It was never going to be the world’s best kept secret. With his side struggling to find the net with any regularity, Steve Bruce had earmarked the January transfer window as a means of bolstering his failing attack. Earlier this week, Nikica Jelavić became the most expensive signing in Hull City’s history after moving from Everton in a record-breaking deal, understood to be worth £7.5m.
Bruce, who earlier today also signed Shane Long from West Brom, had this to say on his new strike force:
“I believe at this particular moment for a 26 and 28-year-old is a fantastic piece of business… [Nikica and Shane Long] are both coming into their best years and Jelavić is at an age when he wants to play in the World Cup and to have a Hull City player with a chance of kicking off the World Cup is fantastic.”
It would appear that the World Cup is a major reason for Jelavić’s move and, with confidence flowing following his recent FA Cup brace against QPR, the Croat believes he has what it takes to make the trip to Brazil this summer.
“I’m a striker, I need goals and I will score goals, I know that… I just need some games. Playing for Croatia is something I also take huge pride in and with a World Cup on the horizon I was in the situation of needing to play more games to make sure I remain in Niko Kovac’s thoughts ahead of the tournament in Brazil.
At the tender age of 15, Jelavić signed for Croatian second-city side, Hajduk Split. Injuries hampered his integration and it was not until he approached his 21st birthday that the young boy from Čapljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, made the first team. A regular in the side during the 2006/07 season, Jelavić scored five goals in 17 league appearances and was transfer listed after a disappointing debut campaign.
Following a brief, equally unfruitful season in Belgium (with Zlute Waregem), Nikica found his feet in the Austrian capital city when he signed for SK Rapid Wien in 2008. Playing for the champions, the Croatian registered seven goals from 24 games – 15 of which were from the bench. In his second season, Jelavić fired a further 18 goals in 33 games and, with four in six Europa League games, he caught the eye of Glasgow Rangers, who signed the in-form striker in August, 2010.
The £4m man quickly made his mark. Not even an early ankle injury would unsettle him as he went on to smash 17 goals in his first 27 starts, also picking up the goal-of-the-season award and writing history with an extra time, League Cup-winning goal against bitter rivals Celtic. On January 31st, 2012, Everton came calling. A reported £5m was enough to prize the forward from Ibrox – who by that time had notched a further 14 times in just 22 league appearances.
Jelavić brought his goalscoring boots south of the border. Two goals at Old Trafford in a 4-4 draw made him the first Everton player to net in five successive away games since the late 70s. The Croat finished the 2011/12 season as the Toffees’ leading scorer both overall and in the Premiership, even though he missed more than half of their games. Despite a strong start to the following season, scoring three goals in his first six appearances, Jelavić struggled to sustain his earlier form. His subsequent 16 starts harvested a meagre two goals in a run which reduced his role at the club to ‘squad player’, as evidenced by a downturn in minutes over the final 15 league games of the season – in 11 sub appearances he produced just one solitary strike.
Unfortunately, this season has continued in the same vein. The arrival of loanee Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea made game time for the former record-breaker even harder to nail down and, despite scoring twice in limited game time over the first five fixtures of the season, Jelavić quickly found himself warming the bench, as new manager Roberto Martinez reshaped the club’s playing style. In Everton’s last 16 league games, the Croatian international has worn the jersey for just 50 minutes, appearing off the bench on four occasions.
One look at the statistics shows the Tigers desperately require a proven goalscorer in order to boost their bid for top-flight safety. They may be sitting tenth in the table right now but that’s only half the story – for all their impressive home performances, Bruce’s side are a mere six points off the bottom of the table with 17 games to go. Indeed, putting their 6-0 thrashing of Fulham in Gameweek 19 to one side, Hull have notched 16 times in the other 20 matches and have scored more than a single goal on just four occasions.
It’s not a new issue, either. The Tigers achieved promotion last season almost in spite of their lacklustre attack, with Robert Koren finishing the 2012/13 campaign as their most prolific goalscorer with nine goals to his name. The situation has worsened this time around. Despite failing to net the net since Gameweek 6, the injured Robbie Brady is still Hull’s leading scorer on three goals – up front, Yannick Sagbo’s two strikes from 19 appearances makes him the most clinical amongst Bruce’s forward options.
Jelavić looks a guaranteed starter alongside Long in Bruce’s default 3-5-2 formation, then, as the Hull boss adds plenty of top-flight know-how to his forward line. The downside, though, is his price tag across the Fantasy games. Jelavić comes in at 6.9 in Fantasy Premier League, 8.0 in the Sky Sports game and 3.0 in the Sun Dream Team, which, for a Hull striker, is likely to deter the vast majority of Fantasy managers. With games against Norwich, Palace and Sunderland in the next four Gameweeks, though, the Croat has the schedule to hit the ground running as he looks to continue the form which saw him bag that aforementioned FA Cup brace against QPR earlier this month.
The likes of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore may benefit if the new frontman can replicate the displays that made him Fantasy gold in his first few months at Goodison. Both midfielders have teed up chances aplenty for their team-mates and, with a penalty box predator like Jelavić around to help supply an end product, their Fantasy potential – along with Hull’s survival prospects – could be set to take a turn for the better.