It’s fair to say that Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic has had a rather eventful few days. Having missed a potential game-winning penalty against unbeaten Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, he secured all three points in come-from-behind fashion away to Southampton on Tuesday, prompting the Serbian to express his love for the club’s supporters.
Given the furore which surrounded Christian Benteke’s decision to take the ball away from Milivojevic and miss a stoppage-time penalty against Bournemouth a few weeks ago, there was no shortage of people who saw the sense of irony when Luka was denied in exactly the same spot by Ederson last week, but to the midfielder’s immense credit, he used the disappointment from that moment to fuel his celebrations against Southampton just over 48 hours later.
Looked upon as a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, there were no grudges held against him for missing against Manchester City from the Palace faithful, not that he took our collective backing as a sign to suggest that he had got away with it Scot-free. Speaking immediately after the win over Mauricio Pellegrino’s Southampton, Luka admitted that he had barely slept the previous two nights, so bad did he feel about squandering the opportunity to end Guardiola and City’s unbeaten run at Selhurst Park.
It is thanks to admissions like this that I view Milivojevic as obvious captain material for a club such as ours. From the moment he has arrived, the former Olympiakos man has sought to lead by example, taking on the responsibility of penalty kicks with absolutely no fuss and seeking to dominate the centre of the park with physically overpowering displays from week to week. He regularly tops the charts for “distance covered” during a game and almost never needs to be substituted before the final whistle is blown, ticking all sorts of boxes in my head in relation to whether or not he should be given the armband on a permanent basis.
When Mile Jedinak was sold to Aston Villa back in 2016, I was sure we wouldn’t see a player in his mould at Palace for quite a few years but in Milivojevic, we appear to have upgraded on the Australian’s passing ability whilst recapturing the warrior-spirit that made the Socceroos’ captain such a widely loved character at Selhurst Park. Whether you look at their respective penalty records, their happiness when flying into tackles or their obvious connection with the Palace fan-base, they really do seem to be two peas in a pod and I for one, am extremely happy to have a player of that style back on our books.
It’s crazy to think that Luka has been at Palace less than a calendar year at the time of writing, such is the bond he has already built with our supporters. From the moment he arrived, he made it obvious that he was willing to give everything to the collective cause and if you ask any anyone who truly loves their football club, players like that are worth their weight in gold.
Long live King Luka.