Who is Man Utd and Dortmund transfer target Nikola Milenkovic?

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 16:43 CEST 3 min read
Who is Man Utd and Dortmund transfer target Nikola Milenkovic?

Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic is set to be part of a transfer tug-of-war this summer, with various elite sides around Europe interested in signing him.

So far, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and now West Ham have been mentioned as possible destinations for the 23-year-old.

Milenkovic started his career with Partizan and was named in La Gazzetta dello Sport’s top 30 young players in the world list in February of 2018.

Just a few months later, he would complete a transfer to Fiorentina for £4.4 million [€5.1m], joining the Viola for the 2017/18 campaign.

The Serbian has excelled in his time in Italy so far, and has became a key man in a Fiorentina side that hasn’t enjoyed much success in recent years.

There’s a general feeling that Milenkovic has probably outgrown Fiorentina, and he has reportedly turned down an extended contract with the club in order to earn a move away.

What kind of player is Milenkovic?

A versatile defender, Milenkovic can play in the centre of the backline or at right-back, which will appeal to Man Utd especially.

Though usually deployed in a four-man defence, Milenkovic is equally as comfortable on the right or the centre of a back three.

In some ways, Milenkovic is the epitome of the modern defender. He is powerful, can pass the ball out from the back, and is blessed with a bit of pace, too, which makes him a formidable barrier for opposition forwards.

As his stature has grown in the game, so has his understanding of it, as his positioning and his ability to read danger are also two of his key assets.

In the 2020/21 Serie A, Milenkovic averages 0.9 tackles won per 90 and 5.8 duels won per 90.

Even though he is a ball-player, averaging a 86% pass completion rate, he can be dominant, too, as highlighted by his prowess in aerial duels as he wins 5.8 per game. The fact he is six-foot-four-inches tall does help with that.

He also makes 1.6 interceptions per 90, and 4.3 ball recoveries.

In 21 starts for Fiorentina in the league this season, he has made a single error which led to a goalscoring opportunity for the opposition.

Though Milenkovic can be rough around the edges, the talent is certainly there, which is why he is a wanted man.

Who will sign Milenkovic?

According to Fabrizio Romano, West Ham have had a bid of €25m rejected by Fiorentina, who are reportedly holding out for around €40m.

However, it is expected that Milenkovic could be available for £30m as his contract with the Serie A outfit expires in the summer of 2022.

La Gazzetta dello Sport recently wrote that he was ‘destined’ for a move to the Premier League in a report which suggested he could be on Liverpool’s shortlist. The Reds were apparently looking into the possibility of bringing him in during the recent January transfer window to ease their defensive crisis, but ended up signing Ben Davies from Preston for a nominal fee and Ozan Kabak on loan with the option to buy from Schalke.

If neither of these signings work out, Liverpool will be in the market for a new central defender again, and could get back in the hunt for Milenkovic.

Man Utd have previously registered an interest in the Fiorentina man, and according to Sky Italia, view him as an ideal partner for Harry Maguire. The Red Devils have actively been trying to sign a right-back recently, too, and so could bring Milenkovic in to play in both positions, though it is more likely they would sign an additional, more attack-minded right-back as an alternative to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Most recently, Sky Germany have reported that Dortmund have made initial contact with Fiorentina about a summer transfer.

The Bundesliga outfit have been frail at the back in 2020/21, having conceded 31 goals in 22 games so far, and will be on the lookout for a defender to bolster their backline for next season.

As of yet, it isn’t clear what formation new head coach Marco Rose will adopt when he takes over, but whether it be a back three or a back four, Milenkovic would fit in seamlessly.

With Mats Hummels now 32-years-old and the likes of Manuel Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou prone to a mistake or two, Milenkovic would present an ideal option to come in and tighten things up.