This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Presumably, you would expect a club’s second all-time top Premier League goalscorer to be a fairly well-respected figure amongst the fanbase.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the above sentiment can be applied to Luka Milivojevic.
The 34-cap Serbia international is arguably one of Crystal Palace’s best players.
Despite that, he doesn’t seem to be rated by a handful of the club’s supporters on Twitter.
Following the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City last month, some Palace fans took to Twitter to reveal that they thought their side was better off without the former Anderlecht midfielder in the starting XI.
Now, that is truly bizarre.
We sincerely hope that these supporters in question didn’t simply compare the 2-1 win over West Ham – a victory in which Milivojevic was suspended for – to the following loss against Pep Guardiola’s side, and make the blanket statement that the XI is better without him based solely on the two results.
Admittedly, James McCarthy was excellent against the Hammers in Milivojevic’s absence, but no matter which midfielder started against the Citizens, it would’ve been a shock result for Palace to have come away from the game with anything other than a loss.
Plain and simply, the Serbian isn’t appreciated enough by some Palace supporters, and they have well and truly jumped the gun with this thoughtless statement.
Since arriving from Olympiacos back in January 2017, Milivojevic has proven to be an astute signing.
He waltzed immediately into the starting XI and was wearing the armband under Roy Hodgson less than a year after arriving at Selhurst Park in an £11m deal, showcasing his leadership qualities.
Impressively, Milivojevic is also approaching his 100th Premier League appearance for the Eagles.
The No.4 currently sits on 99 top flight outings for the south Londoners, and has scored an eye-catching 26 goals – this works out at an rough average of more than a goal every four games, which is a fine record for a player who often plays in a defensive midfield position.
He has proven to be a clutch player for Hodgson too.
The 28-year-old scored a fine curled effort in the 80th minute of an away game against Southampton to hand Palace a crucial 2-1 win back in January 2018, helping to move the Eagles out of the relegation zone on 22 points from 22 games.
In December of that same year, he then struck a long-range screamer against Leicester at Selhurst Park to give Palace another precious three points, but his next goal showcased what his true speciality is, as well as his nerves of steel.
A penalty away to Manchester City.
Milivojevic’s cool, composed effort into the right side of the goal gave Palace a 3-1 lead over the champions at the Etihad, a goal that proved to be pivotal as the score finished 3-2.
Penalties are a true test of a footballer’s nerve, and Milivojevic has such a trait in abundance.
The Serb has scored 21 penalties for Palace, most of which sealed the win in what would otherwise be a nervy ending to a game.
Dig beneath the surface of that statement, and you’ll discover that Milivojevic’s goals have earned Palace 19 points alone in games that finished as a draw or by a one-goal winning margin for the Eagles.
Availability is also a huge asset for a player – specifically a side’s leader – to have, and the midfielder also has this trait well and truly in his locker.
Milivojevic amazingly played every minute of the 2018/19 campaign, proving himself as Mr Reliable and a real Hodgson favourite.
For some fans to think that the side is better off without him is downright ludicrous, and there simply isn’t enough evidence to substantiate their claims when there is more than enough to overrule them.
Milivojevic is a fine player and leader for Palace, and quite simply, the side is not better off without him.