Inter Milan appeared to be on the verge of signing Serbian midfielder Lazar Samardžić from Udinese for a fee in the region of €16 million with young midfielder Giovanni Fabbian joining Udinese as part of the agreement. The 21-year-old’s signing would have continued Inter’s policy of making the squad younger this summer and further strengthened an already stacked Nerazzurri midfield which includes advanced midfielders such as Nicolò Barella, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and new acquisition Davide Frattesi.
In the end, Samardźić’s move to Inter fell through and he remained put at Udinese, where he has a contract until 2026, and Inter elected to sign Donny van de Beek on a free transfer from Ajax instead. Considering the depth of Inter’s midfield department, why was the club so eager to bring in yet another attack-minded midfielder? Let’s take a look.
Born in Berlin, Samardžić represented Germany at U15, U17, U19, U20 and U21 levels, showing tremendous promise at every level. However, he would ultimately switch allegiances and choose to represent Serbia instead, making his debut in March 2023. At club level, he joined one of the major clubs of his birth city, Hertha BSC, at the age of 7 and stayed with the club for over a decade, eventually making his senior debut in 2020 during the Berlin derby, aged 18.
A few months later, he would join RB Leipzig in what seemed like the ideal move for his development as a young, talented player. However, after a single season in which he received just 3 starts in all competitions, Samardžić would make another move, this time joining Udinese for a fee of just €3 million. Leipzig may wish they had granted the youngster more time and greater opportunities to show his talents as he could be a valuable player for the club right now. Instead, the Serbia international would shine for Udinese and attract the interest of, amongst others, the Champions League runners-up.
Samardžić is very much a final-third midfielder, having recorded 7 goals and 7 assists in ~29 full games’ worth of football. That comes out to a goal contribution nearly every two games for Udinese — a very impressive return for a player yet to turn 22. He’s a high-volume shot taker, often seizing the opportunity to have an attempt at goal from any distance.
Samardžić’s goal vs. Empoli [Serie A]
Samardžić’s shooting [FBRef]
He possesses impressive accuracy considering his shot volume, especially as many of his shots are from long distance. That said, he could add even more goals to his game by improving his shot locations. His technique is already elite, he simply needs to improve his decision-making and off-ball movement to create better goalscoring opportunities. The 21-year-old should aim to score 10+ goals a season on a regular basis, which is certainly achievable.
Samardžić primarily likes to operate in the right half-space as is often the case for left-footed playmakers due to the advantageous angles for delivery and field of vision. He also often drifts into wider zones from where he can switch play and whip crosses into the penalty area, ranking in the 93rd and 91st percentiles in the respective metrics. His crosses are often delivered with real venom, making it infinitely harder for defenders to deal with. Inter Milan completed the most crosses into the penalty area in Serie A last season and adding a player like Samardžić would have only enhanced their effectiveness in this respect.
Instead, he has stayed put at Udinese, coming off the bench at halftime with Juve winning 3-0 but unable to inspire a goal or a comeback. He started in the following match, opening the scoring within 56 minutes with a sensational low, driven shot, but Boulaye Dia would equalize shortly after for Salernitana. Udinese would host newly promoted Frosinone afterwards in the first match since the sale of Portuguese striker Beto to Everton for €30 million, with the two sides sharing the spoils in a goalless draw.
After a summer that saw them lose various key players including Beto, Roberto Pereyra, Destiny Udogie and Rodrigo Becão, Udinese currently sit 17th in the table and will be counting on their Serbian talent as they look to avoid an early relegation battle. The Zebrette will travel to newly promoted Cagliari and host Fiorentina before closing out September with a trip to defending champions Napoli.
Samardžić’s passing [FBRef]
As shown by the data, Samardžić is often involved in making the final pass in attacking moves. This is reflected by his high expected and actual assist numbers, as well as his key passes. His progressive passing numbers may appear underwhelming, but this is largely because he tends to make many cross-field switches, crosses from wider zones and passes in tight areas that don’t specifically register as progressive passes.
This is also made evident by the volume of long passes attempted and completed, which tend to be lateral passes as opposed to progressive ones. Regardless, he remains a creative and productive player who isn’t afraid to attempt an action to unlock a defence. As mentioned previously, the final third is where Samardžić does his best work. He’s a significant threat from both live and dead-ball situations.
Samardžić’s shot-creating and goal-creating actions [FBRef]
The Serbia international is a fantastic set-piece taker. His deliveries from both passing and shooting situations lead to a number of high-quality chances. Udinese ranked 5th in Serie A for goal-creating actions from set-pieces last season and that was largely due to Samardžić’s spectacular technique. He ranked in the 99th percentile for goal-creating actions from dead-balls amongst midfielders in Europe’s big 5 leagues last season — an extraordinary feat.
Samardžić’s assists vs. Hellas Verona and Venezia
Samardžić possesses truly elite ball-striking, which may be his most impressive trait. His wand of a left foot makes him a reliable creator and scorer from all distances. Very few players possess the technique of the Serbian youngster and Inter Milan likely looked at this as the primary skillset that they needed to elevate the quality of the team.
In addition to his incredible ball-striking, Samardžić is also a strong and audacious dribbler, ranking in the 91st and 84th percentiles for take-ons attempted and completed respectively amongst midfielders in Europe’s big 5 leagues last season. Inter Milan ranked last in take-ons attempted and completed in Serie A last season, so Samardžić’s addition would’ve gone some way to remedying this issue. He’s very tidy in possession and adept at dribbling in tight spaces. At 1.84m tall, he can also use his length to gain ground via carries.
Evidently, Samardžić is a dynamic and well-rounded player who would make any team more threatening and unpredictable. his talent is undeniable and, at just 21 years old, he has the potential to become even better as he develops physically, technically and mentally. Although his move to Inter Milan fell through, I have no doubt that more clubs will soon come knocking on Udinese’s door in an attempt to sign their midfield star.
By: Lebohang Mwamuka / @lebzygold
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto