Age: 23 (12.10.1997)
Position: CB / RB
Goals & Assists: 3 ⚽️ 1 🎯
Milenković standing at 6ft 5 inches is an imposing figure for Fiorentina & a key member of their defence since joining back in 2017, making 121 Serie A appearances to date. Fiorentina has suffered a season of inconsistency which has seen them embroiled in a relegation battle for much of the season before eventually pulling away to finish 13th & 6 points clear of 18th place Benevento. The season relied heavily on the performances of leading goal scorer Dušan Vlahović (21 goals) & Milenković (3rd highest scorer) to guide them through a tough season which saw Fiorentina appoint Cesare Prandelli in November to arrest the decline in results. Prandelli has since resigned after securing Serie A safety citing “a darkness has grown” which has lead him to feel unable to provide 100% to the role & Fiorentina.
Milenković’s contract is within its final year which makes him an intriguing option for any clubs looking for a commanding defender who is tactically flexible, & able to operate in multiple positions. Predominately Milenković plays on the right side of a 3 man defence for Fiorentina, but is comfortable across each of the positions as he has demonstrated across the course of this season. Milenković offers a modern style CB who is comfortable in possession utilising his ball playing ability to ensure Fiorentina can build patiently from the back & move through the phases. As per the nature of the modern RCB/LCB Milenković is confident moving forward into space breaking out from the defensive line to provide midfield overloads or making both underlapping & overlapping runs in attack.
Defending Set Pieces
At set pieces, Milenković is a defensive asset with his height giving him a size advantage in aerial duels. He also has the ability to leap strongly clearing the ground even whilst under pressure to exert his presence on the attacker in challenges. In addition to his quality aerially which he regularly dominates, he demonstrates strong positional sense & comfortable in both a zonal or man marking system to which he excels in the latter. This is due to him being able to control the attacker, maintaining a touch tight marking style, anticipating their movements & only leaving his opponent to attack the delivery into the area.
Against Lazio, Milenković matched up primarily against fellow CB Francesco Acerbi (#33) at corners & utilised a man marking style to neutralise the threat of the attacker. As Lazio prepares for an out swinging corner from the right hand side Milenković positions himself goalside of #33 & partially side on so he can change direction quickly if necessary. The delivery is placed centrally to the edge of the six yard area with #33 advancing to meet the delivery but is denied the opportunity to connect by Milenković. During the delivery, Milenković uses his upper body strength to control #33 placing his arm out to impede a clear run towards goal. Milenković as he turns towards his goal positions himself successfully ahead of #33 to ensure that he is able to leap high under little pressure, once again using his arm to leverage the attacker away from the ball, before he flicks the ball away from danger.
Milenković has good concentration levels when defending set pieces remaining focused on the attacker in additional phases of play & aware of the potential dangers. In the example below Napoli have a corner from the left hand side to be taken by Insigne (#24) & Milenković is man marking at the back post area. Napoli takes a quick short corner with Zieliński (#20) arriving at the edge of the area quickly drawing two Fiorentina players out of position to pressure the attack. As the ball arrives to feet #20 plays a one time pass back to #24 to deliver. At the point of the short corner falling to the feet of #20, Milenković is man marking Rrhmani (#33) at the far post, until he observes the shape of #24 body as he approaches the ball & anticipates the placement of the delivery. As #24 is about to meet the ball & deliver, Milenković quickly changes his body position & sprints to the far post area of the 6 yard box to deal anticipating the location of the delivery. Milenković recognised that fellow Fiorentina defender was struggling to block the movement of Osimhen (#9) & utilised quick decision making to only arrive unopposed aerially. By making the split second decision to leave #33 unmarked Milenković was able to not only remove the immediate danger with a lobbing header away from the advancing Napoli attackers, he additionally cleared over unmarked #33 who held his far post position. This, in turn, ensured the effective covering of his teammate but more importantly allowed Fiorentina to step up & pressure #33 as he looked to retrieve the ball, forcing a rash delivery back into the area which was cleared on the right hand side of the defence.
In all Milenković’s high level of concentration along with his aerial prowess & strengths in man marking ensures Fiorentina have a dominant presence in the area to combat against the opposition’s attacking set pieces.
Attacking Set Pieces
Attacking set pieces see Fiorentina actively target Milenković who utilises good movement & strength to find spaces in the area in which to attack the delivery. His awareness of when to move against the defenders makes him a big threat as he can lose his marker or positioning himself so that he is difficult to challenge. The attributes he demonstrates in defensive set pieces such as concentration, anticipation, strength & aerial ability are all well utilised by Milenković when attacking the opposition goal.
Against Napoli, Fiorentina takes a short free kick in the left flank with Milenković holding a position outside of the area away from any of the Napoli defence who hold a defensive line against the edge of the 18 yard area. Milenković waits for that the Napoli defence to drop further into the area as they set to deal with the in swinging delivery from the inside left channel. By holding his movement forward Milenković demonstrates great spatial awareness understanding that as Napoli drop this provides him with space to move onto the delivery unmarked. His decision to initially hold his position on the edge of the area ensured that he was able to gain forward momentum & enable a strong leap against the defenders. Unfortunately, the delivery into the area is played slightly behind Milenković, who has to backtrack before connecting with a looping header which the Goalkeeper gathers. Milenković smart movement provided him with an advantage against the Napoli defence, but the advantage was lost making it difficult for him to cause a threat to goal once he won the aerial duel.
In the example against Juventus (below) Milenković highlights his strength & aerial ability in a contested duel as well as demonstrating once again his clever movement to gain an advantage. As the out swinging corner from the right hand side is about to be taken Milenković makes his move against his marker who is looking to block his progress into the area. Milenković uses the block to his advantage by pushing away from his marker before sprinting towards a far post position before stopping sharply & driving inside towards the penalty spot area to make contact with the ball. Milenković’s movement left the defender unbalanced, unable to change his direction quickly as to get in front of him to challenge strongly in the aerial duel. Instead, Milenković ensured the defender struggled as he utilised his upper body strength fending off a significant challenge which provided the opportunity for a powerful header towards goal.
A particular strength Milenković demonstrates at set pieces is his concentration levels during additional phases of play. As the play develops he maintains his concentration & consistently observes his position to gain space in the area. His ability to do so ensures that he can react to opportunities such as a ricochet resulting in a loose ball, which has resulting in 2 goals this season. Against Udinese, all his qualities at attacking set pieces were evident, as Fiorentina set to attack a free kick from the left flank Milenković lines up in the far post area. Once Biraghi (#3) starts his run to the ball Milenković makes a smart step back towards the edge of the area drawing his marker in the same direction, then immediately sprints towards the near post. His marker is left off balance, struggles to turn & Milenković can get free of his marker easily. Whilst the delivery at the near post is cut out it is only flicked as far as Castrovilli (#10), who has time to control the ball before crossing to the back post. Milenković is aware of the Udinese defence moving across the area & holds his position at the far post. As the cross from #10 is delivered to the far post Milenković is unmarked & powers a header into the net past the Goalkeeper.
Milenković’s ability to find space at set pieces & to challenge strongly in duels would be an asset in a team with an emphasis on making the most of set plays. His smart movement & concentration during additional phases could bring further scoring opportunities with consistently good delivery into the area.
Build up Style
Fiorentina look to build up play from the defence which requires players that are comfortable in possession & able to remain calm under pressure. Milenković suits the style as he is a proficient passer of the ball, albeit not entirely expansive. His technically ability ensures he is comfortable to step out of the defensive line with the ball & bring into midfield creating an overload on the opposition. When moving forward with the ball Milenković will utilise his strength to fend off an opponent over quick feet, & look to use the ball to create space with “pass & move” plays. Milenković passing is largely conservative utilising shorter passes into the deep lying Central Midfielder or right sided wing back, but is very precise & deliberate. Although, his passing style is conservative with a number of lateral passes Milenković does look to move the ball forward when in possession. His ability to remain calm in possession enable him to be press resistant & ensures under pressure he can find a teammate, as not rushed into a rash pass.
An example of his more expansive passing can be found against Lazio where at the restart Pezzella plays to Milenković in the LCB position. As the ball is travelling Milenković reviews where his teammates & opposition are so that he is able to get a picture of the game to help his decision making in possession. Once in possession Milenković is aware that Correa (#11) is moving forward to press him & Lazzari (#29) stepping up to be in a position to pressure Fiorentina #3. As #11 moves in at pace to pressure Milenković he’s aware of the space in the left hand channel created by #29 stepping forward. Milenković plays at pace a pass between two Lazio players #29 & Milinković-Savić (#21) into the feet of Castrovilli (#10). The pass catches Lazio defence out of position & off guard with Lazio RCB Marušić (#77) initially moving to intercept before having to sprint across to pressure #10. The pass provided Fiorentina with an opportunity to turn the Lazio defence, taking advantage of space & provide the foundation to build an attack.
Milenković has the ability to play passes between the lines & drive Fiorentina forward with good effect as he steps forward from the defensive line. Against Napoli he receives a pass from deep lying Pulgar (#78) into space as he steps forward into a more advanced position. Milenković could play a simple pass into the Right Wing Back Venuti (#23) then drop back into the defensive line, but decides to advance play. Milenković is aware that Vlahović (#9) is initially in an offside position but is getting free of his marker. This triggers Milenković to move diagonally into space to maintain a passing lane into #9, before pass through the Napoli midfield to #9. Unfortunately, for Fiorentina a promising attack is scuppered by a poor pass from #9 into the unmarked advancing #23 in the right hand channel
Milenkovic ability in possession allows him to be proficient in multiple styles & would be an asset in a team with a preference for ball retention. Should he utilise more expansive passing regularly he could break the lines of defence much more & provide a deeper lying playmaker. His composure under pressure & his press resistance adds a calm figure to a defence where an emphasis of play out from the back is encouraged.
Milenković is a strong & aggressive defender who will look to press early getting tight to his opponent in an attempt to regain possession. His style brings largely positive results as he’s strong in his duels & committed when tackling preventing attacks from developing & regaining possession. The disadvantage of his play is that it can lead to a number of free kicks being awarded as he exerts his physicality upon the opposition with too much force. That being said Milenković physicality is an asset in his role, where he also demonstrates very good positioning, aerial ability, awareness & marking. Milenković’s aerial ability is particularly impressive with him dominant in this area of his game. Where Milenković stands out is in his positioning & anticipation of the danger in developing attacks. This was none more so evident than against Lazio where he produced vital defensive contributions to prevent clear scoring opportunities.
As per the example below, Correa (#11) can find space in the centre of the Fiorentina half, time to turn & move towards the Fiorentina defence. Milenković is aware of the positioning of Immobile (#17) who has found space between the CB & LCB position. As #11 advances he attempts a through ball into the path of #17 with Milenković sprinting across to be in a position to pressure/cover the developing situation. As the ball falls into #17’s path Milenković anticipates based on body shape that a first time shot is coming correctly & slides across the to block. The awareness & speed at which he moves across to prevent #17’s shot from having enough power or direction to cause the Fiorentina goal any issues.
Whilst Milenković has good anticipation & positioning some lapses can lead him to try & cut out a pass or movement too soon. The resulting decision can leave him vulnerable or out of position providing the attack with rare opportunities to exploit. In the example, Milenković has a good starting position aware that a pass in #11 is unlikely due to him covered by Castrovilli (#10), & starts to drop deeper anticipating a pass in behind the defence. Ribery (#7) fails to press Marušić (#77), allowing him time to play a pass over the defensive line for #17 of Lazio to chase. Initially, Milenković uses his strength & pace well to prevent #17 from getting ahead of him but misjudges the bounce of the ball. His misjudgement leaves him out of position & #17 free of a marker but fortunately for Fiorentina, #11 wasn’t close enough to capitalise on the cutback.
Milenković’s vigilance in defensive situations enables him to react quickly as he is consistently accessing the state of play. This level of awareness & concentration ensures he can map the positions of the opponents as well as his teammates. As Luis Alberto (#10) drives forward into the final third Milenković positions himself in line with the edge of the “D” so he can cut out a central through ball. As the ball breaks free Milenković aware of the threat posed by #17 changes direction quickly to sprint for the loose ball before decisively making a sliding clearance. The decision to commit to the sliding clearance removed the danger for the defence & prevent the quickly approaching #17 from taking advantage in the area.
With Milenković in the final year of his contract, he is attracting a lot of attention & seems very much suited to the physical demands of the English Premier League (EPL). He is tactically flexible & able to operate in either a back 3/4 as well as an auxiliary Right Back if required. He is technically strong & provides accurate measure passing in defence enabling a high level of ball retention playing from the back. His physical & mental attributes would provide him with an easier transition into the EPL, where his aerial ability, strength & positioning provide a solid base to deal with the English game.
Milenković to excel at an elite would likely need to improve the expansiveness of this passing game to incorporate more forward passing. Additionally, would be called upon to try & pass through the lines more during periods of sustained possession too. His physical strength would enable him to step out of defence comfortably under pressure too & provide when required overloads centrally in midfield before utilising his accurate passing. He would provide any team with a threat at attacking set pieces & a powerful asset when defending them too. All in all Milenković is a dominant defender with high levels of concentration & measured aggression which would suit a move to the EPL.