According to a reliable West Ham United ITK, ExWHUemployee, West Ham are 'in talks' with ACF Fiorentina for Nikola Milenkovic. Furthermore, he went on to claim that Fiorentina have 'lowered their asking price' for the Serbian defender.
Additionally, a reliable Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims that now the fee could be as low as '€15m', which is a considerably low fee for a player of his calibre. It's because his contract runs out next year, as well as Fiorentina being in no position to take risks from a financial viewpoint.
With Viola looking to sell the defender to free up some funds, it is the perfect opportunity for West Ham to purchase him before bigger clubs join the queue.
In recent years, the Serbian has been linked to Bayern Munich, Manchester City and in particular Manchester United, who had serious interest in the Serbian when Jose Mourinho was at the helm.
At such a low price, this is the opportunity for the Hammers to snap up their no.1 defensive target.
Nikola Milenkovic is a monster in the air. Of the 297 players across Europe's top five leagues that attempted 100+ aerial duels last season, Milenkovic had the best success rate (77.1%). His threat in the air is a part of his game which would be perfect for David Moyes side. With the Hammers being the best side offensively from corners in 2020/21 Premier League season whilst also being close to immaculate when defending them.
Having Milenkovic will be perfect for the Hammers as it would allow them to maximise their ability further in this department.
In addition to his prowess in the air, Milenkovic was statically the best tackler in Serie A too in the 2020/21 season. The Serbian international completed a remarkable 71.1% of tackles he attempted, showing that the timing of his tackling is perfect, an attribute that is crucial when stopping opposition counter-attacks.
An attribute that West Ham lack in the centre back department is calmness on the ball, especially when passing out from the back.
Craig Dawson, being an old school centre half, is anything but perfect when in possession. Whilst Angelo Ogbonna is far from poor on the ball, he completed 64.9% of his long balls per90 in the Premier League, whilst Milenkovic completes a healthy 78.1% of his.
At Fiorentina, Milenkovic plays at the right of a back three, with West Ham known to be admirers of using the 3-4-3/5-2-3 system. When wing-back Arthur Masuaku is fit, having a defender with the fluidity to play in a generic back four as well as a five-back system comfortably would allow the Hammers to change the system without it affecting their main defensive men.
Him or Kurt Zouma?
The question numerous readers and West Ham fans alike will be asking is, 'why Milenkovic over Kurt Zouma?'
Firstly, the Serbian is both younger and cheaper, Nikola Milenkovic is 23 years old and as previously mentioned his fee is around 15 million euros, whilst according to Telegraph Football, West Ham will need to 'come up with a deal worth 25m if they want to prize Zouma away this summer.'
Zouma, at 26, is three years Milenkovic senior, yet his game has no real signs of serious improvement since he joined Everton on loan in 2018.
The tackle success rate stat mentioned previously highlights how good Milenkovic is when defending one on one too, where as although Zouma is good when defending in these scenarios, his 62.5% tackle success rate in 20/21 is bettered by Milenkovic, despite Zouma entering his prime.
Their underlying defensive numbers in other regards are intriguing, Milenkovic completed 30 interceptions in 34 games last season whilst Zouma completed 26 in 24. Although this stat favours Zouma, I think due to Milenkovic's timing as to when to complete a defensive action being almost perfect, his numbers in this regard can be deceiving.
He doesn't step out the defensive line as much, especially because he plays at the right of a back three, whilst the majority of Zouma's starts came in a four back system deployed by Frank Lampard.
Finally, Milenkovic is a leader, something which Zouma hasn't displayed throughout his career. Despite being just 23, Milenkovic has already captain Fiorentina on occasions.
At a cheaper price, younger age, as well as boasting many attributes Zouma is inferior in. I believe Milenkovic would be the perfect centre back for what West Ham are looking for and require. Attribute wise as mentioned, he ticks all boxes. Now it's up to David Sullivan to make the dream become a reality.