KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After seven years of bouncing from one Eastern European club to another, Neven Markovic is ready for a little stability.
In return, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said, the 25-year-old Bosnian Serb offers his new club a tough, versatile, left-footed presence in the back line.
“He’s tailor-made for this league,” Vermes said earlier this week. “I just think you’ve got to have guys back there that are hard. Not dirty, by any means. I’m talking about hard. Guys that are strong, who can win balls based on them going into things that most guys don’t want to. He’s one of those guys.”
Markovic, whose signing was officially announced by Sporting on Friday, takes pride in that “hard” tag.
“I’m good in defense, I’m good in passing, I’m good in – how to explain – punching guys,” he said Monday with a laugh. “I play with my heart. I’m never scared of anything.”
Markovic, born in Bosnia to a Serb father and a Croatian mother, began his career with Rad Belgrade in Serbia. He has also played in Romania, Greece and Croatia.
But after leaving Croatian side NK Zagreb in 2011 for a second stint in Greece, he realized he had made “one big mistake” in signing with Doxa Drama.
“As you know, the crisis in Greece, I could just see that life would not be good there. Everything, more than football,” he said. “So I was just waiting for a good chance, and [Sporting assistant coach Zoran Savic] found me, and I’m here.”
Markovic, whose career includes two UEFA Intertoto Cup appearances in 2008 with Romanian side FC Vaslui, said his move to Sporting allows him to focus on the game itself without outside distractions.
“In many countries, you have to think if you get your salary or not,” he said. “They delay the payments two or three months, you get nervous. You must think of your family. You must think of everything else. But here, everything is fine.”
Markovic will not be available until July 15, once MLS’ international transfer window opens. He has been working out with the club for more than three weeks, though, and Vermes has been impressed by what he’s seen.
“He’s been looking pretty darn good in all the training he’s been doing,” the Sporting boss said. “The great thing is, he came here early enough that he’s gotten in quite a bit of training, and he’s going to get some more. So that part I’m really happy with.”
And as he settles in with his new club, Markovic is also enjoying the perks – things he says players in a number of European leagues can’t take for granted.
“We have a good field,” he said. “We have food. We have TV. We have a good gym. We have good showers. For you, it’s not strange. For us coming from Europe, this kind of facility is very strange.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.