The Serbian midfielder is becoming more and more vital for Sottil’s side, mainly because of his new role as mezzala

Since his arrival in the summer of 2021, everyone in Udine has been crazy about Lazar Samardzic. Pierpaolo Marino, Udinese’s Sporting Director, compared him to “a lefty Gianni Rivera”. Gotti, the Friulians’ manager at the time, was positively surprised by his technique. More recently Sottil, Samardzic’s current manager, highlighted what makes him so special: “a technique, ball control and intelligent play that a few players have”. Only one year before his arrival in Italy, Samardzic was one of the most credited talents of German football (even though he recently decided to represent Serbia on an international level), on the same level as Wirtz and Musiala. And yet, it only took him a complicated season with RB Leipzig at 19 years old to see him in a mid-low table Serie A team, sold for only €3M.

In his first year with Udinese, Samardzic had to learn, spending almost the whole season on the bench. In Serie A, it’s not rare that a youngster must wait for ‘his moment’, even someone as talented as Samardzic. Especially one as talented as him, one could say. Udinese found his ideal dimension within a very physical 3-5-2 system, where all creative responsibilities are completely entrusted to Deulofeu, the man that filters all offensive plays and finding a place for Samardzic in this context wasn’t an easy task.

How to add a 20-year-old refined trequartista to this system? Sottil’s answer was less predictable than expected. During this season, with patience, Udinese’s manager started to play the German as a mezzala, allowing him more and more minutes as the season progressed (Samardzic has started all the last 5 games, it never happened to him before in his career). This was a counterintuitive solution in some ways, especially after Deulofeu’s injury freed up a more advanced spot in attack. It almost looks like Sottil wants Samardzic to experience all the most important tasks for a central midfielder before eventually (maybe) returning him to a more advanced position in the future.

Even in this deeper role, Samardzic is showing all of his talent, his technique and his ability to ‘see’ the goal. Among Serie A midfielders, he ranks eighth in shots per 90 mins (2.47), sixth for dribbles (4.64 p/90), but especially second-best after Calhanoglu in shot assists (2.16) and in goals p/90 (0.31, only Rabiot does better). Numbers unequivocally show how he already provides a high-level offensive contribution, both in facilitating and finishing plays.

Lazar Samardzic's shot stats from Wyscout Player Report

But what makes him so special? For sure, the quality of his left foot. In the last Udinese game against Cremonese, after a one-two with Lovric in the final third, Samardzic came up with a stunning curl shot with the side of his left foot – some sort of trivela – that kissed the post before going past the goalkeeper. An incredible goal that could belong to a Luka Modric highlight video. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last spectacular goal of his career. Twenty minutes later he served his third assist of the season with a remote-controlled freekick that perfectly landed on Nehuén Pérez’s head. Samardzic’s other two assists also came from a set piece situation, highlighting how precise his left foot can be, even more notable when he can kick from a still situation (recently, he also scored a beautiful free kick against Italy with the Under 21 national team).

Lazar Samardzic's shot assists stats from Wyscout Player Report

Obviously, by playing as a mezzala, Samardzic doesn’t only have playmaking tasks. While out of possession, Sottil asks of him a great effort in defense, where he shows what his limits are currently, especially from an athletic standpoint. The German doesn’t have great dynamism or physicality - both characteristics that are mandatory for a mezzala, and he’s still a bit naïve when it comes to more complicated defensive readings. If he ranks among the best performers in Serie A from a playmaking standpoint, his defensive stats are average or below. Another aspect of his games he must improve in is ball management: today, Samardzic loses 8.79 balls per 90 minutes, which is too many. When he has the ball, he still needs to fully understand when he can risk a play or when he needs to be more conservative. But that is something that is learned through experience, and he’s still very young.

At Udinese, they already successfully transformed Rodrigo De Paul from a midfielder to an all-round midfielder, but the Argentinian is a very different player than Samardzic. To him, this season seems more like a learning phase to find his ideal position on the offensive end. In the meantime, many transfer rumors are already piling up, with Milan and Napoli among contenders, alongside many foreign teams. Samardzic, in the meantime, is studying, learning and becoming better: the future is on his side and he knows it.

Start your 15-day Wyscout free trial now.
Visit L’Ultimo Uomo website.