Let’s get it out of the way up front. No doubt the 2018-19 season was a disappointment for Sergej Milinkovic Savic and this was after a subpar World Cup where many expected him to fully break out on the biggest stage in world football. But despite not living up to expectations, the Serbian international still won the official league award given to the best midfielder in Serie A.
With his current club Lazio failing to qualify for the next edition of the Champions League there has been a lot of buzz on Milinkovic Savic leaving Italy’s capital this summer. Juventus reached an agreement with him on personal terms about a month ago, Paris St Germain have been monitoring him for over a year and now we have Manchester United identifying him as the ideal replacement for Paul Pogba.
Last summer Lazio’s president Claudio Lotito was able to convince Milinkovic Savic to stay for one season by promising him he would sell him in summer of 2019 for a big offer. Lotito confirmed this publicly when recently stated that he was running out of tools to keep his star, a sentiment confirmed on Saturday by manager Simone Inzaghi when he answered “I would like for him to stay, but I think the club should consider a significant offer should it arrive. Should he be sold, we know we’ll have to replace him”
While last summer Milinkovic Savic had no problem answering that he was staying at the club when he arrived at the retreat, this year he has been much more vague. At this point, it feels very likely that he won’t stay in Italy to defend his title of Serie A’s best offer. Lazio are looking for an offer of at least 80 million euro to sell their star, while he’s come off an uneven season, he has over 100 games played in Serie A despite the fact he’s just entering his prime after turning 24 last February.
Certainly Lazio must feel pressure after Lotitio’s promise last summer, but they are in a great position to handle his potential departure from a position of strength. They have no substantial debts, Financial Fair Play parameters to meet and are in overall strong financial shape, especially for an Italian club. Their president Claudio Lotito has mastered the art of selling, he received over 70 million combined for Hernanes, Antonio Candreva and Lucas Biglia who were all past their prime and with expiring contracts, so he will no doubt look for a huge return for his biggest asset.
On the bright side for Laziali, the club’s sporting director Igli Tare’ has replaced his departing stars quite well- Lucas Leiva has been an upgrade over Biglia, Luis Alberto has exceeded Felipe Anderson’s production while Acerbi has slotted in perfectly in De Vrij’s previous role. With a robust return for Milinkovic Savic, Lazio can more than adequately replace him after already improving the squad with Vavro and Lazzari’s arrivals. But where could Milinkovic Savic?
While Juventus identified him as the ideal addition to their midfield last June, their approach to transfers- go through the player’s agent first, get an agreement with them first and then try to force their target’s current club to sell- was never going to fly with Lotito, who was more than happy to state this publicly. Juventus decided to go after Adrien Rabiot, to go with Aaron Ramsey whom they had already signed on another Bosman deal and shoot their financial load on Matthijs De Ligt instead.
While there have been some whispers of Inter potentially pursuing Milinkovic Savic, his future will almost certainly take place abroad. Paris St Germain’s sporting director Leonardo, pursued him last summer when he was at Milan- but now he has the bank roll to tempt Lotito without Lazio’s president having to also worry about massively improving a direct rival in the race for a Champions League spot.
Manchester United are certainly in the mix, but as I write this, there are no confirmations they are in concrete talks quite yet to get a deal done with Lazio. But with the window in the Premier League closing in less than two weeks, we could have some developments very soon.