Juventus have already acquired Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina, but could they also sign defender Nikola Milenkovic?
Links to Fiorentina center back Nikola Milenkovic are nothing new for the Bianconeri, as Juventus have been linked to the 23-year-old before. And now, they have reportedly rejoined Inter and AC Milan with interest in the Serbian defender.
Juve have about five quality center backs. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are still effective when healthy, though the concerns here are that they are rarely healthy and are getting older. In Bonucci’s case, the player is also becoming quite prone to mistakes. Juve’s best center backs are young stars Matthijs de Ligt and Merih Demiral, who can be elite players for years to come. And finally, Danilo has been excellent in 2020-2021 at center back in Andrea Pirlo’s back three, standing out as the surprise of the season for the Bianconeri.
Over the long term, Juve will have to replace Chiellini and Bonucci. The Bianconeri are at their best when they have three great center backs. Aside from Chiellini and Bonucci, they may only have two in Demiral and de Ligt if they feel they cannot rely on Danilo for years to come at the position.
In that case, it’s worth exploring other young center backs, though the position does not need to be a priority for Juventus by any means. Demiral and de Ligt can be their main stars.
Milenkovic is one of the most highly-regarded young center backs in Serie A, which is precisely why he’s consistently been linked to the three biggest clubs in Italian football.
So far this season, Milenkovic has a goal and an assist with a pass completion percentage of nearly 90 percent, according to WhoScored.com.
Defensively, he’s been a stalwart for Fiorentina. In Serie A, Milenkovic has 2.0 tackles per game, 1.9 interceptions per game, 3.4 clearances per game, 1.4 blocks per game, and 3.0 aerial duels per game.
Those are impressive numbers across the board from the young center back, who has significantly improved each of those numbers from his decent 2018-2019 campaign. If those numbers hold up over the course of the full season, Milenkovic will have enhanced his reputation from “rising star” to “star”.
He even had five goals last season, in case the opportunity to have three center backs with goal-scoring upside appeals to Juve, too. With his capability on set pieces, toughness, strength in the air, and fear factor for forwards trying to dribble against him, Milenkovic has all the tools Juventus value in center backs.
The 23-year-old isn’t cheap, but he clearly has the quality necessary to develop into the kind of player who can start regularly at a club of Juve’s stature. He is absolutely a player worth monitoring closely over the rest of the 2020-2021 season.
Should Juventus sign him? That’s a complicated question, because Juve have bigger needs. They still need another wing back and midfielder, particularly when it comes to creative influence. But another center back should be on Pirlo’s wishlist, especially with the injuries mounting again for Bonucci and Chiellini. Ideally, both will be replaced, sooner rather than later.
Milenkovic is an intriguing, productive player who is currently outplaying all of Juve’s center backs besides Danilo and Demiral (de Ligt is only just returning from injury). With the second-most blocks per game in Serie A, Milenkovic is the kind of team-first, high-upside defender Juve must go after.