David Moyes can solve West Ham’s defensive woes by reviving efforts to sign Fiorentina’s “fearless” enforcer Nikola Milenkovic in January.
What’s the word?
According to Irons insider ExWHUemployee, while speaking on the West Ham Way Podcast, the east London outfit could strive to make another approach to sign Milenkovic in the New Year after falling short in efforts this summer.
Moyes scoured the market for defensive upgrades following the conclusion of the extended 2019/20 campaign, ultimately signing Watford’s Craig Dawson on loan in a deal club figures were reluctant to commit to as they see the 30-year-old as a stop-gap solution.
Milenkovic would likely have been a long-term option to fix a backline that allowed 62 goals in 38 Premier League games last season, with reports by the Daily Mail claiming a £20million offer was tabled in September for the towering 6 ft 5 enforcer previously tracked by Manchester United.
The offer fell short of Fiorentina’s rumoured €35m (£31.6m) valuation, as the Serie A side held firm amid rival interest from Juventus, knowing Milenkovic would warrant a lofty fee through his technical ability and versatility to also play at right-back.
ExWHUemployee does not believe the Hammers’ interest in Milenkovic has ended, noting that his ongoing contract standoff could open the door for a renewed approach.
“A centre-back who we looked at in the summer window was Nikola Milenkovic at Fiorentina,” he said. “He’s refusing to sign a new contract at the moment. And it could be the case that we could go back in for him in January. This is not confirmed at the moment though.”
Characteristics of a beast
West Ham stepping back into the ring in order to fight for Milenkovic’s services in January would certainly offer Moyes the top-draw defensive talent the London Stadium natives sought this summer, providing they can reach a compromise with Fiorentina.
The Serie A side are not yet under intense pressure to sell the 23-year-old as Milenkovic is under contract until 2022, though the 23-cap Serbia international is not currently considering penning new terms at the Artemio Franchi Stadium as he dreams of a move to one of Italy’s elite sides or of a move abroad, per Calciomercato.it.
Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid are each claimed to have come forward with determination and conviction to sign Milenkovic in the summer, too, which has sparked Fiorentina to consider lowering their asking price to avoid the defender walking away for free.
West Ham stepping in before a rival suitor can emerge in January would see the London Stadium natives snap up someone who former FK Partizan manager Ivan Tomic hailed during his time in charge of the Belgrade outfit, and ensured Milenkovic penned his first professional contract in 2015.
“Milenkovic has [the] physical characteristics of a beast,” Tomic said, via quotes by Mozzart Sport. “He reads the game well, plays the ball and should have a great career ahead of him.”
Mozzart journalist Dejan Stankovic also once told ESPN of how Milenkovic’s nature has seen him compared with Manchester United great Nemanja Vidic, but is in some regards better than the five-time Premier League winner.
“Milenkovic is better than Vidic with the ball at his feet, and he is much calmer on the field,” he said.
It remains to be seen how willing Fiorentina are in lowering Milenkovic’s valuation, and whether or not West Ham return with renewed interest in the towering enforcer who has started all six of his Serie A appearances this term.
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