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World Cup One To Watch: Serbia’s 23-year-old powerhouse Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

The Serbia international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

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Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Photo: Getty Images

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is perhaps already a household name at club level ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, due to transfer gossip columns.

However, the Serbian international still has everything to prove for his country and the summer will provide the perfect stage to validate the hype that follows his name.

The 23-year-old will travel to Russia as one of the most sought-after players in the world game thanks to his impressive form in the Italian top flight throughout the 2017/18 season, and rightly so.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

Those who have watched Milinkovic-Savic in action in Serie A this season will understand why the 23-year-old is in such high demand across Europe.

His strength and height make him a formidable force in the air as well as an imposing defensive presence. Meanwhile, his technical ability with the ball at his feet is comparable to some of the very best midfielders in the modern game.

An imposing playmaker, Milinkovic-Savic has been in red-hot form in the Italian Serie A this season, scoring 11 league goals and chipping in with a further nine assists.

These are laudable attacking numbers for a midfielder who operates in the engine room of the pitch, and his attacking contributions led Lazio to within inches of their first Champions League berth in over a decade.

(Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

What is his international experience/record?

Milinkovic-Savic was part of the Serbian team that achieved success in the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015. He played an influential role as his team won the tournament, appearing in six out of seven games and claiming the Bronze Ball award.

Despite thriving at both youth level for his country and as a senior for club, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has rarely been given a chance on the international stage for Serbia. Criminally, the 23-year-old has just the four international caps to his name.

Previous coach Slavoljub Muslin decided to ignore the Lazio midfielder during World Cup qualification, a decision that ultimately contributed to his controversial dismissal. Nonetheless, under Mladen Krstajic, he has become one of the first names on the team sheet.

Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

Milinkovic-Savic is ready to play catch up after being exiled by his previous international coach and the World Cup will see him play a pivotal role.

In a team bursting of midfield talent, including the likes of Nemanja Matic, Luka Milivojevic, Andrija Zivkovic, Marko Grujic, Dusan Tadic, Adem Ljajic and Filip Kostic, the Lazio youngster will undoubtedly steal the limelight.

Despite his limited international experience, Milinkovic-Savic has the ability to help Serbia to the knockout stages of the World Cup and increase his already impressive chances of a big-money summer move to one of Europe’s elite.

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

What is his future after the World Cup?

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s agent has recently confirmed that “clubs are interested from all over Europe” but the Lazio midfielder will decide his future after the World Cup.

“Sergej is coming off a great season, but now he’s focused on the World Cup with Serbia,” Mateja Kezman told Corriere dello Sport, as reported by Football Italia. “We’ll listen, talk, and discuss and then we’ll see what happens after the World Cup.”

Having been one of the stand out performers in Serie A last season, and despite the £87.5million price tag that has been placed on his head, top clubs including Juventus, Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain are reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport to be interested.

Although he has asserted, as per the Daily Mail, that he will not focus on a potential move until after the tournament, his future seemingly lies away from the Stadio Olimpico and I Biancocelesti will benefit from his price going even higher if he performs in Russia.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Manchester United

Three Manchester United youngsters to watch out for this season

There is a breadth of young talent available to Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.

Martyn Cooke

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Manchester United
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United have already made significant moves in the transfer market as Jose Mourinho continues to refine and remould his squad in preparation for the new campaign.

Brazilian midfielder Fred arrived in a £52 million deal from Shakhtar Donetsk last month whilst Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot was signed from Porto for £19 million earlier in the summer. The high-profile duo have also been joined be veteran Stoke City goalkeeper Lee Grant, who has been brought in to act as experienced covered for David de Gea and Sergio Romero.

Mourinho is expected to make further additions before the start of the season but he should also consider casting a keen eye at some of the youngsters that have been making waves within the United academy over the previous two or three years.

Here are three youngsters that Manchester United supporters should keep an eye on this season.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

James Garner

Manchester United are currently blessed with an abundance of talented central midfielder players including Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive footballer, new £52 million arrival Fred and experienced enforcer Nemanja Matic.

However, it is widely considered that James Garner will soon be listed among those prestigious names after the academy graduate made rapid progress over the previous twelve months. The 17-year-old only signed his first professional contract in May and he is set to tour with the first team during the pre-season preparations, putting him firmly on Jose Mourinho’s radar.

Garner is versatile central midfield player that is equally as adept playing in a holding position or in a more advanced role whilst he has also been utilised as a central defender during his spell in academy football. He is renowned for being a natural leader and is the current England under-17’s captain.

The midfielder was a central figure in the United youth team that won the Premier League North last season and he is being tipped to make his competitive first team debut in the coming year.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Axel Tuanzebe

Jose Mourinho has struggled to find a reliable central defensive partnership during his spell at Manchester United due to injuries and the sporadic form of some of his senior players.

However, in Axel Tuanzebe he might have a potential solution.

The 20-year-old is renowned for his power, strength and pace and has developed a well-earned reputation as being the most talented young central defender on Manchester United’s books. His ability to read the game is reminiscent of Rio Ferdinand whilst his physical presence is similar to that of Eric Bailey.

Tuanzebe has already made a handful of first team appearances since making his debut in January 2017 as a substitute in a four-goal victory against Wigan Athletic and he spent the second half of last season on loan with Aston Villa. He played only a scattering of games at Villa Park as they club reached the Championship play-offs but will return to Old Trafford better for the experience.

Mourinho has publicly praised the central defender in the past and appears to rate him highly – he may way emerge as a regular feature of the United team if he is able to capitalise on any opportunities he is provided.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Angel Gomes

Manchester United’s modern history is filled with legendary players that were loved by supporters because of their pace, technical ability and creativity on the ball – in Angel Gomes the club appear to have someone that fits the mould perfectly.

The 17-year-old joined United’s academy at the age of six and has been hugely impressive throughout the formative years of his career.

He became the youngest player in over a decade to make his first team debut when he was used as a substitute in May 2017 at just 16 years and 263 days old in a late-season fixture against Crystal Palace, also becoming the first player born in the 2000’s to play in the Premier League.

Gomes can play anywhere across the three attacking midfield positions with his dribbling and innovative skill highlighting him from his peers. He is a somewhat diminutive figure but has the ability to dictate the pace and flow of a game with his intelligence, vision and impressive range of passing.

Since making his first team debut the 17-year-old has not featured for Mourinho’s side in a competitive fixture but he is being widely tipped to re-emerge and feature in the forthcoming year.

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Everton

Everton should consider Luke Shaw as Kieran Tierney alternative

Everton are moving closer to signing Leighton Baines’ long-term successor.

Liam Thomas

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Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty images

Everton are on the hunt for a long-term replacement for current left back Leighton Baines and have been hotly linked with a move for Celtic’s 21-year-old star Kieran Tierney.

According to The Daily Record, Everton are edging closer to securing Tierney’s services for a £25 million fee, but there has been no deal officially done yet, and Celtic are keen to keep hold of their top prospect.

There is, however, another left back option out there whose talent is undeniable and is an option Marco Silva and the Everton hierarchy should be exploring; Manchester United outcast Luke Shaw.

Shaw’s torrid time at Manchester United has been well documented, and 22-year-old defender hasn’t managed to hold down a regular position in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI since the Portuguese manager took over at Old Trafford in 2016.

It would be silly of Everton not to explore the opportunity of capturing Shaw’s signature.

The England international is only a year older than Tierney and already has a heap of Premier League experience; meaning he could come into the Toffees setup and hit the ground running, unlike Tierney who may need time to settle.

At 22 years of age, Shaw still has his best years ahead of him and this is something Everton are reportedly looking for in their search to replace their long-term left back Leighton Baines.

So why not take a punt on Shaw? If the pacey full-back could reproduce any of the form he showed playing for Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino he’d be an incredible purchase for the Toffees.

Considering his current relationship with Mourinho, Shaw would be the obvious choice of left-back to explore and would likely be available if Everton came calling for him, while prizing Tierney away from Celtic may be more hassle than it’s worth.

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Liverpool

As some Liverpool fans call for his signing, Shinji Kagawa could be an excellent addition

The Japanese international worked under Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.

Mathew Nash

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Japan are out of the World Cup but they gained many a fan with their brave effort against Belgium last night. The Samurai Blue led 2-0 before goals from Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli helped the Red Devils to victory. But there were several incredible performances, including from Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

He was exceptional in the middle of the park, linking the attack to defence masterfully in a performance which reminded people just why Manchester United once splashed out on his signature.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

In fact, his performances at the World Cup overall have been fantastic. So much so, that some of the fans from United’s bitter rivals Liverpool are suggesting they make a move for the player:

The reasons why are clear. Jurgen Klopp is a big fan of Kagawa and first took him to European football with Borussia Dortmund. He got the best out of the player and was a truly massive fan of his. Back in 2013, with Kagawa out of the picture at United, Klopp told The Guardian it broke his heart to see and that it had put ‘tears in his eyes’. He also dubbed Kagawa ‘one of the best players in the world.’

Now, 29-year-old Kagawa is looking back to his best. He was one of Dortmund’s best players last season, before an ankle injury cut things short and under the guidance of his former boss Klopp he could be a star – which would be great to rub in Manchester United’s face.

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