Florin Răducioiu and Stevan Jovetić – Football’s Unlikely Journeymen

It took Stevan Jovetić just six minutes to open his Hertha Berlin account on matchday one of the current Bundesliga season, tapping home from point-blank range to give his new side – and seventh career club – the lead against Köln.


But while the home side rallied and turned the game around to win 3-1, his goal carried more significance than what first met the eye. By netting in the Buli, the Montenegrin became just the second player to net a goal in each of Europe’s five biggest leagues – following in the footsteps of Romanian hitman Florin Răducioiu some twenty years earlier.


Funnily enough, Răducioiu called time on his career in 2004 – the same year that Jovetić began playing for the Partizan youth sides in Serbia; as one journeyman bowed out of the game, he passed his torch onto the next – one first lit by the Romanian in his homeland.


Răducioiu notched 38 goals for Dinamo București over a four-year period – catching the watchful eye of clubs in Italy in the process, before embarking on a rather complicated journey through the country.


He signed first with Bari in the summer of 1990 and didn’t take long to get going – netting his first goal in just his second match with a delightful left-footed finish to bring his side level against Torino, before Il Biancorossi went on to find a winner in the second half. 



Răducioiu won’t have realised it at the time, but that strike was the first on the ten-year quest to making football history. Whilst future England captain David Platt joined the club that next summer, Răducioiu moved on to join Hellas Verona first before jumping ship again to Brescia the year after in a move which really put him on the map. 


There, he bagged a career-high 13 goals in his debut campaign from just 29 games – including a brace in a heated Derby of Lombardia against Atalanta which saw riots, brawls and supporters treated for injuries on the field of play. A game which has gone down in infamy within Serie A, but a performance to propel Răducioiu into Biancazzurri folklore. 


That summer, Florin hopped across Lombardy to join his fifth club in as many years to sign for the might of AC Milan, in a deal worth up to £2.25m – but goals and gametime were hard to come by. In his one and only season at San Siro, he managed just two league goals, appropriately enough against Torino (like his first goal for Bari) and Atalanta (the side his most iconic Brescia strikes came against).


But despite seeing just over 550 minutes in the league and in Europe, Răducioiu did finish the season with a Serie A and Champions League winners medal, and renewed optimism that he could leave more of an impact during the 1994/95 season. 


The signings of Paolo Di Canio, Ruud Gullit and Allesandro Melli – amongst others – put an end to that dream, however, and soon enough the Romanian was on the move again – continuing his European gallivant in Spain with Espanyol.


The story remained similar, though. Injuries had hindered him at Milan and his time at Espanyol was more of the same – mustering just five appearances over the first half of the season – taking until January to break his duct.


Some will say it was worth the wait, though, as the Periquitos defeated Atlético Madrid 2-0 in a pulsating game, with the big Romanian netting a brace of poacher specials – sweeping in a tap-in at the far post, before charging down a clearance to deflect the ball into the roof of the net. Box office stuff.


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During his two seasons in Barcelona, ‘Radu’ (as he became known) played just 32 times in La Liga, scoring eight goals. Hardly an eye-catching sum of goals but a fairly modest return given his injuries, and it was enough to land him in the Romania squad for Euro ‘96.


The tournament was an unmitigated disaster for the nation, however, as they bowed out without a win and just one scored – by yours truly. Put through by Tibor Selymes in their final group game against Spain, Răducioiu raced away before calmly slotting beyond Andoni Zubizarreta to score his first goal on English shores at Elland Road – but it wouldn’t be his last.


If there was one manager who loved a nomadic striker with a patchy goal-scoring record, it’s Harry Redknapp, and he happened to be married with the club which seems to love that particular genre of forward man all the same.


Whether it’s Benni McCarthy, Mido, Bobby Zamora or Demba Ba – Radu was part of the forward culture signed by the Hammers, as he was brought in following the conclusion of their tournament for a cool £1.5m fee. 


The spell would prove ill-fated, but he still checked another nation off on his goal scoring globetrot. He netted first in a 1-1 draw with Stockport in the League Cup, before curling in a delicious effort in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at a bouncing Boleyn Ground – a goal he still rewatches back on YouTube to this day.


His final goal for the Hammers came three weeks later with a fine run and finish against Sunderland, but slanderous accusations made towards the Romanian all but ended his time on English shores.


During West Ham’s FA Cup game against Wrexham, someone informed Redknapp that Răducioiu was out shopping at Harvey Nichols and missed the game – something vehemently denied by the forward, who claimed he was actually at the game and watching despite not being a part of the squad. 


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Redknapp chose to believe it, though, and so he returned to Spain with Espanyol, where Radu managed his best-ever return in terms of goals to game ratio – scoring five in just ten matches, including a heroic brace against bitter rivals Barcelona.


In a fiery encounter that saw nine yellow cards and one red for a certain Luís Figo, our journeyman proved to be the coolest man in the place – firing two penalties beyond Vítor Baía to seal the win. It was a true battle of future managers, too, with Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola, Laurent Blanc and Mauricio Pochettino all featuring.


This late-season form caught the eye of Stuttgart who signed him on a season-long loan, hoping Radu could help carry the scoring burden left by the outgoing Giovanni Elber – but it didn’t quite work out, even after a lightning-fast start.


He began his career in his fifth country on the bench away to MSV Duisburg, before emerging from the dugout to put the gloss on a 3-0 victory. He then repeated the trick again just two games later, coming off the bench to bag a cracking goal as he beat the Kaiserslautern offside trap, before lashing the ball into the roof of the net from the tightest of angles.


His problem in Germany – as it seemed to be so often throughout his career – is that he didn’t start enough games to make a real impact. During his only term in Baden-Württemberg, he began just six of his 19 league games (scoring four goals), starting back-to-back games just twice while injuries disrupted his rhythm even further.


At season’s end, he briefly trotted back to Espanyol before joining Brescia and then Dinamo București two years later – where a measly total of five goals in 45 games seemed to spell the end of the Romanian’s career at the top level at 31 years of age, before he was handed an unexpected lifeline.


As his career wound down, he was plucked from obscurity in January of 2001 by Claude Puel’s AS Monaco – the reigning French Champions – in a move which wrote an otherwise fairly run-of-the-mill career into the history books forever.


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He replaced Shabani Nonda at the sharp end of the Principality club’s attack against CS Sedan for his debut, stepping into a side that contained the likes of Ludovic Giuly and Marcelo Gallardo – becoming the first footballer to ever compete in each of the top five European divisions.


Naturally, Radu went that one step further to really cement himself into football folklore, as he hit home Monaco’s fourth in a 6-1 rout of Metz in February of 2001 – just five minutes after coming off the bench, becoming football’s ultimate nomad goalscorer – the first to do it in Europe’s big five.


He netted his second Monaco goal a few weeks later, the opening striker in a pulsating 4-3 win over Troyes to round off his professional top-flight career – ending with 90 goals from 354 career appearances.


It’s difficult to truly summarise Florin Răducioiu’s career; he showed plenty of promise at different stages in his early days, but too much moving, too many injuries and not enough time in the spotlight meant he drifted through a career which, perhaps, could have been so much more.


However, he lived the dream, netted all over Europe and took his goal-scoring touch wherever he went, and as his chronicle closed, another journeyman’s opened.


Stevan Jovetić was born in Titograd (now known as Podgorica) in Montenegro, taking his first steps in football with local side OFK Titograd, before moving to Serbia in 2004 to join Partizan as a 14-year-old – the same summer in which Radu finally called it quits after a brief renaissance with Ligue Deux side US Créteil-Lusitanos.


There, he soared from the youth ranks to the first team in just two years – making his professional debut as a 16-year-old before becoming a fixture in the first team and lifting a domestic double in 2007/08. He became the side’s youngest ever captain in 2008, taking the armband at just 17-years-old – a record later broken by Nikola Dzigi Ninković.


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Making waves at such a young age was always likely to attract interest, with Jovetić catching the eye of many potential suitors – including Fiorentina, who parted with over €10m to land the forward.


A club who love a talismanic, heroic attacking player – following in the footsteps of Gabriel Batistuta, Luca Toni and Rui Costa, while paving the way for Federico Chiesa and now Dušan Vlahović – La Viola’s faithful now had a new gem to cheer. And cheer they did – albeit not instantly.


There was obvious pressure on the forward; he was the 11th most expensive under-18 transfer ever made at the time – a fairly big deal in an era before the likes of Real Madrid were splashing £40m on players yet to make their senior bow – and even now he still ranks inside the top 75.


While not a direct replacement for Toni (arriving a year after the striker’s departure for Bayern Munich), Jovetić was still tasked with sharing the goal scoring burden alongside the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Adrian Mutu and Giampaolo Pazzini.


It took him until the back-end of his debut campaign for the Montenegrin to find the net for the first time, squeezing home a tame penalty against Atalanta to get off the mark – but there he began his own journey into football’s record books.


A second followed just weeks later against Catania, as Jovetić showed a real glimpse of what he promised back at Partizan; latching onto a long ball, before firing into the bottom corner with unerring accuracy on the half-volley to set La Viola on their way to a 2-0 victory.


As time went by, he became known for his deft touch and ability on the ball, married with a sangfroid in front of goal and ability to create from a slightly deeper role – a facet to his game which differs him from Radu; Jovetić could create and play as a foil to another attacking player – somewhat displayed by his 10 assists in 2009/10 dwarfing his relatively meagre total of six goals.


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Like Radu, though, ‘Jo-Jo’ (as he was affectionately known in Florence) too suffered from a wretched luck with injuries, and as his star began to rise, he was struck by a cruel ACL injury which ruled him out of action for the entirety of 2010/11. 


He returned with a bang, however – top scorer for his side in both 2011/12 and 2012/13 – helping La Viola from the inigimony of a relegation threat to a Champions League return, as he smashed home 27 goals and managed eight assists across the two campaigns.


Despite a slow start and momentum halting injury, he returned to the main stage and was signed by Manchester City in the summer of 2013 for £24m – joining alongside the likes of Fernandinho and Àlvaro Negredo as the Citizens aimed to wrestle the title back from Manchester United.


It’s worth noting, too that Jovetić managed 13 goals in 12/13 to earn his move to Manchester – the same total that Radu managed, in the same league, that got him his move to Milan all the way back in 1992/93.


He made his English league debut on September 14th, playing over an hour in City’s 0-0 draw with Stoke in a match which saw him play in a withdrawn role behind fellow summer arrival Negredo – a real baptism of fire at the Britannia.


Pesky calf and hamstring injuries soon followed to disrupt any real momentum, though, and by the time he returned, Manuel Pellegrini’s men had put together a run of ten wins from 11 in the league – making starts few and far between.


Lady luck would eventually shine on Jovetić for his first-team return, with City a goal up at a beleaguered Tottenham, Sergio Agüero was forced off with an injury to pave the way for the Montenegrin’s return – with a Danny Rose red card just five minutes later giving City the license to run riot at White Hart Lane.


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Then 3-1 up and cruising, he picked the ball up on the left before checking inside and firing a well-struck effort into the bottom corner – a textbook Jovetić strike which opened his account in a second major league.


Swimming in far deeper oceans means competing with far bigger fish, however, and when Jovetić desperately needed to swim at City, he found himself sinking ever lower down the pecking order. That season, he competed with Agüero, Negredo and Edin Džeko; a trio who all netted north of 23 goals each from a combined 131 appearances that season – statistics which afforded the Premier League new boy just 18 games and only two starts. 


A combination of fierce competition and injuries were made worse by allegations that the then-24-year-old exaggerated his setbacks, as Pellegrini eventually dealt the knockout blow by replacing Jo-Jo with winter arrival Wilfried Bony in the 2014/15 Champions League squad. This decision ‘killed’ Jova, as he played only 41 minutes for the Sky Blues thereafter.


He returned to Italy that summer, signing a loan-to-buy deal with Inter Milan which could have been made permanent for £12m a year later – a fee which swayed from bargain to high risk as his debut campaign at San Siro took shape. Three goals from his opening two games – including a fantastic winner against Atalanta on his debut – had Inter fans believing they could unleash the forward who was so loved down in Florence.


Nevertheless, one goal from the following 20 Serie A appearances delivered the stark reality; Jovetić’s powers at the top level were waning fast and a dysfunctional Inter Milan side wasn’t going to get the best out of him. He was again dropped from a European squad as Inter’s financial issues caught up with them in 16/17, leading the striker to get his passport out once more.


In January of 2017, Jovetić hopped over the Mediterranean to join Sevilla – a club on the rise following an historic three-peat of Europa League triumphs under Unai Emery, and now charging towards the title under Jorge Sampaoli. His signing bore fruit just days later, as he netted in a dramatic 3-3 draw with Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, before he proved that lightning could indeed strike twice.


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Three days later, he checked off the third country of his goal-scoring bucket list, firing in a dramatic late winner to resign to a first defeat in 40 matches for Los Blancos, and propel Sevilla into the title picture at La Liga’s halfway point – leaving Sevillistas dreaming of a first Nacional title in over 70 years.


Nine further goal involvements followed in the remaining 20 games – the same total in which he failed to hit the back of the net for Inter the season previous – to round off his best season since he left Fiorentina some four years earlier. 


Despite the promise, though, Sevilla fell to a fourth-place finish and would lose manager Sampaoli at the end of the season, as the current Marseille boss went on to endure a testing period in the Argentina hotseat. In his absence, Sevilla decided against making Jovetić’s move permanent (instead opting to sign Colombian forward Luis Muriel), leaving the Montenegrin in limbo once more.


He began the season back at San Siro and featured on the bench for Inter’s opening two games of 2017/18, but with Mauro Icardi in red hot form and the Nerazzurri needing to balance the books, his time in the squad was never likely to last – and so it told.


With French side Monaco always likely to lose Kylian Mbappé (and others) following their fairytale 2016/17 exploits, the Principality club were keeping their eyes peeled to bring in the pieces needed to assemble their next great side under Leonardo Jardim.


The likes of Keita Baldé, Youri Tielemans and Rachid Ghezzal arrived, before Jova followed in Radu’s footsteps and made his own way to the Stade Louis II – joining the reigning French champions, much like how the Romanian had when they won their last title.


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He cost Monaco just over £9m, hardly a huge risk for a club that recouped over £160m during the summer window, but the transfer did seem out of place. Monaco were selling high and buying cheap, but bringing in players generally at the earlier stages of their career.


The aforementioned Baldé and Tielemans were 22 and 20 respectively, while Adama Diakhaby, Terence Kongolo and Soualiho Meïté were all 23 or under. At 27, Jova had plenty to prove to stay in the side – forcing him to roll back the years.


Two goalless games began his career in French football, before he opened the scoring in his third game with a splendid turn and strike from the edge of the box – setting the Monégasques on their way to a 4-0 win over Lille and securing the penultimate division in his quest for the top five.


This set Jovetić on his way to the best run of form of his career, finishing the season with eight league goals from just seven starts and 15 appearances overall. But the most prominent numbers he had put up by season’s end were games on the sideline; 16 out injured dwarfed all other statistics, and his 15 starts began to feel like an annus mirabilis as his Monaco career trudged on.


Just 17 appearances came in the two seasons following 17/18, as ACL, calf, knee and hamstring injuries plagued the forward, while Monaco brought in the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder, Jean-Kévin Augustin and Islam Slimani to bolster their attacking ranks. He threatened to become the forgotten man in the Principality heading into the final year of his deal, but similarly to his time in Seville, he timed his return just right.


In 20/21, Jovetić featured in 29 league games (the second-most he’d managed in a single season during his career), while also bagging six goals as the side returned to the Champions League with a third-place finish. “I’m only focused on what goes on on the field and we’ll see what happens.


We have the objective of qualifying for Europe and my contract situation is secondary to that”, he said in March, as Niko Kovač showed faith in the former City man to help carry his side up the division. A new deal never came, though, and Jova was on the move again come the summer.


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It was far from perfect, but his spell in France went some way to etching him back into people’s minds; when fit, he was a proven goalscorer and adept creator who was now entering his ‘now or never’ years.


Further exploits on the international stage did his chances of staying in the limelight no harm at all, as he notched seven goals for his country during the season, too. He claimed Italy was his ‘second home’ and was linked with a move to Lazio, but it was to be Hertha Berlin who would land the now-32-year-old.


So, here we are – back to the beginning. Jovetić became just the third player to play in all five leagues as he took to the field against Köln, following in the footsteps of Radu and former Liverpool flop Christian Poulsen – before joining an even more select club with just his third touch in Germany.


Hertha currently sit 14th in the division as Jovetić has struggled for fitness and goals since his debut strike, netting just once from his subsequent six appearances.


When you hear the term ‘journeyman’, the mind will often drift to the likes of Craig Bellamy, Nicolas Anelka or Christian Vieri; but nobody did it better than these two.


Răducioiu and Jovetić have both enjoyed good careers domestically and internationally, shared San Siro and the Principality, lifted trophies and have a great story to tell when all is said and done. Neither can really be classed as ‘mercenaries’, or players who followed the money – they naturally progressed through the sport and went wherever opportunities to play football seemed to lie at the highest possible level.


No club suited either perfectly, nor did either of them experience a great deal of luck at one particular side. But they hopped around the globe playing the beautiful game, and wrote a whole lot of history along the way.


By: James Pendleton / @jpends_

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / DeFodi Images / Neal Simpson – EMPICS / PA Images