Everton and Jelavic are the perfect fit, says Bilic

Croatia manager (and Everton old boy) insists striker's all-round game will surprise Liverpool

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The Independent Online

Sometimes a club and a player seem to be a perfect fit. Everton supporters had a fairly good relationship with another forward who came down from Scotland not so long ago and the player (Duncan Ferguson) ended up with the club badge tattooed on his arm and the supporters with a hero etched into their hearts.

It is too early to say for definite that Nikica Jelavic will impact so spectacularly at Goodison Park, but the signs, 10 games into his Everton career after moving, like Ferguson, from Rangers, are pretty promising.

Jelavic has scored five times in the 10 occasions that he has started for his new club, since moving to England from Scotland for £5 million at the end of the January transfer window, as the financial predicament of his old employers began to unravel.

By then he had spoken to Slaven Bilic, his international manager with Croatia, and himself a former Everton player. The recommendation to sign for David Moyes could not have been much greater.

"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 knew without me telling him that 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.

"It looks like it (a bargain at £5m). I read about £20m-plus transfers and in that respect his price does look like a bargain," Bilic added.

"It's great for Everton and not for the first time, looking at some others they have signed. They know the formula. It is hard to find them, even though £5m is £5m!

"He is at a great age, 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. People asked me what I thought of him even before he signed for Everton, and I was quite sure about him.

"I've known him since he was a child almost, we are from the same town, the same club in Hadjuk Split. I watched Everton a lot even before he came and always imagined he'd suit them perfectly. OK, they have a great squad but they needed a guy who is not only a finisher – he does not need that to be playing well – but also great in other areas. He's great in the build-up play, he can hold the ball, he's just perfect for Everton's style of play.

"You need a bit of luck at the start, which he got and scored a couple of goals, and now his confidence is sky high. He never panics, he's such a cool finisher, so it doesn't surprise me how well he's doing."

And, perhaps more crucially, how will he compare to those wearing the red shirts of Kenny Dalglish's men 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 don't think a player can add a new quality because he's already a top player who has everything, but he has the chance to improve now he is playing in England.

"He's training with great players, he'll be up against great ones, and his finishing, heading, creating space and technique are all going to get better. That's a lot and that will be enough.

"I am glad he signed because not only is it good for Everton and great for Nikica, it's great for the Croatian national team too."

"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," added Bilic.

Jelavic factfile

Born 27 August, 1985, Capljina, Yugoslavia

Club career

2002-07 Hadjuk Split (41 games/8 gls)

2007-08 Zlute Waregem (25/3)

2008-10 Rapid Vienna (95/43)

2010-12 Rangers (55/36)

2012-present Everton (10/5)

International 18 caps for Croatia, two goals

Honours 2010/11 Scottish League, League Cup

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