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Apr 13, 2012

Bargain Jelavic 'perfect fit' for Everton

While Liverpool fret about the amount of money they have frittered away on underperforming players, Croatia manager Slaven Bilic believes Everton have got themselves a real bargain in £5 million striker Nikica Jelavic.

• Preview: Emotional day for Merseyside

The Merseyside rivals go head to head in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday and Jelavic will have the chance to show Liverpool what they missed out after they rejected the chance to sign him in January.

Instead, Jelavic, 26, moved to Goodison Park, and has made a decent start to life in England with five goals in his first ten matches - including four in his last four games.

Bilic, who also represented the Toffees during his playing days, believes Everton's smart bit of business has put the recent activity of Liverpool - who showed interest in the striker briefly before he moved south of the border - in a poor light.

"I read about £20-million-plus transfers and in that respect his price does look like a bargain," Bilic said. "It's great for Everton and not for the first time, looking at some others they have signed.

"They know the formula. It is hard to find them, even though £5 million is £5 million.

"You need a bit of luck at the start, which he got by scoring a couple of goals, and now his confidence is sky high. He never panics and he's such a cool finisher."

He added: "Everton have definitely found a natural goalscorer. People asked me what I thought of him even before he signed for Everton, and I was quite sure about him. I've known him since he was a child. We are from the same town and the same club in Hadjuk Split. I watched Everton a lot even before he came and always imagined he'd suit them perfectly.

"Okay, they have a great squad but they needed a guy who is not only a finisher - he does not need that to be playing well - but also great in the build-up play, he can hold the ball. He is just perfect for Everton's style of play."

Bilic believes that, given more time to adjust to the Premier League, the 26-year-old will become one of the division's most feared marksmen.

"He asked me about Everton, but he knew without me telling him that they are a big club and it would be a massive step up to go from playing in Scotland to the Premier League," he said. "He is at a great age, but his best years are still to come.

"I'm expecting him to improve even more - he has no limits. I think he can become one of the most important strikers in the league next season."

The biggest game of Jelavic's club career to date will come on Saturday, when David Moyes' side face their arch-rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Bilic believes it is difficult to predict who will triumph at Wembley, but recent form may make the difference.

"Liverpool have [Luis] Suarez, who is a finisher, and I think Andy Carroll will click because he is a good player," he noted. "There are no favourites but Everton are definitely in better form than Liverpool right now."


• FA Cup with Budweiser Semi Final, Liverpool v Everton LIVE & Exclusive on ESPN from 11am, Saturday 14th April

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