Milinkovic Savic, a sergeant spreading Milinkocrazia in Serie A

24 October at 13:30
It didn’t take agent Mateja Kezman long to realize how good Sergej Milinkovic Savic was: “I just needed ten minutes of a practice of Vojvodina’s youth team practice to appreciate his enormous potential. He’s special- he combines strength, pace and technique” the former accomplished player told Tuttosport in a recent interview- the seeds of what would flourish into a full fledge Milnkocrazia were planted at a very young age.

Lazio’s dynamic midfielder earned this nickname in Italy (a play on words on democracy) after a string of impressive performance for manager Simone Inzaghi, who unlike Kezman and many who simply tune in to watch him play now, took some time to warm up to Milinkovic Savic. In fact, after replacing Stefano Pioli on Lazio’s bench, Pippo’s brother didn’t start the Serbian midfielder for his first seven matches as the biancocelesti’s manager.

But while it took him a bit to warm up to the Sergente (Savic’s other nickname), Simone Inzaghi has been instrumental in developing him into a devastating force regardless of position. After Keita Balde’s departure and while Felipe Anderson was healing from an injury, Inzaghi decided to move Milinkovic Savic further up the pitch- the results have been devastating for the opposition from jump street, Juventus lost the Super Cup in August to the biancocelesti in large part because of the chemistry between Milinkovic Savic and Ciro Immobile.

But while being closer to the opposition’s box highlights Milinkovic Savic’s offensive skills, his likely best position is probably a bit further back. When I started watching him two players came to mind- Diego Simeone and Paul Pogba, and the fact that they were so polar opposites speaks volumes to the completeness of MSM’s game (or to my lack of football acumen).

Aside from fact Diego Simeone also played for Lazio, there are also other parallels between the two. Before being moved up the pitch at the beginning of the season, Milinkovic Savic played a more defensive role- just like el Cholo his grinta, determination, dynamism and overall toughness are traits you see immediately when you watch him, but these qualities are in addition with the ability to score numerous goals (Simeone ended his career with over 100 at the club level).

Milinkovic Savic’s significant height (he’s 191 centimeters tall), brilliant ball technique and ability to insert himself in the run of play have always reminded me of vintage Paul Pogba. When I watched Manchester United’s number 6 play at Juventus what really stood out to me was his grace and ability with the ball- spin moves, dribbles- that weren’t handicapped by a high center of gravity.

​Sergej also uses his height to his advantage in different parts of the pitch, keepers often look for him when they relaunch their team’s offense from the back- with his headers Milinkovic Savic can transition his teammates from the defensive to offensive phase in the blink of an eye. While he may not have Keita Balde’s speed or Kaka’s change of pace, Milinkovic Savic can still be decisive with his ball technique, brute force and heading ability.

Lazio have really hit a homerun with Milinkovic Savic and the way they have managed him shows their acumen on the transfer market. Sporting director Tare’ discovered him, just as he has numerous other players abroad including Felipe Anderson, Keita’ Balde and more recently Luis Alberto- and now president Claudio Lotito will ensure they get a massive return on him.

Lazio have taken numerous steps to be in a position of strength on the subject of Milnkovic Savic’s future. Last April they signed him to a long term extension, and more recently they paid his former club Genk around 9 million euros to nullify the clause that owed them 50% of a future resale- Lazio is now set to make a massive plusvalenza on their best talent.

When you consider that Lazio have been able to get very substantial returns on players with expiring deals- a combined 80 million for Hernanes, Candreva and recently Keita Balde- it’s not hard to imagine that the auction for Milinkovic Savic will start at least in the 70 million range and may reach the fee that Juventus got for Paul Pogba.

Foreign clubs have been following Milinkovic Savic since last season, and the caliber of those interested in him says a lot about his growth. Last summer he was linked to Valencia, and more recently he’s been mentioned as a target for Manchester United (he certainly checks all the boxes for what Mourinho looks for in a midfielder) and other clubs with very deep pockets. At this point it’s hard to envision another Serie A club buying him without having to sell a big name first, so a move reminiscent of Juventus acquiring Gonzalo Higuain with Paul Pogba joining Manchester United.

While Milinkovic Savic has already excelled at the club level, he will likely soon get a chance to do the same with his national team- in fact Serbia’s coach Slavoljub Muslin scouted him during Lazio’s Europa League match against Nice when he scored two goals which should significantly bolster his chances of playing in the next World Cup.
Next summer be ready to hear Milinkovic Savic’s name mentioned in the transfer news headlines, but in the meantime, be sure to check him out as he continues to spread the Milinkocrazia against Lazio’s opponents in Serie A.
 
P.S. A big thank you to Francesco Pietrella for sharing some great insight on Milinkovic Savic as I was researching this article. 
 
David Amoyal

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