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'He is one of the greatest talents I've seen' - Paunovic hails new Real Madrid signing Jovic

11:11 PM IST 05/06/19
Luka Jovic Eintracht Frankfurt 2018-19
The former Serbia youth manager has played with some all-time greats, but says the new Blancos signing is up there with the best

Former Serbia youth coach Veljko Paunovic has described new Real Madrid signing Luka Jovic as “one of the greatest talents” he has ever seen.

Despite a playing career that saw Paunovic feature alongside the likes of Christian Vieri and Fernando Torres, the Chicago Fire boss insists Jovic is up there with the best of them following his €70 million (£62m/$79m) switch from Eintracht Frankfurt this week.

Paunovic led Serbia to FIFA U-20 World Cup glory in New Zealand in 2015, while his playing resume includes stints with clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Partizan.

The 41-year-old, who now manages the Chicago Fire in MLS, knows all about Jovic’s ability after coaching him throughout his youth career, and insists Los Blancos have landed a supremely talented player who will only get better over the coming seasons in the Spanish capital.

In an interview with Goal, Paunovic said: “He's one of the greatest talents I've seen, and I've played with killers like Vieri, [Jimmy Floyd] Hasselbaink, Fernando Torres and [Lyuboslav] Penev.

“After Pedja Mijatovic, Davor Suker and all that generation, there has been some great players – but not an attacker like Luka Jovic.

“We've had him in the Serbia set-up practically his whole career so far. Back in 2014, due to his great development and physical power that was superior to his age, we promoted him [to the Under-19s]. 

“He was born in December 1997, so he was almost three years younger than the entire generation that formed that team.”

“We reached the semi-finals of Euro U-19 (in 2015) and in that team we had [Nikola] Maksimovic, [Sergej] Milinkovic-Savic, etc - players who are having great careers now, but we were missing a striker like him. 

“We had Jovic in the national team in an important tournament like that one and it was enough time to see all the potential he has and the player he is going to be.”

Despite the plaudits, Paunovic insists there is a lot more to come from the 21-year-old, who began his career with Red Star Belgrade before switching to Portuguese giants Benfica.

After making a huge impression, initially on loan, with Eintracht Frankfurt, the striker is now ready to test himself against La Liga’s finest after signing a six-year deal in Madrid.

It is a job, says Paunovic, that he is more than qualified to do.

“Real Madrid have bought a player with lots of potential to develop,” he said. 

“He’s a great player. A killer. We still have a while to go to see, for me, probably the greatest talent Serbia - or any region in former Yugoslavia - has produced in the last 20 years.

“Luka has a showreel of first-touch shots, inside the box, outside the box, on the head, both legs … it is a spectacular repertoire. 

“He's so precise and ice cold – and that’s key for him. He keeps his head cool and focused on scoring goals.

“His coach must keep developing his confidence, but he's one of the greatest talents Serbia has ever had.”