Kovačević with Olympiacos in 2008
|Date of birth||18 November 1973|
|Place of birth||Kovin, SFR Yugoslavia|
|Height||1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|1994–1996||Red Star Belgrade||47||(37)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Darko Kovačević (Serbian Cyrillic: Дарко Ковачевић, pronounced [dǎːrko koʋǎːtʃeʋitɕ]; born 18 November 1973) is a Serbian former footballer who played as a forward. He began his career in Serbia with Proleter Zrenjanin and subsequently played for Red Star Belgrade, with whom he won a Yugoslav League title and two Yugoslav Cups. His prolific performances earned him a move to Premier League side Sheffield Wednesday, although his time in England was less successful. He is mainly known for his spells at Real Sociedad where his offensive partnership with Nihat Kahveci was one of the best in Spain. Kovačević also had positive spells with Italian club Juventus and Greek side Olympiacos. At international level, he represented Yugoslavia at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and at UEFA Euro 2000.
Beginning his career with his birth-town club FK Radnički Kovin, but was soon spotted by Zrenjanin based Serbian top league club FK Proleter and it became clear, at the young age of 19, that Kovačević would become one of the country's greatest ever goalscorers. Spending two seasons with the club, Kovačević managed over a goal every other game, and was quickly snatched up by Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade. Kovačević flourished at the Belgrade club, winning a Yugoslav League title and two Yugoslav Cups, becoming one of Europe's hottest prospects and earning a call-up to the Yugoslavia national team. Netting in an astonishing 37 goals in just 47 games, Kovačević was eventually picked up by Premier League club Sheffield Wednesday in December 1995 for £2m.
Given the opportunity to showcase his skills in one of the top leagues in Europe, Kovačević initially looked good, impressive in the air, and scoring 2 goals in one game against Bolton Wanderers in a 4–2 victory that saw him likened to Les Ferdinand, but the rest of his skills failed to leave any mark with the English club. Kovačević's transfer turned out to be a disaster for Sheffield Wednesday as the striker managed only 4 goals in his lone half-season at the club. In July 2007, his move to Wednesday from Red Star was named No. 10 on The 50 worst transfers in Premier League history list by British newspaper The Times.
Hoping to reach top form once again, Kovačević moved to La Liga side Real Sociedad in 1996. It was with the Spanish club that Kovačević put on some of his best performances and became one of Europe's best once again, finishing as one of the top scorers in the UEFA Cup during the 1998–99 season, with 8 goals. Larger clubs soon came calling, with Italian giants Juventus acquiring the big Serbian in the summer of 1999 for 33 billion lire (£12 million).
At the Turin based club, Kovačević found goals in both the Serie A and competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup becoming their leading European goal scorer, and the top-scorer of the UEFA Cup during the 1999–2000 season, with 10 goals; despite facing competition from the club's starting attacking parternship of Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero, Kovačević made a total of 44 appearances in all competitions in his first season with the club (27 in Serie A, 3 in the Coppa Italia, and 11 in European competitions), scoring 21 goals in all competitions (eight in Serie A, two in the Coppa Italia, and 11 in European competitions, one of which came in Juventus's victorious UEFA Intertoto Cup campaign, which enabled them to qualify for the UEFA Cup), including a notable brace in a 2–1 away win over rivals Inter at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Yet the following season, due to the arrival of French striker David Trezeguet, Kovačević found less space in the squad under manager Carlo Ancelotti, making 27 appearances (20 in Serie A), mostly from the bench, and scoring only six goals (five in Serie A). The Juventus management felt Kovačević was underachieving and soon both parties were looking for a move out of Italy, with clubs such as Rangers willing to offer £12m for the Serbian's services. In 2001 Kovačević spent a brief time with Lazio (as part-swap deal with Marcelo Salas), making only seven appearances, before moving back to Spain in the middle of the season.
In 2001 Kovačević eventually returned to the club at which he found his most success, Real Sociedad. Kovačević would go on to spend 6 more seasons at the club, netting in 51 goals in his second spell with Sociedad. The 2006–07 season would be Kovačević's last season with the Spanish side, ending in the club's relegation. Alongside Jesús María Satrústegui, Kovačević is Real Sociedad's all-time top goalscorer in European club competitions, with 10 goals.
In 2007 Kovačević signed with Greek champions Olympiacos. Kovačević once again reached top form for the Piraeus based club, scoring 17 goals in the Greek Superleague to lead Olympiacos to the league championship, and adding 3 goals in the Champions League as the team reached as far as the Round of 16.
In early 2009, he was diagnosed with a blocked artery; he successfully underwent heart surgery to improve the flow of blood to his heart. His doctors have advised him that he should retire from football, and Kovacevic officially retired in May 2009, playing a final friendly match for Olympiakos to celebrate the winning of the Greek domestic double. With Olympiacos, Kovačević won two Greek SuperLeague titles, two Greek Cups and a Greek Super Cup. After his retirement he stated that he may take another role for the team. Then Kovačević and his children, Darko jr and Stella, who were at St. Lawrence College, all went back to Spain. However, Kovačević returned to Greece as he loved the country and worked for several months as a columnist. In June 2010 the new president of Olympiakos, Evangelos Marinakis hired Kovacevic as a Chief Scout for the club. In May 2013, he terminated his contract with Olympiacos.[unreliable source?]
Kovačević made 59 appearances for the then Serbia and Montenegro. Beginning his international career in 1994, Kovačević would go on to score 10 goals and compete in both UEFA Euro 2000 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
|Yugoslavia national team|
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