Last August, Major League Soccer made one of the most expensive transfers in history after the Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic signed Chelsea, coming from the MLS team New England Revolution.
The deal cost $17.4 million and was settled for seven years. With this acquirement, Chelsea is determined to win the League after getting stuck at 12th in the 2022-23 season.
The Serbian did the inverse route from another athlete from the same country, Nikola Jokic, who is already one of the best Nuggets players of all time and in 2014 moved from Europe to US to play in the NBA.
While the basketball star moved from his home country after a successful spell in Partizan, Petrovic played for Čukarički, but he truly impressed in 2022 during his spell in the MLS, playing for New England Revolution.
At only 24 years old, Petrovic became the youngest goalkeeper in the club’s history and is expected to become one of the best in his field. Petrovic entered to replace Matt Turner, who originally inspired his transfer to the American team New England Revolution. He saw this decision as a future opportunity to get a deal with an MLS European team since Turner received an offer from Arsenal while playing for New England.
Petrovic talked about his trajectory soon after his debut with Chelsea and reminisced about his decision to move to America even though he wanted to be close to home. Yet, on a three-year contract, the stopper entered New England in April 2022, right after Turner left for Arsenal.
Making An Impact In MLS
During his time with the American tournament, he became the fastest player in MLS to record five penalty saves during the 2023 season. He received the MLS All-Star title thanks to his performance of 160 penalty saves. Though the team got several offers to transfer Petrovic, such as Nottingham Forest F.C and FC Nantes, they kept the goalkeeper until Chelsea came into the picture.
While giving an interview, Petrovic said, “And I saw [Matt] Turner, the former goalkeeper they sold to Arsenal. They sent me the offer after that. I saw they could sell a goalkeeper to Arsenal. It made me think I could do something similar and come back to Europe. But honestly. I never imagined Chelsea!”
Djordje Petrovic joined Gabriel Slonina, who signed with the club last year after being transferred from Chicago Fire FC for $15 million. He also teams up with Spanish goalkeeper Robert Sánchez, the team’s starter.
However, Petrovic seems to be on the lookout for Sánchez’s position since the starter had to be replaced by Djordje during a match against Everton on December 10th when Sánchez injured his knee when there were seven minutes left on the clock. Petrovic made his first appearance for the remainder of the game. However, there wasn’t much left to do to avoid their loss.
Since Robert Sánchez could not play, Djordje became the Blues hero. Sánchez had a rough start on the team since joining in the summer from Brighton & Hove for $28 million, as he had received 26 goals in only 19 matches. Chelsea’s DT, Mauricio Pochettino, stated that the injury could get Sánchez off the field for even six weeks, marking his return in late January.
He played the remaining 2023 matches as a starter and made history when Chelsea beat Newcastle United during the penalties in the quarterfinals of the League, taking the Blues to the semi-finals. This victory caught several people’s attention on Petrovic since he hadn’t had the opportunity to play prior to Sánchez’s injury.
The newbie also got into the field against Sheffield United, when they won 2-0. After his unexpected debut as a late substitute, the team also defeated Crystal Palace and Luton Town.
Petr Cech’s Heir?
Thanks to Petrovic’s record so far, many people believe he could become the next Petr Čech, the star goalkeeper of Chelsea FC for over a decade. Similarly to Petrovic, Čech made his debut in the club when the starter, Carlo Cudicini, was injured. Since his first appearance, he has become a team favorite.
When Čech started in the English team in 2004, no one would have thought that the Czech player would receive the first Premier League Golden Glove at the end of the season because of his goal record. By 2006, and two seasons later with the Blues, he was named the best goalkeeper in the world and the Czech footballer of the year, a title he would receive again in 2012.
Petr Čech had a career filled with records, victories, and honors, having a key role in Chelsea’s winning of the League in the 2005-2006 season. Petr kept his status even when he injured his head and leg on different occasions, taking the team for a third victory in the 2014-2015 season right before he finished his time with them and transferred to Arsenal.
Čech closed his career while playing with Arsenal FC when he retired in 2019 after more than 100 matches in his professional career. Still, in 2023, he decided to pursue a career in ice hockey, joining the Oxford City Star in last year’s season. He quickly became the team’s MVP since he made an incredible debut against Streatham when he made 62 stops and 64 shots, showing great potential in this discipline.