West Ham ‘in first place’ to land Serbian giant Milenkovic

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West Ham appear to have their sights set once again on targeting Fiorentina centre-back Nikola Milenkovic in the upcoming transfer window. 

What’s the latest?

That’s according to Corriere Fiorentino (via Sport Witness), who report that there is interest in the Serbian from England with West Ham in pole position to land the defender. 

The Hammers were on the verge of bringing in the 24-year-old last summer but ended up signing Kurt Zouma.

At that time the 6 foot 4 beast had just one year remaining on his contract but is said to have signed somewhat of a gentleman’s agreement to extend his stay with La Viola until 2023. 

It is said that the Serie A club haven’t given up on extending the £20.7m-rated goliath’s contract once again but it is believed that unless they qualify for European football their efforts will be a ‘waste of time’.

With Milenkovic seeking qualification for Europe, the London Stadium could be a possible destination for the man once dubbed the ‘new Nemanja Vidic’.

The end for former club-record signing

In the summer of 2018, West Ham forked out a then club-record £22m for Issa Diop from Toulouse with Manuel Pelligrini at the helm. 

Standing at less than half an inch smaller than Milenkovic, the Frenchman quickly gained plaudits and was reportedly a target of PSG.

Diop made 65 league appearances in his first two seasons but since David Moyes’ first full season back in charge in 2020/21 his playing time has been halved and quartered.

His playing time dropped to 1,378 minutes last season and he has played just 11 times in the Premier League this term, being on the field for just over 800 minutes.  

Similar to his potential replacement, the 25-year-old was seen as robust and commanding but his performances have deteriorated and decreased playing time has clearly had an effect.

He was most recently came under scrutiny for his horror show in the Hammer’s 3-1 FA Cup exit at the hands of Southampton in February.

Milenkovic’s arrival could well allow for West Ham to part with their once-record signing and given his calibre, not too many supporters would be left disheartened. 

The Serbian ranks second among defenders in Serie A for aerial duels won this season and his towering presence is felt in both boxes as the Belgrade-born has scored 14 times in 163 appearances in Italy.

He is also equally adept as a ball-playing option.

“Milenkovic is better than Vidic with the ball at his feet, and he is much calmer on the field,” Mozzart journalist Dejan Stankovic told ESPN in 2018. “He is the most talented centre-back Serbia have had since Vidic, and they definitely have one thing in common – [they are] both are fearless.”

It is clear that West Ham’s hopes of landing their colossal target hinge on whether or not they can guarantee European football next season.

However, with a current Europa Conference League position and a Europa League quarter-final to look forward to they could well provide Milenkovic with what he wants.

In return, he too could provide the Hammers with another target for Aaron Cresswell to aim for from set-pieces but perhaps most importantly he is the player that West Ham fans thought Diop would turn out to be. 

AND, in other news, West Ham insider delivers big injury update on £31.5m-rated “genius” ahead of Everton clash

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