From Belgrade to Benfica to the Bundesliga, Luka Jovic is making the most of his Frankfurt loan spell. But as the prolific Serbian striker prepares to face Germany in a friendly on Wednesday, he has decisions to make.
When Luka Jovic picked up the ball with just over half an hour gone against Nuremberg on Sunday, he found himself in an unfamiliar position.
A deadly striker, constantly alert and lethal in the box, the 21-year-old has made a name for himself this season with his goalscoring exploits. But now, after shielding the ball and swiveling away from his marker, he suddenly had four teammates ahead of him.
With 22 goals in all competitions this season, including a five goal haul against Fortuna Düsseldorf and a brace against Olympique Marseille, putting the ball in the net is not a problem for the former Red Star Belgrade striker,. But could he now pick the right pass?
He chose to go left, threading a perfectly-weighted ball into Filip Kostic whose cross was tapped home by Martin Hinteregger. Correct decision. No longer the executioner, Jovic was now pulling the strings in the background and, for the second time this week, had played a key role in giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead which they never surrendered.
"I've come to know that something brilliant can happen when Jovic is on the ball," said goalscorer Hinteregger, 26, a no-nonsense defender by trade but one content to maraud forward, anticipating that, with Jovic in possession, the risk was minimal.
More than just a poacher
Three days earlier in the San Siro, Jovic had scored Frankfurt's winner against Inter Milan in typical style, lurking on the shoulder of the last man and pouncing on a defensive error before deftly chipping the goalkeeper - a demonstration of supreme confidence from a player in the form of his life.
"Luka is a goal-getter," said coach Adi Hütter. "But he has so much punch and power that he can also drop deeper."
Jovic's versatility is typical of the tactical flexibility and the ability to manage physical exertion which has been key to Frankfurt's success this season. With small squads, inexperienced players and limited budgets, the balancing act between Bundesliga and Europe frequently proves difficult for German clubs, but Eintracht's win over Nuremberg completed another perfect week both domestically and internationally.
"We're all at maximum tiredness," admitted Jovic, who has supplemented his goals with seven assists this season. "But we just keep going and we want to make the most of it."
Sitting fifth in the Bundesliga and with an eminently winnable Europa League quarterfinal against Benfica to come, Frankfurt have more than earned a rest over the international break. But for Serbian international Jovic, there will be no escape from German football as he and his compatriots head to Wolfsburg for a friendly against Germany on Wednesday.
Comparison with Suarez
"Of course it will be difficult but we'll see what we can do," said Jovic, whose national team coach, Mladen Krstajic, has gone so far as to compare his young forward to Barcelona striker Luis Suarez.
"He's a classic striker but he also has very good ball control and a great understanding of the game," said the 45-year-old. "He's brave and can be dangerous at any time. He's always waiting for his chance to exploit even the smallest lapse from his opponent."
Just ask Inter Milan defender Stefan de Vrij, who made the fatal error of attempting an ambitious header back to his goalkeeper on Thursday, with Jovic lurking.
Ranked joint fifth in Kicker magazine's cumulative Bundesliga season rankings – level with Eintracht teammate Sebastian Haller and behind only Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Thiago Alcantara and Makoto Hasebe, yet another Frankfurter – Jovic's class is no secret in Germany.
Interest from across Europe
With the frontman expected to sign a permanent deal at the end of his loan spell for a pre-agreed fee thought to be about €7 million, Frankfurt are likely to be flooded with offers come the season's end.
Sporting director Fredi Bobic has denied any contact between his club and Bayern Munich, but suitors are also lining up abroad. "I see the scouts on the lists which I receive before every home game," Bobic told Sky90 earlier this month. "Everyone's represented there – and I mean everyone."
The Bundesliga side have reportedly received interest from Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona for the €55m ($62.4m) rated forward – a huge sum which, if recent developments at the Waldstadion are anything to go by, will be reinvested wisely by the club from Germany's financial hub on the River Main.
"He needs to continue his excellent development and then I am convinced that he and Frankfurt will make the right choice together," said Serbia coach Krstajic of the Bosnia-born player. "I wish him the greatest possible success. He can achieve great things."
On Sunday, when faced with a choice of four teammates, Jovic instinctively picked the right pass. Soon, he'll have an even bigger decision to make.