CEOL
Mijatovic's fitness

Soccer


BELGRADE, Jun 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's European championship hopes will rest largely with the team's top scorer, Predrag Mijatovic, and his partnership with Savo Milosevic.

Fiorentina's Mijatovic has bagged 22 goals in 49 internationals while Milosevic, with 20 in 47 is only marginally behind. However, fitness worries hang over Mijatovic like a black cloud.

After missing three months of the early season with an Achilles injury he was just finding his best form when a pulled calf muscle in a Serie A match against Lazio in April brought his domestic season to a premature end.

He insists he will be fully recovered in time for Euro 2000 and all Yugoslavia will be praying he is.

A deadly predator who can turn the slightest of chances into a goal, Mijatovic has shown he can perform at the highest level in three countries.

He drew Partizan Belgrade's attention as an 18-year old and was signed from Buducnost Podgorica in 1989, two years after winning the under-21 World Cup with Yugoslavia in Chile.

He was a star at Partizan from 1989 to 1993, claiming a league title and a national cup at a time when Yugoslav football was dominated by bitter local rivals Red Star Belgrade.

Mijatovic was rewarded with a move to Valencia and made his mark by winning the "best foreigner" award after scoring 28 goals in his second season with the club.

That earned him a transfer to Real Madrid and the golden moments of his club career to date - a Spanish league title and the European Cup, when he scored the winning goal in the 1998 final against Juventus.

"I will always remember the time I spent with Real Madrid. Playing, winning and scoring for one of the world's biggest and most prestigious clubs is a unique feeling," he said after leaving for Fiorentina last summer.

His Italian career did not get off to a promising start, as he failed to score a single goal before being sidelined with the Achilles injury.

But he bounced back in style earlier this year with a couple of league goals and impressive performances that won him back a place alongside Argentine striker Gabriel Batistuta.

The latest injury curtailed that partnership but Yugoslav fans will hope it only serves to keep him fresh for his international link-up with Milosevic.

The two failed to spark in friendlies against China and South Korea but should raise their game for the big event.



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