A healthy Stevan Jovetic would give Inter the perfect number 10
It's 2007 in the Meridijan Superliga and FK Partizan are playing away in the Omladinski Stadium against OFK Beograd. The score is 0-0 but the away side are breaking. An 18-year-old Stevan Jovetic picks up the ball on the right. The box is congested but he scoops up a delicious ball with the outside of his right foot across the box to a teammate in space. The proceeding volley is scuffed and the ball eventually goes back to the young Montenegrin. With three players closing in, the easy ball is a lay-off; but this young player with a mass of curly black hair, takes out all three players with a single touch before smashing the ball into the top corner. It is this intelligence and this ability that hasled to him to Inter Milan eight years later, despite his injury worries causing concern.
Jovetic had been FK Partizan's youngest ever captain at 17 years of age. That decision was based mainly on his outstanding ability and it was not long before Europe's elite clubs were realising the same thing. Florence was his destination in the end thanks to the stellar scouting and determined negotiations conducted by director of sport at the time, Pantaleo Corvino. Upon arriving to Serie A with Fiorentina, Jovetic wished to emulate his hero, Roma's Francesco Totti. "I dream of becoming like Totti," he told the Corriere Dello Sport. This was something echoed by his coach Cesare Prandelli, who told the Viola fans that "Jovetic is a young Totti." Isn't that a cosy coincidence?
Fans who frequent Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi certainly love their number 10's; Roberto Baggio was once seen as a deity there. Despite an injury to his cruciate ligament early on in his career, Jovetic soon started to produce the form that everyone had expected from him. He was a typical playmaker in some ways, creating as much as he finished. Between 2011 and 2013, he enjoyed his best form for the Viola, scoring 27 goals and creating eight assists in 58 games.
This ended with Manchester City deciding to flex their financial muscles, eventually acquiring his services for £22 million in 2013. His time in Manchester was hampered by his recurring injury problems. Pre-City, from 2007-13, Jovetic had suffered a cruciate ligament injury that kept him out for 291 days (41 games). After this, he had a fractured arm and a couple of muscular problems that saw him miss 12 games in total. To put this in perspective, at Manchester City in two years between November 1, 2013 and April 5, 2015, he missed 175 days and 35 games in total, mainly through hamstring and calf problems.
These injury worries have led the Manchester club to think that Jovetic is simply not going to be fit enough for a sustained amount of time to allow his qualities to come through. Perhaps this is the rigorous nature of the Premier League where, arguably, power and pace are revered before all else. However, for Inter, when Jovetic is fit, he is exactly what they need. His passing is exemplary; he can hold onto the ball in tight spaces, he dribbles well and loves to shoot from distance.
These qualities that make him the perfect number 10 will not only work in harmony with Inter's impressive number nine Mauro Icardi, but will also allow manager Roberto Mancini to play without width. While Mateo Kovacic struggled playing without a wide outlet when he was in the Trequartista role, Jovetic is expert at that position (despite playing slightly higher up the pitch) and could become a dangerous and creative outlet for Inter.
The deal itself reportedly has seen Manchester City insert a compulsory purchase agreement clause into the contract depending on performance related clauses. This could rise to £14.25m should he hit the necessary levels. From Inter's point of view, the transaction could be an excellent one. Should he stay fit and perform, it will be a bargain for a 25-year-old with so much potential. If he doesn't stay fit and does not play, then he goes back to City.
When Jovetic scored that goal against OFK Beograd in 2007, he may have thought he would end up at one of Europe's top clubs and he has. The journey may have been different from the one he wanted to take, but now he has at least returned to Italy. Jovetic has spent his whole career fighting negative connotations that he is "unplayable"; Inter will be hoping that's the case, but for the right reasons.
Richard Hall is an Italian football writer contributing to ESPN, The Guardian, Daily Mail, IBWM and Football Italia. Follow him on Twitter @Gentleman_Ultra.