When Luka Milivojevic first arrived in the Premier League, he quickly became a crucial part of Crystal Palace’s survival bid under Sam Allardyce – adding physicality and defensive awareness to the engine room while netting some hugely decisive penalties.
And yet, he was still seen merely as a defensive midfielder, someone to sit deep and provide positional discipline rather than make opportunities for Palace to score.
Under Roy Hodgson though, the 26-cap Serbian has played an increasingly expansive game. He’s still an integral buffer in front of the Eagles defence, but he’s also contributed so much more going forward this season.
His return of goals, albeit mostly still spot kicks, has jumped up from two last season to a whopping ten this term, while he’s also become one of Palace’s key creative assets – especially from dead ball situations.
That was evident once again on Saturday as Palace edged out bitter rivals Brighton in a thrilling five-goal first half at Selhurst Park.
Milivojevic finished the match with the most created chances to his name of any player on the pitch, four, including the assist for Wilfried Zaha’s second goal with a delicious, dipping cross into the path of the Ivorian international. And although he wasn’t credited with the setup due to a deflection of Maty Ryan, it was the 27-year-old who made Zaha’s opener too – his drive across goal eventually falling into the winger’s path.
That’s why Milivojevic is fast becoming one of the most underrated midfielders in the Premier League; combining the defensive nous and physicality he showed in the English top flight last season with telling contributions in attack this time around.
As much as Zaha, Andros Townsend or club-record signing Christian Benteke, Milivojevic – who Transfermarkt value at just £9million – could have a decisive impact on Palace avoiding the drop this term.