Manchester United and Manchester City have a transfer battle on their hands to land Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic this summer.
The Red Devils previously sent scouts a couple of years ago to watch Milenkovic in action for Fiorentina in a Serie A match against Bologna prior to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge at Old Trafford.
United have long been on the lookout for defenders despite boasting several centre-backs among their ranks.
Reports resurfacing in Italy have now credited Manchester City with an interest and they are set to join the race to sign him in the summer.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport (Thursday print edition), as relayed by Sport Witness, the 23-year-old has been tipped to make the switch to a Premier League side when the transfer window re-opens in a few months’ time.
Milenkovic has been in impressive form for Fiorentina this season, having made 23 appearances across all competitions, per Transfermarkt.
He is contracted with La Viola until 2022.
United let Chris Smalling leave for Roma in the summer and Victor Lindelof’s poor form has raised concerns about the team’s defensive options.
Solskjaer currently has five centre-back options at his disposal, in the form of Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe, but have just one natural left-sided central defender in the club captain after Smalling left the club last year.
In Milenkovic, United could find an enforcer who has often been described as “the new Nemanja Vidic,” and the comparisons don’t stop there, either.
Like his fellow Serbian before him, Milenkovic has developed quite the reputation over the past few years for being a fearsome tackler who takes no prisoners with his no-nonsense approach to defending. He’s been dubbed as “fearless” for his style of play, and even hailed as being better on the ball than Vidic too.
Standing at 6 ft 5 in tall, the towering colossus – who is currently valued at £25m via Transfermarkt – would afford the likes of David de Gea and Dean Henderson with a level of protection that has not be seen at Old Trafford for quite some time, while WhoScored lists him as an indirect set-piece threat, as his natural height also makes him something of a powerhouse inside the box.
It’s no surprise to see he has shown a willingness to get stuck in, either, as evidenced in his 1.7 tackles per 90 in Serie A during his time under Cesare Prandelli this season. For context, Lindelof has only been able to muster 0.8 per game in the Premier League.
A lack of experience in the Champions League or Europa League shouldn’t deter potential suitors. Yes, it means he hasn’t played at the highest level, but if he can offer a fraction of the form from his past few seasons with Fiorentina, then the youngster can prove to be a very shrewd addition to Solskjaer’s side.
Milenkovic would fit the bill at Old Trafford, as an accomplished defender and a powerful threat in the air. Ed Woodward, therefore, should sanction a swoop for one of Europe’s hottest prospects in the summer, although he may have to break out the cheque book in order to do so.
AND in other news, Manchester United centre-back Eric Bailly was colossal against Real Sociedad…