Everton have got a real bargain with £5m Jelavic, declares Bilic


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The Independent Online

Sometimes a club and a player seem to be a perfect fit. Everton supporters took warmly to a forward from Scotland not so long ago, and Duncan Ferguson ended up with the club badge tattooed on his arm. It is too early to say that Nikica Jelavic will impact so spectacularly at Goodison Park but the signs are good just 10 games into his career there after moving, like Ferguson, from Rangers.

Jelavic has scored five times in 10 starts since Rangers' financial predicament saw him sold for £5m at the end of the January transfer window. By then he had spoken to Slaven Bilic, his international manager with Croatia, and himself a former Evertonian. The recommendation to sign for David Moyes could not have been stronger.

"I speak to my players all the time and although he was happy at Rangers, he wanted to go to the Premier League," said Bilic. "He asked me about Everton, but he [already] knew they are a big club and it would be a massive step up to go from playing in Scotland to the Premier League.

"On the one hand he's a model professional and so down to earth, that's how he has been brought up. But on the other hand he is so self-confident that he never has any fear. He is just a positive guy. I read about £20m-plus transfers and in that respect his price does look like a bargain."

Bilic added: "He is at a great age, 26, but his best years are still to come. I'm expecting him to improve even more – he has no limits. I think he can become one of the most important strikers in the league next season. Everton have definitely found a natural goalscorer ... He's great in the build-up play, he can hold the ball, he's just perfect for Everton's style of play."

And, perhaps more crucially, how will he compare with those wearing the red shirts at Wembley tomorrow?

"Compared to Liverpool? They have Luis Suarez, who is a finisher, and I think Andy Carroll will click because he is a good player," said Bilic. "There are no favourites because it's a semi-final and also a derby, but Everton are definitely in better form than Liverpool right now.

"I am glad Nikica signed because not only is it good for Everton and great for Nikica, it's great for the Croatian national team too ... he has the chance to improve now he is playing in England."

"If you do well in the Premier League there is no doubt you are going to improve. Over the last three years he's been very important for us and will be even more so now. It's a win-win situation," said Bilic.