-final matchup against Chelsea and sit in 4th place in the Bundesliga. In late October, Jovic delivered arguably the most exceptional individual performance of the Bundesliga season, scoring 5 goals against Fortuna. At just 20 years and 200 days old, Jovic became the youngest-ever player to accomplish this feat in the Bundesliga. That’s not a bad start to a promising career.

The flaws in Jovic’s game are complicated to identify, but they are unquestionably present. There is a reason he failed to succeed at Benfica, and there will be times in the future when he fails to achieve his rightful potential. The majority of these speedbumps, however, circulate one thing, management. The style of play and requirements Jovic encounters under future managers will be the most critical factor in the realization of his success or his spiral into mediocrity. This season, under Frankfurt manager Adi Hütter, Jovic has been paired alongside Sebastien Haller. The two forwards have developed a strong relationship that allows each other to create space and other freedom between them. Though adapting to a new style will not necessarily be a challenge for Jovic due to his natural goalscoring abilities, his progression as a lone forward in a front three or other systems currently popular in Europe will be fascinating to watch.

Luka Jovic’s future lies at the pinnacle of European football. With Cavani, Suarez, and Lewandowski searching for retirement homes to move to in the next few years, multiple spots will be open for a smart, natural, and dynamic goalscorer. Bayern Munich and Barcelona will be first in line to secure the Serbian’s signature but do not be surprised to see Manchester City, Chelsea, and, as always Real Madrid, being linked with his services.

Luka Jovic has the footballing world placed on a spot in front of him. Let’s see if he can’t knock it in.