It is barely believable that a player would ever be plucked from the obscurity of the North American Indoor Soccer League to play in the English Premier League. If that player was 29-years-old at the time, then the story would be dismissed as pure fabrication. But as the first ever Premier League season was about to kick off in 1992-93, Predrag Radosavljevic did just that, as he signed for Everton for a transfer fee of £100,000.
Preki, as he was known, was a talented and often sublime talent, unfortunately for the Yugoslavian born American, he lacked the physical attributes to be a success in the English game and made just a handful of appearances for Everton during his two-year stay at Goodison Park.
James Corbett, in the brilliant Everton Encyclopaedia compared him rather mischievously with the legendary Kevin Sheedy, but despite possessing wonderful technical ability and an eye for a free kick he wasn’t fit to grace the same team as Sheedy. In fairness to Preki, the Everton team he joined were a poor side which struggled for consistency and came precariously close to relegation, but it was not a surprise when he was sold to Portsmouth in the summer of 1994.
He lasted just one year on the South Coast, but his next move proved to be his best. Preki returned to the United States to take part in the inaugural season of the MLS. Playing for the Kansas City Wizards and for one season the Miami Fusion, as he went on to become a legend in his own right and was twice named MLS MVP (Most Valuable Player), collecting 28 caps for the United States, including two substitute appearances at the 1998 World Cup in France.
It was at the age of 42 that Preki finally hung up his boots, scoring in the final minute of his final appearance during a second spell with the Kansas City Wizards. The Preki story doesn’t finish there. His status in the American game led him naturally into the world of management and it started well, taking the manager of the year award while in charge at Chivas. However he quickly found out how unforgiving football management can be and after his second season at Chivas ended in disappointed he was relieved of his duties.
As he had done throughout his playing career, Preki picked himself up and was quickly back involved with coaching, this time leaded Toronto FC. Unfortunately he was unable to transfer his success on the pitch to the dugout and failed to see out the season. That appeared to be it for Preki, but in July of 2013, he was appointed Head Coach of USL PRO team Sacramento.
The last word will be left to the MLS website, who ran their own ‘whatever happened to Preki’ feature and described the naturalised American in one brilliant sentance. “Owner of perhaps the wickedest left foot in US soccer history”