Roma have completed the signing of Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Ante Coric on a five-year deal.
The Croatia international joins the Giallorossi until June 2023 for an initial €6 million (Dh25.6m) fee with a 10-per-cent selling on fee due – or €2m (Dh8.5m), whichever is greater – to the Croatian champions if he leaves before the end of June 2020.
He told asroma.com: “I am very pleased to be at Roma, one of the biggest European clubs.
“I have given everything to reach this level, and I cannot wait for the chance to start showing what I am capable of.”
The 21-year-old made his Dinamo debut in 2014 and went on to make almost 150 first-team appearances for the club and contributed 23 goals.
His trophy count with the Croatian outfit includes four league titles and three Croatian Cup successes.
Roma’s sporting director Monchi said: “We are delighted to welcome Ante Coric to the club. I believe that, with his signing, we have secured one of the emerging talents of European football.
“I hope that, with hard work from the player and the guidance of the coach, that talent can develop even further – and we can enjoy its quality for a long time.”
The 28-year-old’s transfer fee and wages will be huge, especially with the January addition of – struggling – Chile superstar Alexis Sanchez in mind.
But manager Jose Mourinho is sure to see this as an exciting problem to solve.
Here, we run through three different way the Premier League runners-up could line-up with the two-goal Champions League final hero in situ using their current squad.
Mourinho has not been adverse to utilising a three-man defence since he came to power in 2016.
The accommodation of Sanchez would be a real tactical issue, but the rest of the XI looks exciting.
Bale made 12 appearances through the middle for Madrid in last season’s 4-4-2/4-3-1-2 formation utilised by Zinedine Zidane, scoring five times in either the Champions League or La Liga.
This could make him an easy fit alongside Belgium target man Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford.
France’s Paul Pogba and Serbia’s Nemanja Matic are obvious picks in the middie. The decision comes with how to play Sanchez.
If you want to stick with dedicated wing-backs in Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia and England’s Ashley Young, Spanish centre midfielder Ander Herrera is the odd man out.
After flitting between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, Mourinho appeared to settle on the latter system at the back end of the campaign.
On paper, this looks like the most apt way to utilise United’s current resources.
Bale would be placed on the right flank and Sanchez on the left, allowing both inverted wingers to cut inside to shoot on their favoured feet – Mourinho will hope to devastating effect.
This is exemplified by the fact the former-mentioned Wales forward scored six times in seven Champions League or La Liga matches in 2017/18 when picked in this fashion.
An added benefit is the fact Pogba can be given free reign from his favoured spot on the left of centre midfield. With Bale, Lukaku and Sanchez to aim for, the ex-Juventus man would hope to improve on his tally of 10 Premier League assists in 2017/18.
Against stronger opposition, Herrera would be the obvious man to add some defensive support from midfield. When goals are required, England link man Jesse Lingard would increase the side’s attacking threat.
Pogba won’t be happy, but this looks like an electric United team.
Under another Portuguese in Andre Villas-Boas during 2012/13, Bale grew into a superstar using this formation.
This system saw the Wales forward regularly move away from his original left-wing role and into the middle. A return of 26 goals in 44 matches during that season points to its effectiveness.
With current United personnel in mind, Bale would be flanked by Lingard on the right and Sanchez on the left. This trio would be tasked with feeding Lukaku as the sole No9.
The obvious downside to this system is the fact Pogba’s reported frustration at Old Trafford stems from being asked to play deeper alongside defensive midfielder Matic.
With such a top-heavy attack, the former holder of the world-record transfer fee could be in for more lean times.
Nicknamed ‘Mr 100 million’ by Gazzetta dello Sport and chased by the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Arsenal, there are few players who will cause more transfer rumours in the weeks ahead.
But what makes the 23-year-old such a coveted player?
Using statistics from whoscored.com, we’ve attempted to deduce just what makes him so special.
STYLE OF PLAY
If you’ve got a deep bank account and desire to add an all-round-threat to your midfield, then Milinkovic-Savic is the premium addition to make.
He helped make head coach Simone Inzaghi’s preferred 3-5-1-1 formation come to life. Summer addition Lucas Leiva’s presence in defensive midfield provided freedom for the €18 million (Dh76.8m) August 2015 signing from Belgium’s Genk, along with the three-man defence behind the engine room.
Allied with playmaker Luis Alberto’s fellow breakout campaign, this ensured Lazio could stake a claim to having Italy’s finest midfield.
A quantum leap was taken by Milinkovic-Savic last term. From making seven assists and scoring four goals in 34 Serie A appearances during 2016/17, this figure jumped to 12 goals and three assists from 35 run-outs.
This worked out at a goal or assist every 190 minutes in 2017/18, compared to 2016/17’s 249 minutes.
These statistics are made more impressive by the fact that from 43 matches in the top flight and Europa League, 34 came on the left side of centre midfield and only four from attacking midfield (with five as a substitute).
12 - Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has scored 12 goals, more than any other midfielder in the current Serie A campaign. Talent. pic.twitter.com/jhb1fvRlJG— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 13, 2018
Managers across the world are always searching for a regular supply of goals from midfield.
In this regard, Milinkovic-Savic was almost without compare in Europe’s big-five leagues last term.
His 12-goal tally in Serie A made him the competition’s joint-ninth highest scorer. Every player who bettered this had an average starting position higher up the pitch.
Looking at fellow centre midfielders, countryman Luka Milivojevic struck 10 times for Crystal Palace. But this included seven penalty-kicks and one free-kick.
For a player who stands 1.91 metres tall, it is no surprise to learn that Milinkovic-Savic dominates aerially. His average of 2.9 headers won per Serie A match was the joint-ninth highest in the competition.
There was no lack of involvement when Lazio were in possession. An average of 50 passes per match was the third highest for the Rome outfit.
His average of 0.3 through balls per game was only bettered by Alberto’s 0.4.
When you are potentially paying up to €150m (Dh640.1m) for Milinkovic-Savic’s signature, availability is a key concern. His 2,850 Serie A minutes was only bettered by three team-mates, while Netherlands centre-back Stefan de Vrij (36) and former Brazil anchorman Leiva (35) were the only outfield players to improve on his 33 starts for the blue residents of Stadio Olimpico.
9 - Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is the youngest midfielder to have scored at least nine goals in Top-5 european leagues 2017/18. Youth. #SassuoloLazio— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 25, 2018
Milinkovic-Savic is a box-to-box midfielder who gets through more than his fair share of defensive duties (averaging a respectable 1.6 tackles per 2017/18 Serie A match).
But with this diligence to do the dirty work comes a down side. His average of 1.7 fouls per league match last term was the highest at Lazio by some distance – Bosnia left wing-back Senad Lulic was second with 1.3.
Only 18 players in the whole of Serie A had a higher average.
A lack of precision when in possession is also apparent.
His pass-success rate in Italy’s top flight was 79.9 per cent. A total of 15 Lazio team-mates could better this figure.
3 - Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's last 3 Serie A goals were headed and assisted by a cross. Option. #TorinoLazio— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 29, 2018
The positives far outweigh the negatives when it comes to assessing Milinkovic-Savic’s worth.
Aged just 23-years old, the few inadequacies in his game could soon be ironed out with greater experience and dedicated work on the training pitch.
Looking at his two leading suitors, no United centre midfielder came close to his 12-goal tally – France’s Paul Pogba scored half this amount in the Premier League.
At PSG, stylish Italy centre midfielder Marco Verratti’s average key passes of 1.3 per Ligue 1 game was inferior to Milinkovic-Savic’s 1.5.
Throughout Milinkovic-Savic’s time in Italy, his scoring tally has steadily increased – two in 2015/16, four in 2016/17 and 12 in 2017/18.
The thought of this number growing in the seasons to come will convince sides to back an emerging talent without compare.