Player Profile: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is truly the man of the moment. After an impressive season and some extraordinary recent performances, the Serbian is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest teams. In this article, I’m going to take an in-depth glance at one of the brightest young midfielders on the planet.

Background

Sergej Milinkovic Savic fudbaler Vojvodine ---- Foto Ognjen Ademovski.jpg
Source: Zurnal.rs

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic started his youth career at Grazer AK, an Austrian sports club before moving to FK Vojvodina in Serbia at the age of 11. He spent six years at Vojvodina as a youth player before signing his first professional contract with the club in 2012. He scored 3 in 13 league appearances for Vojvodina, helping the club win the Serbian Cup in the 13/14 season.

Fast forward to June 2014, where the young Serbian was snatched up by Belgian outfit Genk, for a fee of around €900k. There, he played 24 games in the 2014/15 season, scoring five goals in the process.

Milinkovic-Savic signed for Lazio in 2015 for a fee of around €16m and has since made 83 league appearances, finding the net 14 times. In the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons, Sergej played 25 and 34 league games respectively, scoring 1 and 4 goals. This season things have been far different: with the Serbian midfielder scoring 9 times in the league in just 24 games.

Where Has it All Gone Right for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic?

SMSUP

This season, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has really impressed for Lazio, scoring 9 goals in 24 league games. This tally makes him the first and only 23 year old or under to reach double figures in all competitions this season. Additionally, with a 81.3% pass completion rate in the league, he has become vital to The Eagles’ exciting tactical football this season. In this section, I’m going to break down why he is so successful and just why he is so important to Lazio’s game plan.

He has become a complete midfielder, in the modern sense of the term. Take a look at some of the highlights in the video embedded below (Source: Prince10HD on YouTube). He is excellent at holding up play in the box and therefore creating space for Lazio’s attacking force to dominate. Not only is he necessary to Lazio’s support play, but to their actual goal-scoring too. He has been one of the most prolific midfielders in Europe’s main leagues and aside with Ciro Immobile, has helped Lazio in becoming the Serie A’s highest scoring team this season, beating the likes of Napoli and Juventus. I’d draw parallels between Sergej and Yaya Toure in his prime, world beating complete midfielders with an eye for goal.

In terms of what he contributes to Lazio’s game plan, the video below shows where Milinkovic-Savic usually sits in Lazio’s attacking movements.

He is positioned just outside the box, usually facing the ball at all times, rarely looking away from the man with the ball. This is important as it allows the rest of the midfield and attack to play balls off him; his pure physicality helping keep any potential defenders off his back. This is an example of the ‘pass-and-move’ football that Simone Inzaghi has implemented into this Lazio side yet Milinkovic-Savic doesn’t move much. He is vital for giving the rest of the side the freedom to move in the final third that a conventional centre-mid doesn’t.

This next clip shows exactly what his goal-scoring is all about.

He is sitting in that spot, outside of the box, in acres of space. He is allowed to dominate that space due to the typically open defences of the Serie A. A criticism could be that he attempts to shoot far too often for a CM in the eyes of some coaches: but I will touch on that in the next section. I’ve covered how his physicality makes him a vital piece in Lazio’s build-up play but it helps him get on the scoresheet too. The video below shows how his height and strength are dangerous in the box. See how he is up against two Sassuolo defenders, who albeit are defending awfully, getting perfectly on the end of Felipe Anderson’s cross and thundering it into the net past Consigli. Incredible talent.

The Concerns

For me, the main concern about Sergej Milinkovic Savic right now is his assist record. In 24 league games, he’s picked up just 2 assists. In the same amount of games, Marco Parolo has picked up 6, contributing a solid 4 goals himself. Similarly, Lucas Leiva, who is a central defensive midfielder, has picked up 3 assists in 23 games; as well as providing brilliant cover for the defence. Milinkovic-Savic has an element of arrogance and greed in his game which means that he is rarely the one to lay off that killer ball to a team-mate. Instead, he is far more prone to shooting from range and although this results in a brilliant highlights real, in games it is a far more irritating reality. In addition, he lacks a defensive awareness that, you may argue, he doesn’t need as an attacking-minded player. However, he has started 22 games at CM and just 4 as a CAM. Again, this is where I’d like to mention Manchester City’s Yaya Toure. The Ivorian international was a gifted player going forward but also had the defensive capabilities needed in a CM. If Milinkovic-Savic is to perfect his game, he needs to work on his defensive capabilities.

My other concern for him, as a Lazio fan, is where he goes next. It appears that Lotito is ready to get an auction started for Milinkovic-Savic’s services. Manchester United, Manchester City and PSG have all registered their interest but it is looking like the Serb could fetch a €150m+ offer. It worries me, not just as a Lazio fan, but as someone who wants the best for this talented footballer. That is an astronomical fee to pay for a 23 year-old, but one that is becoming an ever more common reality. I’m not sure that a big-money move, and the possible pressure of the Premier League, is the right think for him just yet. Below you can see the transfer market value progress of Milinkovic-Savic (Source: transfermarkt). As you can see, his value didn’t peak above 10m until just last year and in the year since he has surged up to nearly 50m. 2018 alone has seen his price rise by around 20m, showing you just how much of a hot property this boy is.

One thought on “Player Profile: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic”

  1. Steven Moore says:

    Looks to be a very promising midfielder. With age and experience, he will become top class.

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