Did Man United and the rest of Europe’s elite dodge a very expensive bullet?
The stock of Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has plummeted this season following a string of underwhelming performances.
As recently as seven months ago the Serbian was the most coveted prospect in European football but is now being driven out of Rome by disgruntled supporters.
Lazio have enjoyed one of their best starts to a Serie A season and find themselves 4th in Italy’s top flight, but Milinkovic-Savic has had little impact while at the same time being heavily involved.
The 23-year-old has featured in all but one of Le Aquile’s league games this season and also appeared in the majority of their Europa League outings.
Consistent runs in the side are not the problem, consistent performances are however.
The towering Serb has just three goals and one assist to show for his efforts so far this campaign, a far cry from the colossal numbers he has registered in recent years.
Last season was a particularly fruitful one for Milinkovic-Savic in which he contributed 14 goals and eight assists in all competitions to help Lazio to 5th in Serie A.
The box-to-box midfielder spent much of the summer shrouded in transfers rumours and Man United seemed to be his most likely destination if the rumours were to be believed.
He remained a wanted man even after an underwhelming World Cup and was pursued right up until the transfer window slammed shut.
AC Milan lodged a monumental offer for the player just hours before the window closed and Lazio would have signed off on the deal had they found a replacement in time.
Perhaps most telling of all is just how far Milinkovic-Savic has fallen out of favour with the Biancocelesti supporters in recent months.
The fans who previously adored him turned on their former talisman as recently as October when they displayed a banner at the Stadio Olimpico describing him and teammate Luis Alberto as ‘fake talents out for money.’
Their ill-feeling towards the player seldom improved and in December he was subjected to racist taunts after supporters unfurled a banner stating ‘Milinkovic zingaro’ which translates to ‘Milinkovic gipsy.’
Despite his immaculate 2017/18 campaign, the midfielder was recently beaten to the Lazio Player of the Year award by Liverpool outcast Lucas Leiva.
A Twitter poll gave supporters the choice between the Serb, Lucas and Circo Immobile for the award, a vote which the Brazilian steamrolled and ended in humiliation for Milinkovic-Savic.
The midfielder finished someway back in third place and missed out on the individual prize for which he was the clear favourite just a few months ago.
Conspiracy theorists will tell you that Milinkovic-Savic is deliberately playing poorly to earn himself a move away from Rome, possibly as early as this January window.
The flip side of that however is that with every poor performance, the Serb further distances himself from being an enticing prospect for any of Europe’s elite clubs.
On his current form Milinkovic-Savic will likely be shown the exit door at Lazio but perhaps not for a club of the stature he was being touted for last season.
It’s one of football’s most surprising fall from grace stories.
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