Newcastle will try desperately to keep hold of Jamaal Lascelles this summer, but one World Cup performance has shown exactly who they should move for whether the skipper stays or goes.
Losing Lascelles would be a hammer blow for Newcastle, but if the captain does leave they should immediately move for Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic.
The towering centre back is only 20 years old, but showed off his skills and composure in his side’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Sunday.
Milenkovic, who has been linked with a move to Everton, plays his club football for Fiorentina, where he impressed in 16 Serie A appearances last season.
The 6 ft 5 beast can actually play as a right back as well, but he is at his best at the heart of the defence, and his performance in the win over Costa Rica showed fantastic composure and leadership capabilities for such a young player.
The 20 year-old made an incredible nine clearances in the match, as well as winning two tackles and three aerial duels.
His defensive statistics across last season show this isn’t a coincidence, averaging 2.4 tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 4.3 clearances per game, extremely impressive statistics playing in a Fiorentina team that likes to dominate the possession.
Where the youngster really stands out from other defenders of his ilk though is his ability on the ball, boasting an 89 per cent pass success rate in Sunday’s big win.
He’s not a player that likes to pad his passing stats with easy short passes either, completing six out of seven attempted long balls in the match, more than any other outfield player.
If the Magpies lose Lascelles this summer it will definitely hurt, but Benitez can atone for it immediately by moving for the extremely impressive Milenkovic.
In fact, with the defender valued at just £8.1m by Transfermarkt, it could be worth bringing him to Tyneside even if the skipper stays, adding depth and serving as an understudy to the impressive partnership of Lascelles and Florian Lejeune.
So, Newcastle fans, would you take a punt on Milenkovic this summer? Do you think he could be a long-term replacement for Lascelles? Let us know by voting in the poll below…