Savo Milosevic returns to play in England on Tuesday night a vastly different pl
Savo Milosevic returns to play in England on Tuesday night a vastly different player and person to the one who left Aston Villa under a cloud. But the Serbian striker still doesn't regret his time in the Premiership...
England v Serbia and Montenegro
Tuesday 3 June 2003, 8pm
Walkers Stadium, Leicester
There was much scratching of heads in the Midlands when Savo Milosevic topped the Spanish scoring charts with Real Zaragoza and then shared the Golden Boot with Patrik Kluivert at Euro 2000.
After all, hadn't Savo arrived at Villa Park as a flashy 21-year-old promising to score 25 goals a season - and failed miserably?.
Even his greatest triumph, two goals in the 1996 League Cup Final against Leeds was overshadowed a few months later when he 'celebrated' a 5-0 defeat at Blackburn by spitting at his own fans who had been taunting him.
Today, Savo Milosevic is an altogether wiser man and better all-round footballer than the young hot-head who excited and exasperated the Holte End in equal measure.
The 29-year-old who leads Serbia and Montenegro's attack against England still has that streak of self-confidence good goalscorers need but he can point to Primera Division and international success to back him up.
He admits his style of play, and perhaps personality, meant it was never go to work in England.
But he believes the experience of playing for Aston Villa - Brian Little signed him on the strength of watching him on video - has helped make his career.
"I tried but I couldn't really settle in," says Milosevic, who arrived in the Midlands with a huge reputation after winning two Yugoslav championships with Partizan Belgrade.
"It was a very different world. The people, the weather, the food - I simply couldn't adapt, and I did try hard."
Milosevic was installed in a luxury hotel by The Belfry golf course by Villa and promised fans he would score 25 goals a season. In fact, he managed only 28 Premiership goals altogether - in three seasons.
Technically he was good but it takes a lot more than good technique to survive in England and his inability to score regularly earned him the tag 'Misalotevic'.
Even so, the Villa years weren't wasted in Milosevic's eyes. "To play 120 games in England as a young boy was a very important. I gained an invaluable amount of experience."
That experience was put to great use in Spain where Savo couldn't stop scoring as soon as he arrived in Zaragoza. Different parts of his game - heading, control, shooting with either foot - improved immeasurably.
He scored 17 goals in his first season in Spain and in Euro 2000 became an A-list striker by becoming joint-top scorer of the tournament with five goals.
Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested after the competition but Milosevic eventually went to Italy's Serie A with Parma.
In many ways, Savo reacted to Italy like he had done in England, and the pressure of replacing Hernan Crespo proved too much.
Good in patches, awful in others, club and player decided a return to sunny Spain was best for all concerned.
He returned on loan, first with Real Zaragoza and currently with the second club in the city of Barcelona, Espanyol.
The hit-man has 11 Primera Division goals this season but one thing about Milosevic - whatever his club form, he remains a consistent goalscorer for his country.
He now has 32 international goals in 75 appearances - a great record at that level. He will be a big test for the England defenders as they warm up for Slovakia, whatever the Villa fans might think.
by Joe Bernstein
Did you know: Savo Milosevic could be marked on Tuesday by his old Aston Villa team-mate Gareth Southgate.
Savo Milosevic - The Stat Pack
Place of Birth: Bijeljina, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Date of Birth: 2 September 1973
England v Serbia & Montenegro: Match Centre