Sergej Milinković-Savić has innumerable admirers in the transfer market. But who are the frontrunners to acquire the midfielder’s services this summer? Jyotirmoy Halder dissects.
Born to Serbian parents in the northeast of Catalonia, Sergej Milinković-Savić has always been considered the representative of a bright tomorrow for Balkan football. But no one, not even his closest observer, would have anticipated seeing him at the pinnacle of his traits and emerging as a rare specimen of the traditional “mezzala” at such an early age.
Milinković-Savić, being a son of a professional basketball player (Milana, Milinković-Savić’s mother) and a footballer (Nikola, the midfielder’s father), holds almost every attribute that makes him a basketballer-esque footballer. A mammoth figure with an astute tenacity on the field constitutes a complete phenomenon that Sergej Milinković-Savić’s reflection affirms today. He is dominant when it comes to winning aerial battles. And when it comes to clocking progressive passes, he—listed among the best in Europe—records six per game.
Nowadays, however, the midfield sensation lies in the middle of a dilemma—between an inspiring past and a glamorous future. Since joining Lazio from Genk in 2015, the Serbian has garnered heaps of plaudits but not much silverware, with his cabinet in Rome including one Coppa Italia and two Suppercoppa Italiana titles. There has been no Scudetto in almost seven years in the capital of Italy— a thought that must haunt Milinković-Savić’s conviction.
Talks of farewell have thus started creeping into the story, with Lazio also looking to pocket some much-needed cash from a potential sale in the summer. The player’s contract until June 2024 has smoothened the complications for Claudio Lotito as the Lazio president is reportedly determined to welcome €70 million in return for Sergej Milinković-Savić’s permanent departure this summer.
Who are the top four names in the race for Milinković-Savić’s signature this summer?
Let’s dive deep into the credentials of the four candidates growing increasingly predominant in an intensifying transfer saga.
If you put the keyword “Manchester United Milinković-Savić” in the search bar and press enter, Google would show you more than six million results. Manchester United, being one of the most renowned clubs across the globe, have ferociously raided the internet with discussions concerning the uncertain future of the Serbian midfielder. But is there any truth to the rumours? Man United aficionados would certainly like to believe in it. But media reports from both Italy and England have recently appeared to be contradictory.
With Paul Pogba understandably leaving United on a free transfer in the summer of 2022, agendas have been set to find a replacement for the Frenchman at Old Trafford. Amid the insecurities in the midfield, the Premier League club awaits the arrival of Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman will soon assume his managerial charges for the club, with Ralf Rangnick providing his successor with the essential inputs as a backroom consultant.
A few days ago, quotes from Milinković-Savić’s agent claiming that the Serb desires a move to Manchester went viral. But subsequently, Mateja Kezman, the player’s agent, went on to confirm, “It’s a great fake news. I have never given interviews in the last period, some journalists are really incredible! I’m very angry, it is a lack of respect towards me, towards Sergej and Lazio.” Since then, reports have continuously reiterated that Kezman is working with the utmost secrecy.
Of course, joining Manchester United would not always guarantee him Champions League football in a highly competitive league. But it is the lure of earning a sizeable amount in wages that could tempt the Serb and his agent. And in addition to that, there could be a hidden ambition to follow the footsteps of Nemanja Vidić and be part of a new project under a new manager.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently reflected upon his arrival at Manchester United, “I think I came in a good moment. Because it’s easy to come to a club when the success is already there. It’s more difficult when you come and the challenge is different. And then if you manage to have a success, you’re part of the story.” Milinković-Savić might want to be part of another story, no?
Juventus seem to be the only Italian team that possesses the financial muscle to land the Serbian midfielder this summer. There are numerous claims in Italian media about the box-to-box midfielder’s potential move to Turin, with one of them suggesting that Milinković-Savić’s long-time goal is to play for Bianconeri. On the other hand, there remain a plethora of other motivations, including staying with his brother Vanja in Turin. The custodian might be the only Torino player to smile at the potential arrival of Sergej Milinković-Savić at Juventus.
Nevertheless, Juventus will have to clean their ranks first. Massimiliano Allegri is eyeing a mass clearout in the summer. As far as Juve’s midfield is concerned, only Manuel Locatelli appears to have embraced the consistency one expects from a Juventus midfielder, considering people are not running ahead of the time with the potential of Fabio Miretti. Like Miretti, there are others in Nicolò Rovella and Nicolò Fagioli. But it is not the youngsters clouding the resilience of the Bianconeri midfield but the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Arthur Melo, and Aaron Ramsey. Juventus need quick answers, but there are too many questions at the moment.
A host of reports have recently come forward to clear the complications. They claim that if Arthur leaves and Rabiot stays, the club will go ahead with the signing of Jorginho, who is a regista and represents the kind of experienced profile that Juventus are seeking in the market. On the contrary, if Rabiot leaves and Arthur stays, then the 36-time Scudetto champions could push forward with their intent to land the Lazio midfielder this summer. Rangers reportedly will not sign Aaron Ramsey on a permanent transfer, meaning the Welshman will be back at Juventus next season. His future in Turin stays far from settled.
In a hypothetical scenario, the Old Lady devotees would want the departures of both Arthur and Rabiot and the arrivals of Milinković-Savić and Jorginho in return. But the reality might differ, as the enthusiasts remain keen on the outcome of the 2022 summer transfer window. And what will happen to Ramsey? Only time will tell.
If not with their performances on the big stages, Paris Saint-Germain have wreaked havoc in the footballing world with their jaw-dropping transfer deals in the market over the past few years. From signing Kylian Mbappe from Monaco to luring Neymar away from Barcelona for an astronomical figure and then wrapping up the deals for Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, and most evidently Lionel Messi all in one transfer window, PSG have continued to exhibit their financial depth.
And even if some of the transfers don’t suit their tactical acumen, they will continue to abide by the same purpose steered by the belief that superior players are key to on-field success. As hinted by the recent reports, they could even ramp up their efforts to toughen the squad following their recent failures in meeting their lofty ambitions. Last summer, there were rumours of the French club being interested in a move for Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. But with PSG making a last-minute swoop for Lionel Messi, the humming around Pogba went silent.
Pogba has once again been linked with a move to the French capital this summer. But there is competition from Juventus and other clubs for the Frenchman. They could either go for Pogba or Milinković-Savić, as suggested by the reports coming from France. Handling the player’s demands in relation to salary and agent fee would not be an issue for PSG, who are looking to offload Leandro Paredes in the summer. Signing for PSG could result in Milinković-Savić winning loads of domestic titles in the years to come.
It remains to be seen whether PSG will go for Pogba, who is available for free, or the Serb, whose transfer will warrant a transfer fee of at least €70million. But so far, PSG are merely interested in the Serbian midfielder, with no updates on a potential intensification.
Wait, when have Milan entered the saga? Well, they have in one end and they have not in the other so far. Unless you have been spending your time living under a rock for the last few months, you must be aware of Ivestcorp’s potential takeover of the Milan-based club. It is reported that the Bahrain-based firm will purchase the Elliot management’s 99.93% stake in the Italian club for a stellar amount of €1.18billion.
If those reports are believed to be true, there are other Italian reports claiming that the Rossoneri management will be provided with a transfer bucket full of €300million for spending on new arrivals in the upcoming summer transfer market. And it is where the rumours of Milinković-Savić started kicking in.
Lazio’s president has hinted several times that his club needs to raise transfer funds before making signings this summer. And they are seeing Milinković-Savić’s possible departure as a suitable way to fill the bank before breaking it. Lotito signed Milinković-Savić from Genk for a reported transfer fee of €10million plus bonuses. As such, selling him in the summer for more than €70million should be considered an excellent bit of business from Lazio’s end. Rumours suggest that Lotito is open to a bidding war for his prized asset.
Without overvaluing the financial power of Milan’s new owners, it would not be too hard to consider Milan a candidate in the race to sign the Lazio midfielder this summer. Franck Kessié has already signed a four-year contract with Barcelona, meaning he will not be in Italy next summer. The same destiny could embrace Brahim Diaz, who is currently on loan from Real Madrid.
Madrid want Diaz back, according to reports in Spain. In that case, Milan will be without a holding and an attacking midfielder. Signing a mezzala could prove to be a panacea for them.
Milinković-Savić appears to be the diamond necklace that every woman craves in the jewellery shop, but at the end of the day, the gem goes to the one who agrees to submit the highest bid. It is still early to point out a clear favourite to sign Sergej Milinković-Savić from Lazio this summer. But as per the general feeling, the 27-year-old’s departure from the Italian capital is imminent. And it could well turn out to be a big-money move and one of the most intriguing sagas of the 2022 summer transfer window.