FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Goalkeeper Djordje Petrović has been tipped to achieve great things by his New England Revolution teammates.
The Serbian shot-stopper has departed for pastures new, joining Premier League giants Chelsea, as he sets off to fulfil his dream of playing European top-flight football.
Though he leaves behind an enormous pair of gloves to fill, the Revolution squad and staff could not be happier for the MLS All-Star, who quickly became a club hero after signing from FK Čukarički last April.
Named 2022 Team MVP and Players’ Player of the Year, he cemented his status as an integral cog in the New England machine, starring between the sticks with countless crucial saves and 15 clean sheets recorded in almost 50 appearances. Sharing their thoughts on the news, his Revs peers and coaches have expressed their pride for his achievements, stating their belief the 23-year-old holds the potential to become ‘one of the best goalkeepers in the world.’
“Djordje showed here he is the best goalkeeper in the league,” captain Carles Gil hailed. “I'm sure he will be also in the Premier League in the next years, so we are very proud of him.
“I said last December when I had an interview in Spain: I think he can be one of the best 10 or 15 goalkeepers in the world, and now he has the opportunity to show the level.
“Djordje wanted to show his level here. He did and he tried to be back home in Europe with a big team. He’s very happy and we are very happy for him.”
Center back Andrew Farrell – the Revs’ highest appearance-maker – worked closely with Petrović in the defensive back line, and spoke of his delight for the goalkeeper, highlighting the Serbian’s best qualities both on and off the pitch.
“We’re really excited and proud of him,” the defender declared. “He’s worked so hard for this, he’s earned it. He’s one of our guys, an important piece to our team and now he’s off to do great things.
“Obviously, I’m sad he’s not going to be here with us because he’s a big part of our team and why we are here where we are – second in the East – so we’re obviously sad about that, but we’re excited and proud.
“He’s going to do really well. He’s a really good player, a really good shot-stopper, and he is still growing – the potential is high. He’s a great communicator and he’s a gamer – no matter whether it’s in training 5v5, 11v11; in MLS, Leagues Cup, any game, he’s going to step up and play at the highest level.
“I think my favorite memory is probably his PK save against [Lorenzo] Insigne against Toronto [FC] at home. He’s had a couple of PK saves but that one was great, and there were so many good moments in the locker room and on the field.
“He’s a really funny guy, a good guy and good locker room guy. He can joke around but then when it comes down to gametime, he’s very serious. We’re obviously going to miss him but I’m excited to see how much he’s going to grow over there.”
Assistant coach Richie Williams also discussed his admiration for Petrović, as well as the incredible work of the Revs’ goalkeeping department for their efforts in developing two star shot-stoppers in Petrović and Matt Turner, who also signed for Premier League club Arsenal from New England before joining Nottingham Forest.
“I think it's awesome, it’s amazing,” he stated. “I’m super happy for him – the whole organization is.
“He’s a great player, he's been great with us ever since he got here and we’re going to miss him.
“We want to wish him the best of luck and we know he’s going to do great. The New England Revolution will always be holding a spot for him and maybe in the future, he can come back.
“Djordje from day one has been very good, and he’s only grown as a player, as a goalkeeper over time being here, so we always knew there was an opportunity this could happen.
“It’s a really good deal for Djordje and for our organization, and obviously with Chelsea being a good team – one of the best teams in the world – I think these are all factors in making the determination to make the sale.
“All sides are happy and I think it's great for everybody. It’s a great opportunity for him, and it’s great for the organization to be able to sell a player to such a big club. Hopefully, we can continue to do that, whether it’s a goalkeeper or a field player – keep developing players and being able to sell players in the future [with moves] that make sense for the player and for the organization.
“Djordje is a great guy, a great person and he deserves it. We’re just really happy for him.”
Defender Dave Romney, who is the only Revs player to have clocked more regular season minutes than Petrović in 2023, kept seven clean sheets in the 22 games he and the Serbian shot-stopper played together this term, and the 30-year-old was full of praise for the goalkeeper, adding: “100 percent of me is really excited for him.
“You always want that to be you as a kid, so to see someone else (and such a good guy) that it’s happened to, we couldn't be happier for him,” he commented.
“It's unheard of in MLS to sell two goalies back-to-back for this amount in two years – even maybe two players going for this amount – so props to Hitchie [Kevin Hitchcock, goalkeeping coach], the goalies themselves for just working hard and earning their place overseas, and then talent acquisition from New England.
“He's more than enough talented not just to go overseas, but to play and contribute. I'm honestly so excited to see how he does over there, and I wish him the best.”
Fellow center back Farrell agreed: “It’s great. It’s something the league is doing a lot more but from our team, we’ve sent a lot of guys overseas. It’s testament to the coaching and the group of guys we have in the locker room to motivate those guys, and to keep pushing them to attain that level of play and their dreams.
“All of our dreams are to play at the highest level, play for world-renowned teams and play with amazing players, so when we have so many guys who are making that transition, it makes us proud as a team, as a group and he’s another player we can go and support in the EPL.”
Homegrown Player Esmir Bajraktarević will always have fond memories of Petrović with the pair having struck up a close friendship when the goalkeeper first arrived at Gillette Stadium. When the 18-year-old netted his first senior goal for the club in the Leagues Cup tie with Querétaro FC earlier this month, the youngster revealed his goalkeeper was thrilled.
“I’m really proud of him, really happy for him,” Bajraktarević added. “I remember the first time he came here, I had to give him a tour of the place because he didn’t speak English, and we had to talk in Serbian.
“We always had that connection, being from the same place in the world, talking about how it is back home and stuff. I think my best memory of him was my first goal – he was always on me for not scoring my chances but once I scored, he congratulated me and hugged me.
“He’s funny, super nice, he jokes a lot. You would think he’s a serious guy but he’s goofy! But whenever it’s gametime, he doesn’t play around – he’s focused, 100 percent. He’s very determined, he’s very driven, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in MLS so he’s deserving of this, for sure.
“He’s tall but he’s also fast so he can also move, which is really rare in goalies. I think he can achieve a lot. I think he can be a top goalie in the Premier League.”
New England now face the difficult task of replacing the star goalkeeper, but Williams and co. have faith in deputy shot-stoppers Earl Edwards Jr. and youngster Jacob Jackson, as the Revs look to pick up where they left off in the MLS regular season.
“It’s a team game,” Williams stated. “Djordje was a big part of our team, but Earl’s played in games already this year for us and has done very well.
“And Jacob has also played with our second team in a lot of games, so we have faith and confidence in these players.
“It’s just the same as a field player when we get call-ups or there’s an injury – the next player has to step up and do a good job, and help the team.
“We expect that out of our goalkeepers, and we feel we can do that, and continue to be successful and win games.”
Echoing the sentiments, Romney insists nothing has changed for the Revs in terms of their hopes for a strong finish to the campaign, with every player ready to perform when called upon, as New England chase top spot in the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield.
“Going forward, nothing changes with our midfielders and attackers too much,” he continued. “It might change a little bit sometimes for what we’ve done building out the back, but for the most part, things stay the same – just do the best we can as a defense to limit shots, limit good chances, and just have whoever our goalie is making nice clean saves.
“It’s obviously a huge loss to lose Djordje because he's such a talented player, but I couldn't be more happy for the guy. He deserves it and hopefully, he's starting in the Prem this whole next season.”