This article is part of Football FanCast’s Expert Roundup feature, which provides three quotes from those in the know in order to illuminate fundamental strengths, weaknesses, quirks, kinks, stylistic comparisons and general observations of players, transfer targets and confirmed signings.
According to a report published by Gazzetta Dello Sport on Thursday, Manchester United are negotiating an €80m (£71.8m) deal for the signing of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and the player’s agent, former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman, is in England to finalise the details of the move.
The midfielder is of a similar mould to Paul Pogba, utilising a blend of power and technical ability to great effect in Serie A, where he has chalked up 22 goals and 13 assists in 125 appearances, according to Transfermarkt.
The 24-year-old is adept at winning the ball back for his side before embarking on a freight-train run forward or passing to a teammate, as evidenced by his 1.4 tackles, 1.1 dribbles and 1.5 key passes per game, according to WhoScored.
But is Milinkovic-Savic the right man to move to Old Trafford?
Here’s what those in the know have had to say about the 12-cap international…
The Serbian national team boss was full of praise for the big number 21 ahead of the Eagles’ World Cup campaign last year:
“Our best players will always have a place in my team. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic proved he can be counted on for the future and is bound to become the backbone of this squad.”
When Pogba traded Juventus for United back in 2016, Jose Mourinho predicted that the 26-year-old could become the heart of the club for the next decade. Well, United’s ‘heart’ has had some failures despite Mourinho’s desperate attempts to provide a structure and a platform from which Pogba could project himself with the signing of Nemanja Matic – could the former Chelsea man’s international teammate, Milinkovic-Savic, turn out to be the glue that finally binds this midfield together?
The Spanish-born star is widely regarded as one of the most well-rounded midfielders in Europe and recorded an impressive 7.15 average match rating last term, placing him in the top-25 performers in the league and ahead of Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, who won the Golden Boot, according to WhoScored.
Milinkovic-Savic’s international teammate and Ajax star Dusan Tadic is expecting big things from the Lazio man in the future:
“He is a good player, he is young. He can learn a lot of things but he has a big talent.
“He has the capacity to go far. That’s it. He is the future of Serbian football.”
Indeed, the 6 foot 3 dynamo is far from the finished article yet. He was shown seven yellow cards and one red card last term and his discipline is described as ‘weak’ by WhoScored – the last thing United need is another midfielder whom they cannot count on each week, with Pogba’s form shown to be heavily reliant on relations with the manager.
Regardless, former Southampton man Tadic expects the young star to become the face of Serbian football in the future, which is a testament to the midfielder’s ability – the Old Trafford faithful will be hoping that he can become a similarly important figure in red should he cross the channel this summer.
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The former Chelsea striker, who now represents Milinkovic-Savic, thinks that his client will be in contention for one of the most prestigious individual prizes in football:
“He is the most effective midfielder in Europe […] I played with Robben, Lampard and some of Europe’s best players, and I think Sergej can surpass them […] if he keeps up this way, and to be among the most serious candidates for the Golden Ball.”
Kezman already believes that his countryman is the best midfielder in Europe and even compared him with two of the game’s all-time greats in Arjen Robben and Frank Lampard – high praise indeed, albeit perhaps a little biased.
The prospect of a partnership with Pogba, who is also regarded as one of the continent’s top talents, is mouthwatering, although both will have to go someway if they are to be ‘serious candidates’ for the Ballon d’Or.