Rafa Benitez beat Real Madrid to sign ‘one of the greatest soccer players in the world’ but was sacked by Liverpool before he could use him – .

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Rafa Benitez beat Real Madrid to sign ‘one of the greatest soccer players in the world’ but was sacked by Liverpool before he could use him – .


History is littered with footballers whose careers have been altered by the change of manager of their club and the new man not needing them.
Players Brendan Rodgers bought – such as Joe Allen and Christian Benteke – quickly fell out of favor with Liverpool once Jurgen Klopp started implementing his brand of fast-paced counter-press football.

But at least they had the opportunity to perform for the man who had shown faith in signing them. For some, the name change on the door to the manager’s office happened between them agreeing to join and then move to the club.

This arrangement worked quite well for Djibril Cissé. His move to Anfield was arranged by Gerard Houllier but he made his debut for Rafa Benitez at the start of the following season.

As they won the Champions League and the FA Cup together (with Cissé scoring in the latter’s final), the move proved to be a success.

Milan Jovanovic was not so lucky and the whole structure of the club changed during his England debut. As the ownership of Hicks and Gillett continued to spiral out of control in early 2010, it was announced that Jovanovic would join Liverpool on a free transfer ahead of the 2010/11 campaign.

The Standard Liege forward, who played for them at Anfield in a Champions League qualifier in 2008, was a man in demand.

Looking at his file, it’s easy to see why he would have attracted attention. Jovanovic was among the top eight Belgian players for combined goals and assists for three consecutive years, and also in the top six for shots on target for four consecutive years (by FBRef).

He was even approached by Real Madrid, likely leaving them stunned when he declined their offer.

“I don’t regret rejecting Real,” he said later. ” Never. I will never go somewhere where I only play a small role. Why? Better to be happy somewhere. It’s hard not to wonder if he regrets this decision now.

With his move to Liverpool accepted, the Serbian international headed to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He even scored their winner in the group stage victory over Germany, settling the game with a nice poacher finish.

But by the time he moved to Merseyside, Roy Hodgson was in charge of the Reds. Although not the manager who had brought him to the club, the new Liverpool blunder has at least given Jovanovic a chance to make his mark.

The new No.14 has started seven of the first eight games in all competitions but struggled to make a big impact. The whole team were playing poorly, in all fairness to him, but the worst was about to happen soon.




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When Jovanovic scored his first goal for the club, in the ninth minute of a League Cup game with Northampton, he barely celebrated. Why would he do it? It was obviously going to be a routine home win over the Ligue Two opposition.

Hmm. The visitors equalized, took the lead in overtime, and although Liverpool equalized thanks to David N’gog, Northampton won on penalties to knock the Reds out of the cup. It was Jovanovic’s eighth start for the club, but he would only be in the XI on five occasions.

The latest instance came at Blackpool, in what was the first league game in interim manager Kenny Dalglish’s second stint at the head of Liverpool.

Although Jovanovic created four chances, the most players on either side, the Reds lost 2-1. He went on to play a substitute role in a 1-1 draw with Wigan, but failed to even make it to the bench after February. With Liverpool splashing out on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in January, his days at Anfield were clearly numbered.

And rightly so based on its performance. In 10 Premier League appearances for the club, Jovanovic has taken just three shots and fielded seven chances for his teammates, appearing at times even unable to control the ball.

He has proven that moving from one of the smallest European leagues to one of the biggest is not something every player can achieve.

The Serbian striker returned to Belgium with Anderlecht, and his form of course recovered to the point that he dominated the Pro League assists table in 2012/13. Yet at the end of that season, barely 32, he retired.

The end of his stay in England, however, did not mark the end of his impact on popular culture in that country. In October 2011, Jovanovic received a mention in the Australian soap opera Neighbors, Andrew Robinson describing him as “one of the greatest football players in the world”.

Talk about displaying your soccer hipster credentials in style. Robinson must have devoured images of Jovanovic playing in the Belgian League, as he clearly could not have formed that opinion based on his sad plight with Liverpool.

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