Jovetic is one of Europe's 'rock' stars
Silence isn’t only for pin drops; it’s there to frame moments of anticipation and great anxiety. It can be a prelude to triumph or tragedy, delight or despair. Only when interrupted does the outcome become clear. And it doesn’t half resonate.
No footballer wants to hear what Stevan Jovetic heard at Fiorentina’s pre-season training camp on August 3, 2010. “Two cracks,” the sound of which carried for 10m. “I felt a sharp pain and ended up with torn ligaments,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Jovetic’s right knee had given way during an innocent looking kick-about with his teammates under the afternoon sun in the otherwise tranquil surroundings of San Piero a Sieve. An initially unsympathetic Sinisa Mihajlovic walked over, stopwatch in one hand, whistle in the other. “Come on, get up, we’ve got another couple of minutes to play,” he shouted.
Unfortunately for the Fiorentina NO 8, he wouldn’t be able to do so for an entire year. It brought an abrupt halt to the career of a player who had emerged as one of the most promising youngsters in Europe the previous season when he scored five goals in six Champions League games, including a brace in a prestigious win over Liverpool and another against Bayern Munich.
Idolized by the Fiorentina fans in the Curva Fiesole, who bought wigs in the style of his curly hair from stalls in the local San Lorenzo market, Jovetic had drawn comparisons with the club’s other flamboyant former hero – the Divine Ponytail himself, Roberto Baggio.
Unsurprisingly flattered by them, the 21-year-old would of course have preferred not to have the same injury in common. “I had two operations, and as soon as I woke up from them, I looked at what condition my knee was in. When they took the brace off there was the strongest pain.”
Jovetic traveled back and forth from his specialist in Augsburg, Germany for regular check ups on his reconstructed anterior and exterior cruciate ligaments. “In Montenegro we say: ‘I’ve thrown those stones away’. It means that I never want to go back there. The doctors were all lovely, but I hope that I don’t see them again.”
Throughout Jovetic’s rehabilitation, the one constant in the interviews that he decided to give was how much he missed football. He listened to Jovanotti’s song ‘A Te,’ read Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book ‘The Secret’ and beat Adem Ljajic 5-0 at FIFA 2011 on countless occasions. But not once did he prefer any of it to being on the pitch.
“In my head, I’ve been playing for two months,” Jovetic said in May. “I love the ball, being without ‘him’ has been difficult and the first contact with ‘him’ after months was beautiful. There won’t be any holidays. I will train all summer. I have the desire to rock the world, even if I have to know how to manage the anger that I have inside.”
That anger came to the fore when Jovetic finally made his competitive return in the third round of the Coppa Italia against Cittadella 462 days after his last appearance and the ‘two cracks.’ Desperate to get off the mark, he lifted the ball over one defender in the box, struck it on the half volley only to see it charged down. Jovetic responded by furiously tearing his shirt in half, and was ordered off by the referee to get a replacement.
At a time when there is great disillusionment at Fiorentina with the club’s owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle asking whether they should continue, the coach Sinisa Mihajlovic not enjoying popularity among the fans, and Riccardo Montolivo stripped of his captaincy after expressing a desire to leave, Jovetic’s gesture went down a treat.
“The shirt ripped by Jo-Jo, for the anger at missing a goal, is the best symbol of the spirit with which the club represents itself at the beginning of the new season,” declared Fiorentina’s president Mario Cognigni. So too is his willingness to commit to the Viola.
Earlier this week, talks began with a view to extending his contract until 2016. The negotiations come just a fortnight after Jovetic scored a pair of goals for Fiorentina and assisted the other for Alessio Cerci in a 3-0 victory over Parma. They were his first at the Artemio Franchi since March 28, 2010 and he poignantly dedicated them to Alberto Gilardino who is recovering from a knee injury of his own that will keep him out for six weeks.
Before that, however, Jovetic had unveiled a new goal celebration especially requested by his sister Bojana. Gone is the pointing to the heavens a la Kaka. Here to stay is the body popping as seen in the music video Party Rock by LMFAO – the electro pop group with the DJs who have the same perm-fro hair style as Jo-Jo.
England manager Fabio Capello won’t want to see it again when they come face to face on Friday night. Jovetic found the net on his return to the international set up with a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat to Wales on September 2, and if Jo-Jo’s a Go-Go along side Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic in Podgorica, Joe Hart and the England defense are in for a busy 90 minutes.