Premier League Career: Everton (2012-2014), Hull City (2014-2015), West Ham United (2015-2016)
Still playing in the Chinese Super League for Guizhou Zhicheng, Nikica Jelavic’s career has taken him to many different countries. The Croatian may not be the fastest forward or strongest attacker in any squad but he has a proven goalscoring record which he demonstrated with great efficiency at Everton and Hull City in the Premier League.
A former Croatian international who represented his country at the 2012 European Championships, scoring against the Republic of Ireland in the group stages, Jelavic played in Croatia, Belgium, Austria and Scotland before his time in English football began with Everton in January 2012.
He was just 17 when called into the senior side of his first club, Hajduk Split but injuries restricted his league appearance record for them to just 34. In July 2007, he was sold to Belgian top-flight club Zulte Waregem but his spell with them was unproductive, managing just three goals in 23 appearances.
Jelavic’s goalscoring instincts started to bear fruition at Rapid Vienna in the Austrian Bundesliga. He scored 27 goals in 71 league appearances for them before completing a £4 million move to Rangers in August 2010. Having featured in Rapid’s early qualifying matches in the UEFA Europa League, Jelavic was cup-tied from UEFA Champions League action but he was one of the leading stars in what currently stands as Rangers’ last title triumph before their financial meltdown.
He scored 19 goals in just 27 starts, ending with a better goal to game ratio than any other striker in the league, scoring the winning goal in the League Cup final against Old Firm rivals, Celtic. Jelavic’s strike to defeat Aberdeen in April 2011 was also voted the SFA Goal of the Season.
After scoring another 14 goals in the first 22 games of the 2011-2012 season, Jelavic moved to Everton for a fee of £5 million in January 2012. That was despite the Glasgow giants rejecting a bid from Championship side Leicester City that was higher than what they actually sold him for six months earlier.
David Moyes introduced him slowly into the starting XI but he became a regular starter when he scored in his first start for the club in March 2012. It also turned out to be the only goal of the game against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park. In April, he struck in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool FC and also scored twice in the epic 4-4 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford. That meant, he became the first Toffees player to score in five successive away games since Duncan McKenzie in the 1977-1978 season.
His exploits meant Jelavic became the first-ever Croatian to win the Premier League Player of the Month award, picking up the prize in April 2012. Despite being an Evertonian for less than six months, he finished as the club’s top scorer for the season with 11 goals. He started the 2012-2013 season in impeccable form, scoring goals in victories over Aston Villa, Southampton and a late winner against Tottenham Hotspur. However, his form took an alarming dip in 2013 and as the season reached its conclusion, Moyes often used the Nigerian forward Victor Anichebe as his first-choice striker.
Moyes left Everton in the summer of 2013 for Manchester United and although Jelavic initially won the main striking position back when Roberto Martinez took over as manager, the loan signing of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea changed that statistic. Jelavic failed to score in the Premier League again for Everton and although he did score twice in an FA Cup third round win over Queens Park Rangers, he submitted a transfer request shortly afterwards, desperate to go and play some first-team football with a World Cup finals around the corner in Brazil.
In mid-January 2014, he signed for Hull City for an undisclosed fee and made an immediate impression. Jelavic formed an excellent understanding with fellow January striking recruit Shane Long and the pair scored enough goals to keep the Tigers away from relegation danger. Four goals came from Jelavic, including a double in a 4-0 away victory at Cardiff City. He made 16 appearances for Hull and on a personal perspective, it was mission accomplished. He was selected for the Croatian squad for the 2014 World Cup finals, starting the first match of the tournament against Brazil.
He finished as Hull’s top scorer in 2014-2015, scoring eight goals in 26 appearances but despite his best efforts, Hull were relegated on the final day of the season. On transfer deadline day in the summer of 2015, he switched to West Ham United and figured 13 times for the Hammers, scoring once in the Premier League in a 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United. However, he was behind the likes of Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia in the pecking order and when the money arrived from the Chinese Super League, Jelavic moved to Beijing Renhe in February 2016.
After a year with them, he transferred again, this time to current club Guizhou Zhicheng and with 30 goals already under his belt in 55 appearances in China; he continues to produce the goods, even into the latter period of his pretty productive career.