Stevan Jovetic’s journey from the Montenegrin capital to Manchester included a stop off in Florence. Whispers of interest in the then curly-haired playmaker from United before 2007 never developed into a transfer, but the player’s ultimate destination this year looks likely to be in northwest England.
Fiorentina signed the prospect from Partizan Belgrade in 2008 shortly after the youngster made his international debut for the recently formed nation of Montenegro. He hastily established his credentials in Italy as a silky second striker with a keen eye for goal. With over 10 goals in three of his four full campaigns, the Podgorica native terrorised defences and attracted attention from around the continent.
The 23-year-old has developed dramatically with every passing year on the peninsula, and blossomed into a truly unstoppable trequartista when in his pomp. Aside from being sidelined for the entire 2010-11 campaign, he has consistently been at the fore of the club’s brief successes in the Champions League and return to prominence last term under the guidance of Vincenzo Montella, as they finished fourth.
Manuel Pellegrini is set to acquire a player fully capable of adapting to the rigours of the Premier League. Ideally he will operate behind a target man leading the line such as Edin Džeko, Álvaro Negredo or perhaps even Sergio Agüero as previous partnerships with Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni highlight. Alternatively, he is also an option as a ‘false 9’ as Montella employed him throughout last season.
Manchester City look set to land the Montenegrin magician in spite of Italian champions Juventus being his first choice club to move to this summer, as it is widely believed he would still accept a Serie A stay. However, the perfect conditions never presented themselves for the transfer to Turin to take place.
Jovetić crossed a line with the dedicated Fiorentina faithful with his interview at the beginning of June in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Juventus have been following my progress for a year,” began the deep-lying forward, “Who would not be flattered when they say I come before [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, [Carlos] Tévez and [Gonzalo] Higuaín on their list? I do not even think it is a betrayal to my club to admit it.”
Viola president Andrea Della Valle voiced his outrage at the tone of the discussion being portrayed as “pro-Bianconeri” in the pink newspaper, and subsequently fined his star player for his comments. The teams have generally shared a bitter relationship, but it was the controversy surrounding the Dimitar Berbatov transfer last summer that tipped the scales and created a poisonous atmosphere between the pair.
Fiorentina director of sport Daniele Pradè judged the mercurial Bulgarian to be the missing link in attack for Montella’s team – a void since filled by the signings of Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gómez. The Viola had paid for the Manchester United man’s airline tickets, and fans eagerly gathered at Peretola airport to greet his anticipated arrival. However, he never boarded his connecting flight from Munich.
It transpired that Juventus, at the time enveloped by rumours as to the identity of their new ‘top player’ upfront, had attempted to hijack the transfer. In the end, Berbatov stayed in England and joined Fulham.
The entire ordeal made it problematic for the Turin-based club to turn around to Fiorentina this year and negotiate a viable deal for Jovetić. The Old Lady simply could not reach the Montenegrin international’s buy-out clause of £27m, despite trying to bring the fee down by including young players such as Manolo Gabbiadini and Luca Marrone in attempted bids. “Even if Juve offered just £1 less than the £27m we would not accept it,” smirked Viola chief operating officer Sandro Mencucci on ‘Jojo’s’ potential suitor.
The Italian media reported the Blues to be in contact with Jovetić’s agent Fali Ramadani shortly after Bianconeri director general Giuseppe Marotta dampened rumours on him being a transfer target after signing Tévez. “He will go to a club that can afford his buy-out clause,” explained Juve manager Antonio Conte during his first press conference of the season on Thursday, ”And right now Italian teams cannot.”
Napoli certainly could afford a bid for the forward – as their president Aurelio De Laurentiis revealed they have just under £110m to splash on marquee names fresh off cashing in Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain for £53m. However, the film director also disclosed that Ramadani had told him over a year ago that his client would favour a passage to England instead of making the move south.
City chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of sport Txiki Begiristain are all set to seal a deal with Fiorentina at a reported £25m plus bonuses adding up to the full amount of the buy-out clause. Jovetić was videoed visiting friends around Florence on Monday, in which he appeared to be saying goodbye to a city that fully embraced him, as he opens up a new chapter away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi.