After narrowly avoiding the drop in their return to the Premier League last season, Bournemouth have strengthened their defensive core by signing Milos Kerkez to a long-term contract, paying £15.5 million and beating out the likes of Lazio and Benfica to the 19-year-old left back. Having conceded 71 goals, the third-worst tally in the Premier League last season, and scored 38 goals, the third-worst tally in the Premier League, Bournemouth will be hoping that the Hungarian international will not only help shore up the defense but also provide immense attacking prowess down the left flank.
The Cherries have been busy in the transfer market, completing a permanent deal for Hamed Junior Traorè, who arrived on loan from Sassuolo in January, whilst also sealing a deal for Justin Kluivert as well as purchasing Romain Faivre before loaning him back to Lorient, where he spent the second half of last season. They have also sacked Gary O’Neil and appointed Spanish manager Andoni Iraola, who’ll be looking to shift Bournemouth’s identity towards an aggressive counter-pressing, heavy metal, high-risk tactical philosophy.
In Iraola’s system, fullbacks are vital in terms of closing down the opposition’s winger and forcing the team to go long, as well as winning the ball back in dangerous areas and launching into transitions. Fran García flourished in this role at Rayo Vallecano, prompting Real Madrid to buy him back for €5 million, and Kerkez has the attributes to excel in this position and offer a more attack-minded profile to Lloyd Kelly.
According to FBRef, Kerkez averages 0.31 tackles in the attacking third placing him in the 83 percentile against other fullbacks. He also averages 2.35 touches in the penalty box ranking in the 91st percentile. These statistics showcase the advanced positions up the pitch Kerkez likes to fill. Kerkez is able to slot into Iraola’s system seamlessly, his attacking qualities are exactly what Iraola is looking for to help his system flourish at Dean Court.
Born in Vrbas, Serbia and Montenegro, he joined Rapid Wien in 2014 and spent five years there before heading to Hungary, beginning his career at ETO FC Győr in Hungary before moving to AC Milan in 2021. While this was a dream move, playing time was scarce behind the likes of Theo Hernandez and Fodé Ballo-Touré — Kerkez realized a move was needed and joined AZ Alkmaar for €1.18 million in January 2022. The summer sale of Owen Wijndal to Ajax would open the door for Kerkez to lock down a starting spot at AZ, who finished fourth in the Eredivisie and reached the UEFA Europa Conference League semifinals.
Kerkez, a pacy, left-footed, 19-year-old Hungarian, is electric on the left side of the pitch. His ability to get forward with darting forward runs or powerful direct dribbles from the left back position makes him an attacking threat to the opposition’s defense. Kerkez loves to take individuals on, hoping to drive down the left side and deliver a ball into the penalty area.
The teenager brings a sense of identity to the left back role, which was previously occupied by Kelly who is a natural left-footed center back as well as Matías Viña who returned to AS Roma following his loan spell. Last season’s backline, with Lloyd Kelly in the left back position, was very defensive, with a lack of an attacking threat from Kelly.
Kelly, an amazing defender averages 4.46 clearances a game, impressing in O’Neil’s Route One style of play but leaving plenty to be desired in the final third, as the defense of Bournemouth played a very low defensive line in the hopes of keeping the opposition in front of them. Kerkez, on the other hand, registered 5 goals and 8 assists in all competitions last season, and he should offer a comfortable upgrade in attack and a more tailor-made profile for Iraola’s style of play.
After bouncing around from Serbia to Austria to Hungary to Italy to the Netherlands, Milos Kerkez now heads to the South Coast of England, where he’ll be looking to make a positive impression at Dean Court under a manager whose style of play seemingly fits him to a tee. At 19, the sky is the limit for the Hungarian international.
By: Jackson Maynard / @JacksonMaynar17
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / AFC Bournemouth