PARIS (AP) - Stevan Jovetic has regained his sharpness and eye for goal after profiting from an injury to Monaco’s top scorer Radamel Falcao.
Since Falcao hobbled off with a thigh problem against Lyon early last month, Jovetic has struck five goals in four games to help Monaco strengthen its grip on second place, which would ensure Champions League qualification.
The 28-year-old Montenegro forward has had several frustrating seasons. Once considered among Europe’s brightest young talents during his time with Fiorentina in Serie A, his career faded after joining Manchester City five years ago.
Jovetic moved to Monaco from Inter Milan last summer and is starting to show the form that endeared him to Fiorentina fans, who nicknamed him “Jo-Jo.”
His skills and penchant for spectacular goals earned him the move to big-spending City.
Jovetic spent two years there - picking up a Premier League and League Cup winner’s medal - but was never first choice even though then-coach Manuel Pellegrini labeled him “one of the best technical players I have ever seen”.
He is Montenegro’s all-time leading scorer with 24 goals in 48 games although his talents won’t be showcased at the World Cup in June after his country failed to qualify.
With Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko ahead of him in Pellegrini’s pecking order at City, the injury-prone Jovetic made only 44 appearances - 25 as a substitute.
He joined City at the same time as Negredo, who gelled far better with Sergio Aguero.
Jovetic often found himself on the bench alongside Dzeko before being sent to Inter on loan in the summer of 2015.
Although Inter signed him, it loaned him to Sevilla last season before selling him to Monaco.
Jovetic was becoming more like “Yo-Yo” than “Jo-Jo” with all of the toing-and-froing. Nagging injuries also worked against him, as did his versatility.
His technical ease and mobility mean he can play anywhere across the front line or in a deep-lying supporting role but it does blur the lines over where the coach should pick him.
It’s now up to Leonardo Jardim to decide whether to leave out Jovetic against Lille on Friday, with Falcao back to full fitness.
“He’s done a full week of training with the squad,” coach Jardim said of Falcao, who has 17 league goals in 20 games this season. “He might start the game.”
Versatility could work in Jovetic’s favor this time, if Jardim opts to use him in a support role alongside Falcao, but it will be a difficult choice given the consistent form of Keita Balde, Monaco’s other summer signing.
The 23-year-old Senegal forward has scored or created a goal in four of the past five games and has combined well with Jovetic and attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.
With Lopes arguably Monaco’s most consistent player this season, Jardim may be left with a straight choice between Jovetic and Balde.
Monaco, which is 17 points behind Paris-Saint-Germain in the standings, will meet the champion-elect in the League Cup final on March 31.
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas in Manchester contributed to this report
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