After a number of departures and incessant speculation, Villarreal has made its first signing of the offseason in its return to La Liga. And it reinforces a position of need, particularly after Joan Oriol's move to Osasuna: left back. Welcome to Villarreal, Bojan Jokic.
Not the biggest name on the market by any means, but Jaume Costa could use competition for his spot in the starting XI. We know Marcelino García Toral's preference for tough decisions in team selection - see Marcos Senna's relegation to fourth-choice pivote late last season. Now Marcelino can choose between the attack-minded Costa and steadier Jokic.
Bojan Jokic began his senior footballing career at age 17 for his hometown club NK Triglav Kranj, which plays in a 2,000-seat stadium. Jokic will feel at home in Vila-real - his hometown has a population of just over 50,000, making it the fourth largest city in Slovenia (behind the capital Ljubljana, Maribor(!), and Celje). Of course, Spain has 20 times as many inhabitants as Slovenia.
Jokic then moved to ND Gorica on Slovenia's western frontier with Italy. After a league championship and runner-up finish, with some Champions League qualification matches to boot, our new left back made a big move to Ligue 1 side Sochaux.
He made 43 appearances for Sochaux over two and a half seasons - the definition of an off-and-on starter. Sochaux then loaned Jokic to Serie A club Chievo Verona in January 2010; he never returned to France. In three and a half seasons with the gialloblu, Jokic made 64 appearances - again a part-time starter.
Interesting statement from Jokic in 2008:
A transfer target for several clubs, most notably from Spain and Ukraine, the defender chose [Sochaux] for one simple reason:
"For me regular first-team football was more important than a little extra fame. I'm only 22 and my aim is to keep on developing. I don't want to get ahead of myself."
Jokic fits a common profile of recent Villarreal signings: an experienced player with something to prove. In Jokic's case, it is translating his undisputed place in the Slovenia XI into a consistent run in a major European league. And from the quote above, demonstrating his maturity and readiness for La Liga.
What do you think of Villarreal's first signing? Do you expect Jokic to displace Costa at left back?