Nikica Jelavić: The forgotten man in Everton’s progression

After winning four points in the space of a week in away fixtures at Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium, Everton have announced themselves as real contenders for a top-four berth in the Premier League this term.

With Roberto Martínez bringing an attractive and enterprising brand of football to Goodison Park, the Mersyside outfit have been a pleasure to watch and very difficult to beat.

One of the stars of the show so far has been Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku, who has led the Everton line with aplomb and grabbed eight Premier League goals in the process.

However, the main casualty of playing the giant Belgian as a lone striker has been Nikica Jelavić.

The Croatia international has been on the fringes of things at Goodison this season, starting only five of the Toffees’ 15 domestic fixtures.

It is a big year for the skillful attacker, who will look to have a good second half to the season to book his place at next summer’s World Cup, but he may well have to move to a different club in January to get it.

Jelavić has proven himself as a lethal marksman over recent campaigns. The attacker broke into the Hajduk Split first-team at the age of 17, before moving to Belgium for a season with Zulte Waregem.

In his younger days his goalscoring return was by no means spectacular, but he started to find his feet after a move to Rapid Vienna in 2008. In his first season with the Austrian club Jelavić was largely used as a substitute, but made a name for himself in 2009-10.

In 31 starts in this campaign he netted 18 goals, while also finding the mark on four occasions in the Europa League. This was enough to convince Scottish powerhouses Glasgow Rangers to dispense with £4 million to bring the eastern European forward to Ibrox.

Over the course of 18 months in Scotland, Jelavić proved himself as one of the most deadly strikers the SPL had seen in recent years, netting 30 goals in 45 appearances for the club. This played its part in helping the side to the title in 2010-11.

Nikica JelavićAs financial cracks started to appear at Ibrox, Jelavić was an asset that was marketable and needed to be sold in a desperate effort to balance the books. David Moyes and Everton intervened, signing the striker in January 2012 for a bargain price of £5 million.

In his first six months at the club, Jelavić made an instant impact and showed the potential to be one of the most feared strikers in English football. A Premier League Player of the Month award for April and 11 goals in 16 games was an excellent start for the Croat.

Last season the goals dried up slightly, with the player struggling to live up to the heights of expectation after such an explosive start to life south of the border. Eight goals in all competitions was a modest return; his lowest since 2008.

Jelavić played his part in helping Croatia reach the World Cup, most notably scoring the winner against Macedonia to give his nation a 1-0 win in the qualification process.

However, with Mario Mandžukić to compete with for a starting berth in a one-striker system, Jelavić will have his work cut out to play a considerable role for Croatia next summer.

In the short-term, Jelavić will surely be weighing up his options. If Martínez and Everton are willing to allow him to leave, a potentially deadly striker could be available at a cut price.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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