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Jovan Mijatović officially signs with NYCFC

Everything to know about the 18-year-old Red Star Belgrade striker NYCFC are paying a reported $8.6 million to sign.

New No. 7 in New York City. Photo:

New York City FC have made a significant new striker signing: 18-year-old Jovan Mijatović, who has now officially joined from Red Star Belgrade in Serbia.

The talented teen is coming to NYCFC for a reported $8.6 million transfer fee which could grow to $10 million through add-ons, reports Tom Bogert of The Athletic.

That would be a club-record transfer fee for NYCFC, surpassing the reported $8.5 million the club paid to sign Alexandru Mitriță in 2019, as well as the reported $8 million paid for Talles Magno in 2021.

Mijatović was first reported to be on his way to NYCFC by Gianluca Di Marzio on January 15, though many of the initial reports about the transfer made it sound as though it would be Manchester City signing Mijatović, then loaning him within City Football Group to NYCFC on a limited-time basis.

Instead, Mijatović arrives on a permanent basis as a U22 initiative signing. NYCFC did not share details of the transfer, such as the transfer fee they paid, but Mijatović will be on a contract through 2028 with an option for 2029.

Jovan Mijatović looks to fit the mold of player NYCFC have been targeting with their expensive transfer fees since David Lee became sporting director in November 2019. He’s almost the exact age Talles Magno was upon his NYCFC signing in 2021, and younger than the recently-acquired 19-year-old Agustín Ojeda, younger than other Lee signings like Gabriel Pereira or Julián Fernández.

While his professional career is in its early stages with relatively limited top-level minutes played, Mijatović has produced goals in bunches and has already made four appearances in the UEFA Champions League.

Mijatović played 33 minutes as a sub for Red Star in their 2-3 home Champions League loss to none other than Manchester City, and was quoted by Mozzart Sport saying this of facing NYCFC’s CFG relative over in Manchester: “The feeling is phenomenal, at the age of 18 against the champions of Europe, six months ago I watched them on TV. I could not imagine that I would play against them. I am satisfied with my progress, but I will not stop there.”

From playing against them to joining one of their sister clubs, possibly enticed by the promise of working his way up to Manchester City, who comfortably sit at the top of City Football Group’s multi-club pyramid.

The stats Mijatović has put up across his small sample of 14 games played during the 2023-2024 Serbian SuperLiga season can’t help but catch the eye. When looking at the Serbian league’s current statistical leaders on per-90-minute bases, Mijatović tops the leaderboards for non-penalty goals/90 (1.13) and goals plus assists/90 (1.41), and is second in the league with a +1.98 plus/minus per-90 while on the pitch for Red Star, all according to soccer stats website

The 18-year-old has a prolific early track record as a goal-scorer, something that differentiates him from the other striker signed recently by NYCFC, Mounsef Bakrar. The Algerian’s biggest goal-scoring season to date saw him tally eight goals in 31 league appearances and 1,684 minutes played for NK Istra 1961 in Croatia.

When seeing how Mijatović scores his goals in some of the many highlight compilations that have popped up since the transfer rumors intensified, he looks to be a clinical finisher who can score headers, can finish on the volley, and knows how to drift into the right areas in the box during his team’s forays forward.

Now it’s over to Nick Cushing to figure out how to maximize the goal output of both Mijatović and Bakrar, and to decide how they feature for his New York City side, one that struggled mightily to find the back of the net in 2023. Having two natural, experienced, effective strikers on the roster was not a luxury afforded to that 2023 NYCFC squad, but that has changed with this latest significant signing.

In the bigger picture, the Mijatović transfer also looks a bit like an attempt by David Lee and his City Football Group bosses to replicate the Taty Castellanos model, as a player who might cost $8.6 million now, but could be worth $20 million after some success in MLS.

Easier said than done given Castellanos represents something of a best-case scenario, or test case for CFG’s multi-club shuffling of talented players, a shuffle that usually continues until the time is just right to profit on their sale. Or, in the bizarre current case of Savio, until CFG decides a player is ready to “graduate” to Manchester City proper.

Jovan Mijatović arrives with the potential to maybe, someday, be one of those multi-club-model marvel. It’s not hard to imagine him going to play in Palermo if they reach Serie A, nor is it hard to see him, some day, featuring for Manchester City in the Premier League.

Where Mijatović ends up will hinge on how he lives up to the billing of being the new record signing and key striker for NYCFC, who once again turn to a highly-regarded international youth star in the search for a new talisman for their attack.