Position(s): CM, AM, SS
Preferred Foot: Left
Strengths: shot volume, vision, distance shooting, passing range, creativity
Areas for Development: defensive activity, defensive awareness
After a season that would see them reach the Champions League Final, finish third under Simone Inzaghi, and win a second-straight Coppa Italia title, Inter Milan have reinforced their squad in the summer transfer window, replacing Romelu Lukaku with Marcus Thuram, Marcelo Brozović with Davide Frattesi, and André Onana with Yann Sommer. Other players like Yann Aurel Bisseck, Juan Cuadrado, Alexis Sánchez and Benjamin Pavard have arrived, but despite a lengthy transfer saga, one player whose Inter move failed to materialize was Lazar Samardžić, with the Nerazzurri turning to Ajax veteran Donny van de Beek on a free transfer.
Born in Berlin, Samardžić emerged as a highly rated talent at the youth level for Germany and Hertha Berlin, departing Hertha after 11 years and joining RB Leipzig, where he would last just one season. Desperate for playing time after making just nine appearances in 2020/21, Samardžić left Germany for the first time in his life and joined Udinese at the age of 19, making 22 appearances as the Zebrette finished 12th.
The following season would see him emerge as a starter under Andrea Sottil as well as switch over to the Serbian national team and make his debut in March, scoring five goals and four assists in 37 appearances as Udinese once again secured a comfortable midtable finish. Over the past seven seasons, they have finished 13th, 14th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 12th and 12th, and after a summer that saw them lose various key players like Beto, Roberto Pereyra, Destiny Udogie and Rodrigo Becão, they’ll be counting on Samardžić as they look to avoid a costly relegation battle.
Samardžić comes to life in the final third. The half-spaces and zone 14 are where he’s most dangerous. He has great attacking awareness as he’s able to scan to find spaces to create chances for teammates, but also create space for himself to shoot via his top agility and flair. He has great distance shooting with a high shot volume (2.44 shots per 90). Being able to shoot on his weak foot comes naturally to Samardžić, which in turn means he’s less predictable as he can turn either way and unleash a top-quality shot.
His passing ability is excellent as well, making him one of the finest young attacking midfielders in all of Europe. He ranks high in key passes with 2.34 per 90 (top 3%) mainly due to his role, allowing for him to have some attacking freedom and to be around the half-spaces, creating goal-scoring chances.
The Serbian’s vision is what makes his attacking perception so clear. He is able to see and execute passes through the lines to break through the opponent’s defensive structure, whilst his set-piece delivery is also superb with 5.75 dead ball passes per 90. However, one area where he needs improvement is his ability to anticipate & read the game defensively. His defensive awareness means he’s not always in the best position to be able to make good tackles, hence why he only registers 0.54 interceptions per 90.
Samardžić is effective in all phases and is best suited to playing as an 8, particularly on the right side of a midfield trio because he loves to float around the right half-space where he can cut in on his left and invade the opponents box with clever passes into the box. He can also operate as a #10 or even as a second striker, boasting composure in the final third and superb finishing ability. If Samardžić can develop his anticipation and defensive awareness, he will put himself in prime position to compete with the likes of Sergej Milinković-Savić, Ivan Ilić, Nemanja Maksimović and Dušan Tadić as he looks to win a starting spot for the Serbia national team.
At 21 years old, there are still several areas of his game that need to be ironed out, but it’s no coincidence why Inter and several other clubs have eyed him as a potential midfield reinforcement. If he can build on his promising 2022/23 campaign, it will only be a matter of time before Samardžić follows in the footsteps of Alexis Sánchez, Nahuel Molina, Alex Meret, Rodrigo de Paul and more and becomes the latest Udinese player to take his talents to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto