MADRID (Reuters) - Luka Jovic was once touted as Real Madrid’s top striker for the next decade but as the champions prepare to visit Levante on Sunday after an underwhelming La Liga start there are questions over whether they are better off with or without the Serbian.
After 27 goals in a season with Eintracht Frankfurt, Jovic was seen as the answer to Madrid’s goalscoring troubles after a barren first season without Cristiano Ronaldo and earned a 60 million euro ($70.48 million) move to Madrid last year, aged 21.
But he barely made a dent in the team in his debut campaign, starting only four league games, and was left on the bench for the 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad in the first game of this season.
Coach Zinedine Zidane took a leap of faith by starting him alongside Karim Benzema against Real Betis and Real Valladolid but Jovic failed to score, with Madrid finding their winning goals on both occasions after he had come off.
However, against Valladolid there were at least signs of life, as he had three attempts on goal and nearly scored with a crashing header which was well saved by Roberto Jimenez.
“Jovic was far better than on other days, he no longer looks like a confused tourist but instead a proper centre forward, albeit one with little luck,” said Spanish newspaper AS.
Sports daily Marca also praised the Serbian, saying he was removed by Zidane when he was looking at his best.
Despite giving Jovic two starts in a row, Zidane still seems unconvinced by the player, refusing to say after the Valladolid game whether or not the forward would still be in the squad before the transfer window shuts next Monday.
Zidane’s lack of faith in Jovic was fiercely criticised by Josep Pedrerol, presenter of popular television show El Chiringuito.
“If Zidane kicks Jovic out he should resign,” he said.
“The only player Zidane chose for Madrid is Jovic and had to beg them to pay 60 million for him. And now, after a year without playing him, he says he is not good enough.”
Whether Jovic is in the team against Levante will determine whether Zidane has the appetite to squeeze the best out of a player the club have invested so much in.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid welcome Villarreal on Saturday after stumbling to a 0-0 draw at Huesca, while Barcelona under new coach Ronald Koeman follow up a 4-0 home win over Villarreal with a tougher test against visiting Sevilla on Sunday.
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Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris
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