Sergej Milinković-Savić has been attracting interest from elite clubs throughout Europe. Premier League clubs such as Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea are all keen to sign the Serbian midfielder but will have to fend off interest from the likes of Real Madrid. It’s almost a certainty he won’t be featuring next season in the Serie A for Lazio. Fun facts – his younger brother, Vanja Milinković-Savić, is a goalkeeper at Torino and spent a year at Manchester United but was unable to obtain a work permit.
Lazio have been playing a 3-5-1-1 or 3-4-2-1 formation this season, and Milinkovic-Savic has appeared as either one of the two central midfielders flanking the deep-sitting, screening midfielder Lucas Leiva, or occasionally pushed up into a sort of number 10 role alongside Luis Alberto behind Ciro Immobile or Felipe Caicedo. Lazio attack a lot through the wide left and left half spaces. Milinkovic-Savic’s link-up play with left wing-back or wide midfielder Senad Lulic is crucial here. Lulic provides a strong threat overlapping out wide, and Milinkovic-Savic will often take the ball short from Leiva, or longer from left centre-back Stefan Radu or even goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, before linking with Lulic. Milinkovic-Savic has great physical strength and at six foot three inches tall, also provides a significant aerial presence. This means he is a superb out ball from the back and is capable from shielding on receiving the pass or winning long balls, bringing the ball under control and then recycling possession.
The Serbian midfielder is also adept at through balls. Whether it’s playing it wide to Lulic, or threading a pass through to Luis Alberto or one of the strikers, Lazio move around to create passing channels for him to create with long, flat passing. Milinkovic-Savic is hugely dynamic and the clubs boss Simone Inzaghi expects him to contribute all over the pitch, not just in the creative areas. Both Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo shuttle either side of Leiva, and while Parolo is more typically box-to-box, Milinkovic-Savic’s touches against Atlanta show how involved he is across the whole pitch. He also scored twice against Atlanta and contribute’s enough goals for a midfielder. Creatively, one might expect a better output from Milinkovic-Savic but he is certainly producing key passes or passes that lead to shots, at a decent rate, and his all-round contribution shows a midfielder who is dynamic, involved across the pitch, and is adept both in defence and attack.
Of course, he is not yet the complete player. Milinkovic-Savic is only 22 and still has issues with discipline and committing silly fouls. In Serie A, at the moment he is the fifth worst in the league for bad touches per game and joint sixth for being dispossessed. But this is also a reflection of just how much play goes through the midfielder. He is Lazio’s transitional player, the fulcrum as the ball moves from back to front. To be so central to a team’s style of play at such a young age is reminiscent of his erstwhile Serie A colleague Paul Pogba. Both are driving midfielders, marrying great physicality with a superbly creative passing range and an eye for goal, especially from outside the box. It’s hardly surprising to see the young Serbian linked with bigger clubs. While it’s unlikely he will command the same sort of fee as Pogba, it would also not be a shock if in a few years, the two are compared in the same bracket among the world’s great central midfielders. It will be interesting to see which Premier League will be first to make a move for his signature. Sergej would a be a great addition to teams such as Man United and Chelsea.