Inside Futbol (IF): Luka, this is your fifth season at Crystal Palace. You have played almost 150 Premier League games and are the captain of Palace, a fantastic record for a foreign player. How different a player do you think you’ve become in comparison with the Luka Milivojevic we knew at your previous club Olympiacos?
Luka Milivojevic (LM): It’s very nice being here for five seasons. I like the league. It’s very competitive and hard. I have felt very confident in recent seasons.
It’s very difficult always to compare my present self with [the one from] Olympiacos. It is nearly four, five years since I left Olympiacos. Different league, different style, different ambitions. It’s not easy for me to compare.
IF: Which game do you consider to be your best one at Crystal Palace?
LM: Very difficult to say that this or that game was the best one for me, but maybe I can say which game gave the best feeling not just for myself but for my team as well. It was a few months after I arrived at Palace, it was a win against Hull at home.
We made it in the second part of the first season of my career in Palace, after January and we definitely stayed in the league. It was a nice moment for me when I scored the goal in the game against Southampton [in the 2017/18 season], a few days after I missed the penalty against [Manchester] City.
Our biggest victory since I have been here was against Manchester City away when we won 3-2 [in the 2018/19 campaign].
IF: How do you rate the current season for yourself? Selhurst Park is known for being loud and a difficult ground for opposing teams to play at. Have Crystal Palace missed the fans more than most teams?
LM: I think this situation has affected every single person and every single team in the world. It has affected us as well, but personally not that much.
We can say we miss the fans, but I think everyone misses fans, away or home. As you mentioned our home ground is a little bit tougher than maybe other grounds because our fans are very noisy. They give us support for the full 90 minutes, singing. [Selhurst Park] is a little bit different if I compare it to the other stadiums here.
Maybe in that part, we don’t benefit, but as I said this situation is not good for anyone. We are all looking forward to the COVID situation finally ending and continuing football and our life. We expect to return to normal.
IF: Roy Hodgson is a vastly experienced manager who has worked in many different countries, how do you compare him to your previous coaches?
LM: It is always difficult to compare two managers because every single manager is different. Different mentality, different ambition, different style.
I think a player needs to adapt to every single manager because some managers like to play offensive football with a lot of possession, the other ones like to play on counter-attacks. So I think for one player to be a complete player he must adapt in every single way.
Like I said, [it is] difficult to compare, but Hodgson is a very experienced manager, a very clever manager, he knows how to keep the group very strong during the season. He is very successful at Palace.
For me, it’s a big honour to work with him. He has a huge reputation. I am very happy to have him here.
IF: You have become a penalty specialist at Crystal Palace. How can you explain the fact that you had not taken a lot prior to joining Crystal Palace?
LM: I took a few penalties in Serbia, at Red Star Belgrade, but after that, I never took [them] because at Red Star, at Anderlecht, and at Olympiacos, normally there were always players like number 10s or strikers who were penalty takers and in those teams where I played, they were successful. So I never had the opportunity to become a penalty taker.
Here, when I came they struggled with that. They needed someone to step out and start kicking those penalties. I started one by one, like that and I became successful.
IF: Crystal Palace are firmly established in the Premier League. Should the aim now be to try to win one of the cup competitions? Or is a place in Europe what the club should target?
LM: There is always an ambition, but in this league it is very hard to set up your ambition because every single game is 50-50.
This how I see my experience now in the fifth season. You can set up your ambition during the season. It is very difficult before the season.
I mean when you are a club like us, we are not a top six side, I think when you pass January or February then you can set up some kind of ambition. Maybe your aim is to finish in the top ten, maybe if you have progressed well in the cup then to try to get the trophy or a place in Europe.
Like I said, before the season is very difficult, everything is very competitive so at the moment we are in the middle, but there are some games to play. So, let’s see how it will go. We are going to try to get much as we can, to finish as high as possible.
IF: Which Premier League side has impressed you the most this season?
LM: For this season the team that impressed me the most are Brighton because they are normally a team who fight to avoid relegation until the end.
They impress me with the style of football they play and how many chances they create. They have missed a lot of luck this season, but I think their manager is very good and he has done an amazing job with them.
IF: Is there something that you haven’t achieved in your career and are still hoping for? Maybe a European trophy?
LM: I have thought a few times about it and I must say that I am very proud and happy with where I’ve reached in my career. I played in nearly every single competition. I played in the World Cup, which is for me the best and the most of what a player can achieve, especially when you go to the national team.
There are always possibilities, but if you want to go for a European trophy you must be in a team who are fighting for that trophy, so at the moment I must say that I am very happy, with how everything is going.
I am healthy which is the most important thing and I have won many trophies in my career, so I cannot ask for more.
IF: Do you feel frustrated about the behaviour of the Serbian FA towards you? Was the decision to retire from the Serbia national team hard for you? We ask that because we know how much you love your country and helping your fellow countrymen.
LM: That was my definite decision. I had a problem at the time with the ex-president of the Serbian football federation [Slavisa Kokeza] which I think is very good for our football. That was the decision.
Let’s say that maybe I sacrificed myself for the future, for it to never happen to other players what happened to me and I hope positive things will come for Serbian football very soon.
IF: We know that you are great at playing tennis and basketball as well. Which of these sports do you prefer? Have you ever trained with Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic?
LM: I have never met Djokovic, but I like to play tennis a lot. I play when I am on holiday or when I get the opportunity.
I must say that Djokovic is one of the greatest sportsmen in our history. I have so much respect for him as a sportsman and as a person.
I would really love it if one day our path cross and we meet. Why not? If one day if I play tennis against him for fun I would really love it if it happens. I respect him so much, he is one of the best in our country.