A Champions League winner back in May, Luka Jović is now preparing to pursue Europa Conference League glory with Fiorentina.
The Serbian arrives in Italy after a stop-start few years in the Spanish capital, having joined Real Madrid following an eye-catching 2018/19 Europa League campaign which saw him net ten goals in 14 matches for Eintracht Frankfurt.
He will also join a select but growing group of players to have played in each of UEFA’s three men’s senior club competitions and is grateful that the Europa Conference League has been introduced to allow more clubs to compete in European competition.
“Now I’m here and ready to get back to my previous level of performance. It’s very important for every player to play for a team competing in Europe,” the 24-year-old said.
“Everyone would like to be in a team playing in the Champions League, but thank God, the Europa Conference League has been introduced so we have a chance to play in this competition [and] I think we are among the favorites to win. We’ll have to adjust to every opponent because I think we have the quality to go all the way to the final. Over the last years, I’ve won the Champions League and played in the semi-final of the Europa League, so I would love to win this competition.”
After a difficult period in Madrid, Jović is desperate to return to his best form, and references his childhood love of the game as inspiration.
“First of all, I want to get back to my previous level because I know that I can do it; I know the quality I possess,” he said. “It will be a long and exhausting season, but I hope it’s one with many goals and one where I can rediscover my old self again.
“I started playing football when I was five. It was, as I like to say, love at first sight. I was out on the pitch all day long. I practiced, trained – be it me shooting at an empty goal, my dad crossing the ball and me heading the ball or me playing with my friends, that was simply my daily routine and football means a lot to me. I can’t go a day without thinking about football, watching some videos. I never miss a big match on TV, so that’s it.”
Benchmarking with Bayern
Having left the European champions over the summer, Jović has plenty of positive experiences of the Champions League, but it is his memories of his debut in 2015/16 that demonstrate just how much continental competition means to him.
“I remember my first Champions League match really well – that was at Benfica a month and a half or two months after I had signed, I don’t remember exactly, against Bayern,” he recalls.
“I was 18 and I had just come from Serbia. I was subbed on in the 85th minute and I didn’t understand anything. There was one set piece where I was just standing and looking at Robert Lewandowski, Arturo Vidal – I was looking at them thinking: ‘How is this possible? Is this real or is it a dream? What’s going on?’
“I even registered a shot in that match. I hit a half-volley on my left foot. I was thinking: ‘This’ll be a screamer!’ Manuel Neuer just moved a bit to one side, threw himself and caught a tough shot. I thought: ‘You still have a long way to go to compete at this level.’
“That’s the match I’d like to single out. This was my debut in the Champions League. I was 18, and that’ll be a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Fiorentina kicked off their Europa Conference League campaign against RFS, the first Latvian club to reach the group stage of a UEFA club competition. Alongside fellow debutants from Liechtenstein and Lithuania, they ensure that a record 36 different European national associations are represented across the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League group stages this season.