Last summer Luka Jović was one of the most in-demand strikers in Europe. A lot can change in 12 months.
So, what has gone wrong in the Spanish capital?
With just two goals in 15 appearances in LaLiga this season, Jović has been unable to replicate his prolific form which got tongues wagging whilst he was at Eintracht Frankfurt.
After scoring 27 goals in all competitions last campaign, Jović joined Real for a reported £54million. The hope was the Serbian would eventually displace Karim Benzema in Los Blancos' starting line-up. However, this has proved beyond Jović with Benzema enjoying one of his most fruitful seasons.
In fact, Jović has fallen even further down the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabéu, with Mariano Díaz acting as back-up for Benzema since the turn of the year. The Dominican flopped spectacularly after returning to the Bernabéu following Cristiano Ronaldo‘s move to Juventus two summers ago.
With his last start for Los Blancos coming in October, Jović has also fallen out of favour in the Serbian national team. Head coach Ljbisa Tumbaković said: “Luka Jović’s problem is Luka Jović.”
After being left out of the starting line-up for Serbia’s 4-2 loss to Portugal in September, it's believed Jović refused to participate in their second fixture of the international break and returned to Spain, putting his decision down to injury.
Yet four days later, Jović appeared in Real Madrid’s LaLiga tie against Levante. So it came as little surprise when Jović was not selected in Serbia’s international squad the following month.
After breaking Serbia’s coronavirus rules by returning to Belgrade, Jović has again faced a sizeable public backlash in his homeland. Despite being required to self-isolate, the 22-year-old was photographed in public just days after flying back. This brought widespread criticism upon Jović with the Serbian President and Serbian Prime Minister publicly shaming the striker.
There's even a chance Jović could face judicial punishment in his homeland for breaking the rules. Serbian team-mate Aleksandar Prijović was placed under house arrest for three months following a similar infringement.
Things haven't been going any better for the 22-year-old on the pitch either. His regression has been clear for all to see. Jović has averaged just 0.69 shots on target per 90 in LaLiga this season. That figure is well down on his 1.67 per 90 average in the Bundesliga between 2017 to 2019. Albeit he has played just 392 minutes – nowhere near enough to draw meaningful conclusions.
That decline is easy to explain when contrasting Jović's heat map for his first season in Spain against his two years with Frankfurt.
While he has never been the kind of striker to be shackled within the penalty area, Jović has spent a far larger proportion of his time at Real outside of the box.
Jović was the stand-out performer in Eintracht Frankfurt’s European exploits last season. He scored ten times in the Eagles’ run to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, including goals in both legs of the semi-finals against Chelsea.
The Serbian proved himself one of the deadliest penalty box poachers in Europe at Frankfurt and became the youngest ever player in Bundesliga history to score five goals in a single game when Eintracht trounced Fortuna Düsseldorf 7-1. Jović’s electrifying campaign earned him a place in both the Bundesliga and the Europa League 2018/19 Teams of the Season. Now he is struggling to get into the areas where he is most effective.
It has been apparent for some time he could leave Real and a loan move to Arsenal was mooted earlier in the year. The Gunners are no strangers to making loan signings with both Denis Suárez and Dani Ceballos arriving temporarily within the last 18 months. Jović showed he is more than capable of applying himself physically whilst in Germany, with his stocky frame more than making up for his lack of height.
According to reports, Jović is keen to reunite with former Eintracht Frankfurt strike partner Ante Rebić at Milan. There he could help phase out the 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović and rediscover his best form.
Real Madrid have a history of chewing strikers up and spitting them out, Jović won't want to be the latest.