Many of Europe’s top clubs are circling over Rome after Lazio’s club President, Claudio Lotito, admitted that the in-demand Serbian international could be on is way out this summer if the right cash sum arrives. Reports in the Italian and Serbian media have continued to intimate that the 23-year-old has had his head turned by approaches from the likes of Manchester United, PSG, and Juventus.
Lotito: No Player is Bigger Than the Club
Sergej Milinković-Savić has become a hugely imposing presence in the heart of the Lazio midfield. Standing at 6ft 3in, his confidence increased significantly during his four-year stay in Rome after signing from Belgian outfit Genk in July 2015. He first came onto the radar of scouts at the world’s top clubs following his appearance at the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup. Milinković-Savić played a key role in Serbia winning the overall tournament, which propelled his move to Lazio. Now, it appears he has outgrown Le Aquile, with Lazio’s long-serving president Lotito insisting that no player is bigger than the club.
Lotito recently told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the club will “keep only those who want to stay at the club.” The 62-year-old also confirmed that the club’s hierarchy would “not oppose” an “intention” from Milinković-Savić to seek pastures new. When quizzed on the price Lazio could demand for the Serbian’s services, Lotito insisted that negotiations between interested parties “are not made in the newspapers,” and that Milinković-Savić is “the best midfielder” in Serie A. Nevertheless, those who do like to believe what they read in the papers will note that a figure of €100 million touted by Goal.com reporter Chris Burton.
Milinković-Savić Enjoyed a Solid 2018/19 in a Season of General Mediocrity
There was plenty of speculation surrounding the future of Milinković-Savić last summer, but despite all the transfer hype, the Serbian ultimately remained with Lazio. Although he did bag a winner’s medal last term in the Coppa Italia, there is a growing belief that he feels it’s time for a new challenge. Nevertheless, seven goals in 41 Serie A appearances were impressive for the Serb given that goals seemed to dry up from all other areas of the team last term.
New Juve Boss Sarri Has His Eye on Milinković-Savić
Juventus appears to be in pole position to raid Lazio for the 23-year-old. Juve seems to have a penchant for pinching star men from mid-table sides in Serie A given their recent acquisitions of Miralem Pjanić and Federico Bernardeschi. Former Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri is in the Juve hot seat for 2019/20, and he could see Milinković-Savić as an ideal option in his “Sarriball” setup, which requires plenty of possession and short, sharp counterattacking. He could be what Marek Hamšík was for Sarri’s Napoli a few years ago.
Don’t discount Spanish giants Barcelona from the chase, either. Milinković-Savić was born in Catalonia, so he has some significant links to the city. With a somewhat aging midfield, Barça might look to Milinković-Savić as part of their rebuilding plans. Nevertheless, the signing of Frenkie de Jong from Ajax may have put the kybosh on this potential transfer.
The loss of Milinković-Savić would be a big blow for Lazio’s preparations for the 2019/20 Serie A campaign. Even with Milinković-Savić, Lazio still finished seven points behind their bitter rivals Roma and a potential place in European competition. It’s the reason why most sportsbooks that offer free bet promotions ahead of the new season make them 3/1 outsiders to achieve a top-four finish next term. Juve is once again odds-on to claim the Serie A title, with their nearest rivals Inter priced as high as 9/2, with some bookies to bring an end to the Old Lady’s domination in 2019/20.
Inzaghi Looking to Strengthen at Both Ends Ahead of 2019/20
Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi also has issues at both ends of the pitch to resolve. Inzaghi is reportedly working hard to convince Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo to remain with the club, after a solid season supporting lone frontman, Ciro Immobile. Although touted with a move away from the club last summer and in January, Inzaghi seems happy to keep Caicedo at the club for 2019/20.
Inzaghi is also desperate to add a new center half to his ranks. Hoffenheim skipper Kevin Vogt has been earmarked, with his ability to play across the back line and in a holding midfield role ticking all the right boxes. Lazio’s qualification for the Europa League via the Coppa Italia could have strengthened their bargaining position. It’s also reported that Inzaghi has a strong interest in Newcastle United center half Jamaal Lascelles. The former Nottingham Forest academy graduate has grown into one of the Magpies’ leading players in the Premier League. The former England U21 international possesses power and pace, and some suggest that Lazio would potentially trade left back Jordan Lukaku with Newcastle to secure the services of Lascelles. It’s quite rare for English center halves to make the switch from the Premier League to Serie A, but a chance to play in the Europa League as well as against some of the bigger stars in the league does not come around every day.
Between the sticks, it appears that Inzaghi is content with his goalkeeping options for next season. Thomas Strakosha and Silvio Proto look likely to continue as the club’s first and second-choice stoppers for 2019/20, respectively. Proto enjoyed an extended run in the side toward the back end of the last term due to Strakosha’s Achilles tendon nightmare. The Belgian reportedly impressed I Biancocelesti hierarchy during this period, giving them the confidence to grant Proto another year at the club. This decision closes the door on a potential move for veteran Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon, who is out of contract and seeking one final year before hanging up his gloves.