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Hull’s Mystery Man: Is David Milinković Worth the Risk?

Can the troubled winger turn his career around in Vancouver?

Hull City v Amiens SC - Pre-Season Friendly - KCOM Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

On Monday Morning, The Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of French-Serbian left winger David Milinković on a one year loan, with option to buy, from EFL Championship club Hull City.

In a Whitecaps club statement, Axel Schuster explained the motivations behind the decision to bring in Milinković:

“Marc and I are very familiar with David, especially from his time with Hearts in Scotland during the 2017-18 season where he was a key contributor in the final third...Although his most recent spell at Hull City has not worked out exactly the way he had hoped, David is excited about this new opportunity. He fits our profile and will bring additional experience to our group. We are happy to welcome David to our club and city.”

For the 25 year old Milinković, the Whitecaps will be his 11th professional club.

While Milinković did enjoy a standout stint in Scotland with Hearts back in 2017-18, where he scored six times in 26 appearances whilst on loan from Genoa, his tenure at Hull City, by comparison, has been clouded in controversy.

Milinković failed to impress under two different managers during his time at Hull City, and also failed to make a single league start during his 18 months in England.

According to an article posted by the Hull Daily Mail earlier today, the root of Milinković’s struggles arose from his poor conduct:

“Milinkovic’s time at the KCOM Stadium was dogged by ill-discipline. As well as being fined for a red card for violent conduct when playing for City’s under-23s, he received further punishment when failing to arrive on time for the Championship fixture at home to Norwich last season.”

These negative sentiments towards the newest Whitecap were backed up by Hull City fans reacting to the signing on Twitter, and most weren’t bashful with their commentary.

While I wasn’t necessarily surprised to see some negative commentary online, the overwhelming and consistent nature of the comments definitely stood out. Clearly, Milinković long outstayed his welcome in East Yorkshire, but does this mean that he’s destined to repeat the same script with the Whitecaps this season?

For Milinković, this is likely a make or break year in his footballing career. If he can produce similar perfomances to his time at Hearts (two years ago) during this upcoming season, then perhaps there’s a road back to Europe. But if he’s to repeat on his Hull City showing, it’s hard to imagine where Milinković will be headed at the end of the season.

In short, this is a player that has everything to prove as he arrives in MLS, which can be a good thing, and from a pure footballing perspective, Milinković still looks like a player with significant upside.

So on first blush, Milinković appears like a risk worth taking. The question is, will the young winger be able to handle himself professionally, both on the training ground and off the pitch? And if not, could this have a significant negative effect on the team and those around him?

For a club that experienced a similar situation with Joaquin Ardaiz last season, I’m a bit surprised that the Whitecaps were willing to take another leap with a “troubled” player so soon. While Vancouver will most definitely be a less critical football market than Hull, we’ve seen in the past that Vancouver can provide a lot of distractions for a disgruntled footballer, and from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t sound like a great fit for Milinković.

The other factor that makes this signing puzzling from Whitecaps perspective is that the “winger” position isn’t exactly the club’s most pressing need, especially when you consider Dos Santos’ tendency to shift natural strikers (i.e. Montero, Bair) out on the wings. It remains to be seen whether or not Milinković will serve as added depth, or create a longjam on the roster which gets in the way of a youngster like Ryan Raposo seeing valuable minutes.

Overall, the addition of David Milinković feels like a signing born out of opportunity rather than something which is part of the Whitecaps’ greater organizational plan. Milinković is a player that appears to have both significant upside (and downside) as he arrives in MLS. While that doesn’t guarantee more wins for the club on the pitch, it should most definitely add some entertainment value to this season, and that, I very much look forward to.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even bump into him during a night out on the town.