For the third summer in a row, Juventus intends to make a big splash in order to rejuvenate their midfield. In 2020, the club was involved in an unusual player swap with Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic swapping clubs. A year later, the Old Lady bought Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo to be their marquee signing ahead of the 2021/22 season, and then signed Denis Zakaria in the winter mercato.
Overall, there’s no denying that Juventus’ midfield has improved this season after a dismal showing under Andrea Pirlo. However, the Bianconeri are still a long way from re-establishing themselves among Europe’s elite. The club has already been connected with a slew of names, including Paul Pogba, Renato Sanches, and Frenkie De Jong, but it’s Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who has been strewn over recent Italian transfer rumor mills. The management, who had previously tried to sign the midfielder, is thought to be in love with him and anxious to bring him to Turin this summer; and signing Milinkovic-Savic is a must for Juventus. Here are the reasons why:
1) Already a Serie A star
While Juventus might get away with acquiring midfielders who require time to adjust to the league, such as Sanches or De Jong, the advantages of having a ready-made option who has shone in Serie A for almost half a decade cannot be underestimated. Milinkovic-Savic has made 287 appearances for Lazio, including 224 in Serie A, after joining the Biancocolesti as an unknown 20-year-old in 2015.
The Serb is well-versed in Italian culture. He is comfortable with the tempo, rhythm, and tactical aspects of the game. While it may take some time for him to adjust to a new workplace, with new coworkers and a shrewd old boss, there is no overarching risk of a cultural clash. This makes this arrangement for Juventus, despite the high cost, a little safer than other options.
2) Midfielder who can score goals
Massimilano Allegri mentioned in his pre-season press conference that he expects McKennie to score at least 10 goals this season. While the USMNT player was good at creating opportunities during the season, he was not the type of player who could score at least 10 goals from the midfield. Savic is the type of player who can score a lot of goals from the middle of the field, and he has done so at Lazio for some time now. He’s more of a goal scorer than a creator. The 27-year-old has 56 goals and 49 assists in 287 games for Lazio. After 30 games, he’s already matched his most productive Serie A season in Biancocelesti colors. The midfielder has nine goals and nine assists this season, matching his 18 goal contribution total from the previous year.
Juventus are in serious need of more goals, particularly from the middle. With eight goals this season, Dybala and Alvaro Morata lead the Bianconeri’s Serie A scoring lists. Dusan Vlahovic, a January signing, and Juan Cuadrado are tied for fourth place with four goals each. Both with three Serie A goals, Locatelli, who has mostly served as a regista, and McKennie, who didn’t become a regular until November and has been sidelined with an injury since February. It’s also worth noting that no midfielder has scored more than ten goals since Pogba’s departure.
The Old Lady requires a different source of goals in order to progress into a less predictable, more multi-faceted entity. Milinkovic-Savic unquestionably does this. In the penalty area, he’s instinctive, and he puts himself into some incredible situations. Over the last year, the Serbian’s npxG (non-penalty anticipated goals) per shot is in the 82nd percentile of all midfielders from Europe’s top-five leagues. The Lazio midfielder is also in the 99th percentile for shots on target per 90 minutes (0.84), goals per 90 minutes (0.28), and xG per 90 minutes (96th) (0.21).
3) Well suited for Allegri’s plan
Allegri has experimented with many midfield concepts this season. To begin, he utilized Adrien Rabiot in a hybrid role off the left side of the field in a 4-4-2 formation, with Locatelli partnering with Bentancur in the middle. Around December, the formation was adjusted significantly to a 4-2-3-1, with Federico Bernardeschi playing a hybrid role and closer to the position of Paulo Dybala. By that time, Weston McKennie began to shine and was undroppable.
However, in recent years, Allegri has favored a clear three-man midfield with Arthur as the regista, Locatelli in the right half-space, and Rabiot on the left. The two box-to-box midfielders are encouraged to support the front three by this dynamic, but Rabiot, in particular, suffers. Milinkovic-Savic is a good fit for this style, and he offers a unique midfield profile. He mixes the toughness of Rabiot, the grace of Locatelli, the eagerness to go into the box of McKennie, and the long strides of Zakaria from Juve’s current midfield options.
During his tenure at Lazio, the Serbian international has mostly played from the right half-space in a three-man midfield. He’s a dangerous aerial threat, winning 60.7 percent of his aerial duels this season, and he loves to stroll into the opposition’s penalty area to make use of his distinct aerial edge. Overall, Milinkovic-Savic adds a new element to the Juventus midfield with his combination of strength, technique, and aerial brilliance. He’s a one-of-a-kind footballer.
4) Other European giants are interested
The Italian press has long associated Milinkovic-Savic with a transfer away from Rome, and it looks that this summer will be no exception. Lazio are now willing to part ways with the 27-year-old, according to Giovanni Albanese of La Gazzetta dello Sport, but they’ve put a €70 million price tag on his head. Juventus, on the other hand, are simply one of numerous clubs interested.
Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are also interested. The Bianconeri, who have apparently begun negotiations with the player’s agency, must act quickly. Milinkovic-Savic is on the verge of leaving Lazio for the first time in his long career, and it appears that management will have no better opportunity of getting him to Turin than this summer. If the hierarchy feels that the 27-year-old is the right man to bring the Old Lady back to the promised land, they must rush to make a deal with the Biancocolesti before their competition does.