One to Watch – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)


Image from The Daily Star

Overview of Player

Name: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Position: Midfielder
Age: 23
Nationality: Serbian
Club: Lazio
World Cup Influence: 6.5/10

The giant Serb was actually born in Spain but is of Serbian heritage and was brought up in the country whom he plays for. He started his career off at Vojvodina in the Serbian SuperLiga but soon earned himself a move to Belgium, turning out for Genk where he enjoyed a good season scoring 5 in 24 matches before his move to current team Lazio.

SMS has enjoyed somewhat of a breakout year this season, flourishing in Inzaghi’s free-flowing attack minded side has seen him net a handsome 12 goals from midfield, tripling last season’s tally and impressing along the way.

Having been given his international debut back in 2017 by Mladen Krstajic, SMS will be keen to provide him manager’s faith with top performances in Russia and get off the mark for the national team.

Overview of Nation

Serbia haven’t got a rich history of grand World Cup performances but they should have high hopes of progressing out of their group. Drawn alongside Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica is not easy but it would not be crazy to suggest they can finish second, whilst their defence is lacking in quality, Serbia have some very good talent at their disposal in the final third and midfield. If they can work together getting to the round of 16 looks like a definite possibility, if they are to do so, however, they are likely to come up against Germany who could be a mountain too high for Serbia to climb.

Performance of Player in Qualification

SMS played no part in Serbia’s qualification campaign but this is probably due to qualifying being over at the start of his breakthrough year – so it is understandable why he was omitted from selections.

Without him, Serbia still had a very strong performance in their group recording a total of 21 points from 10 games and only suffering one 3-2 loss away to Austria. Serbia have some bright young players in their squad and SMS may be the cream of the crop and will hopefully be able to demonstrate this in Russia this summer.

Why is he one to watch?

All you have to do is type his name into google to see the number and caliber of the teams who are after SMS this summer, he is arguably one of the most complete midfielders in Europe despite only being 23. On average he creates 1.45 chances and completes 1.58 take-ons per game, combined with his 12 goals and 3 assists in Serie A this season you would be forgiven for thinking the Serb is purely an attacking midfielder.

However, defensively his numbers stack up as well, averaging 1.13 tackles and 0.90 interceptions per game is very good for a player whose main duties are not defensive playing in an attacking team. These numbers also stand up good against his Lazio midfield counterparts and show that he is no slouch when it comes to winning the ball back for his team. Towering in at 6’2″, physicality is no issue for Milinkovic-Savic winning 52% of his aerial duels, many of which are against some of the toughest defenders in the world, SMS really does have the complete midfielder set of skills and there is no wonder why he is on many teams wishlist.

If Krstajic is willing to give SMS the freedom his league form suggests he can handle, then Serbia could set up with a midfield similar to that of Lazio’s with Matic holding alongside Milivojevic to allow SMS to find himself higher up the pitch. This will help Serbia tremendously in the final third, both in terms of assists and goals that Sergej will be able to provide. In international games it can often be that spark of brilliance which grabs a team a victory and there is no doubt that SMS can be this inspiration for the Serbs, something that their squad has been truly lacking for a long time.

The stage has been almost perfectly set for Milinkovic-Savic to go and showcase his talents to the world, he still has a lot of learning to do but he’s only 23 and with the technical ability he has, it is unlikely that we’ll be seeing SMS turn out for the sky blue of Lazio in August. Your guess is as good as mine as to where he’ll end up but one thing is for sure, the fee will be enormous.

Video of Player/compilation:

Football Manager Attributes


A high flair stat combined with his strong physicals and passing just show why people have dubbed SMS as the next Paul Pogba (despite only being 2 years younger – crazy I know). He has the ability to be a real force in the Serbian midfield and their fans will be hoping that he can grab the group by the scruff of it’s neck and propel Serbia into the round-of-16.

This isn’t the only ‘One to Watch’, we are releasing a one to watch article for every nation in the World Cup. An hour before each team kick off their first World Cup Group Stage game, we will release that nations one to watch. These can be viewed here – One to Watch for all Nations in World Cup 2018 

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