Born 100 miles west of Barcelona, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic always looked destined to be a quality athlete. His father, Nikola, was a professional footballer in Serbia, Spain, Portugal and Austria, and his mother, Milana, was a top level basketball player in Yugoslavia. He decided to pursue his father’s sport, and it was a good decision.
The 21-year-old started his career in Serbia and came through the youth academy of Vojvodina. A midfielder by trade, he won two national championship titles with the youth team. His great form earned him a professional contract with the club and in November 2013, he made his first-team debut for the club. He just stayed till the end of the season with the club, made 16 appearances for the side in the process, and also scored four goals. In June 2014, Belgian club Genk decided to acquire his services, and he signed a five-year-contract. In the 2014-15 season, the midfielder made 24 appearances for the club, scoring five goals.
His quality performances at Genk, and at the U20 World Cup, didn’t go unnoticed and in July 2015, Serie A side Lazio were able to land the midfielder. Despite his young age, it didn’t take him long to break into Stefano Pioli’s team, and he made 25 appearances in the league and seven appearances in the Europa League for the Italian side in his first season at the club.
He has proved to be an incredibly valuable player in the team, and so far this season, he has featured seven times in the league, scoring a goal and grabbing a couple of assists.
Almost like Mateo Kovacic, Savic can play anywhere in the midfield. He is usually deployed as an attacking midfielder but is equally adept at playing further behind. He likes to push forward and dictate proceedings in attack. He is blessed with his mother’s height and stands tall at 6 ft 3 in, and as a result is very physically imposing. At the same time, despite his stature, he possesses good balance. He averages 1.6 key passes every 90minutes for Lazio this season.
Savic is a playmaker, who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. The fact that he good with both his feet makes him an even more attractive prospect.
He isn’t easily dispossessed, and if he is, he is good at tackling and winning possession back. He averages 2.9 successful tackles every 90 minutes. His height gives him a natural advantage in the air, and it isn’t surprising to see how good he is at winning the ball in the air. Last season, he averaged 4.9 successful aerial duels every 90 minutes. This season the statistic is slightly better at 5.1, but naturally, the sample size is also small.
As he grows up, and gets more experienced, goalscoring will be an area he will want to get even better at. His best position also needs to be established by his coaches. Considering he likes to push forward, a box-to-box role in the heart of the pitch sometimes looks like the way to go, but he performs well even playing in the hole behind the striker. He needs to work on finding consistency in his game. The raw ability and talent is very visible and makes him such an attractive proposition to have. However, he can go missing in games, and with that consistency, his overall game will become lethal.
There is no doubt that Premier League clubs will come running after the player with their big purses. Arsenal and Manchester United were rumoured to be interested in signing the player when he was still at Genk.
Lazio will find it very hard to keep the midfielder, though they have certainly managed to do what looked very unlikely, with Felipe Anderson. Savic knows he needs to be at a place where he can get regular game time. When he does decide to make the move, he should consider the team which will be best for his development. So far, Lazio seems like the ideal club.