Premier League trio Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who it is said Lazio may be willing to sell. But the fee required to make such a move happen would be close to a British record.
Milinkovic-Savic has been a regular feature of transfer gossip for a number of years and this is far from the first time that Manchester United in particular have been linked with the player. But no agreement with any club has ever been forthcoming.
The 25-year-old has been with Lazio since 2015 after a single season in Belgium with Genk. He remains under contract until 2024, and had started almost every Serie A game for I Biancocelesti this season to help the club keep pace with Juventus at the top of the table at the time action was suspended.
But there is noise from Lazio that they could be willing to cash-in if the price is right, with sporting director Igli Tare explaining that the player’s wishes are ultimately decisive.
Tare told Sky Sports in Italy, via the Daily Mail: “The player’s desire is crucial. Generally speaking, if a player thinks that their time is up and wants to go somewhere else, it shouldn't be a problem. Eras come to an end. The fact he stayed in Rome for five years is because he has strong links with the city and club.
“When there was some temptation, a bit on our part, a bit on his, we never went all the way. However, things must be assessed at the end of the season.”
Tare gave no indication that Milinkovic-Savic is actually interested in leaving, nor whether Lazio would definitely sell, but the Mail suggests that the news should at least offer some ‘encouragement’ to Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham.
The rumoured price tag is ‘upwards of £80m’, which is not far short of the current £89m Premier League record United paid Juventus for Paul Pogba in the summer of 2016.
But whether any of the three Premier League clubs would have the resources for such a transfer in the current climate is another question entirely.
United’s primary focus in the upcoming transfer window remains Jadon Sancho, although 90min understands they are no longer willing to break the £100m barrier for the Borussia Dortmund winger, despite having previously been prepared to pay up to £120m.
The Old Trafford club also continue to closely pursue Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham, both of whom tick the domestic talent category scouts are primarily seeking.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has said United will remain ‘highly competitive’ as things return to a degree of normalcy, but equally warned that no one, not even those with his club’s wealth and resources, will be fully immune from the financial impact of coronavirus.
“It feels somewhat inappropriate to see speculation about transfers for hundreds of millions in current circumstances,” Woodward said.
“There’s a big disconnect between those stories and the economic realities facing football clubs in general. Clearly, it’s true we are fortunate to be in a strong financial position compared to many clubs, but we are not immune from the financial impact of what this virus is doing.”
Chelsea may have more immediate funds available than many other Premier League clubs, purely as a result of selling Eden Hazard last summer and being prevented from spending it because of the transfer ban imposed upon them at the time.
As for Spurs, any high profile transfer this year will be a very bad look for the club given their intention to make use of the government’s Job Retention Scheme to pay non-playing staff, a decision that was later reversed under much public pressure and scrutiny.
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has argued that any club that has tried to impose wage cuts, specifically on players, should be stopped from spending in the transfer market.
“It doesn’t feel right to me,” he said. “There is no smoke without fire, I would suggest the Premier League stop this and put a transfer embargo in place on all clubs that are trying to reduce their wages. Players are having their wools pulled over their eyes by clubs.”