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Taking a closer look at Milan’s 2017 summer signings

There will be plenty of new faces wearing black and red jerseys next year, let’s meet them. This is not another Bonucci article, I promise.

AC Milan Official Training & Press Conference - 2017 International Champions Cup China Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
*Quick note - this is not another Leonardo Bonucci article, don’t worry

When AC Milan was purchased by Li Hongyong in April this year, it was seen as a potential breath of fresh air for Milan fans. After Silvio Berlusconi had given up his share in the team after 31 years, few could complain about the amount of success he brought the club, but few could also argue that his time with the club shouldn’t be up. Since then, Li Hongyong - operating under Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux - has wasted little time in direct investment to the club’s players, making eight significant transfers (and a ninth fun one that we’ll briefly talk about), essentially performing a complete team overhaul.

There’s a good chance Milan will become one of the dominant (at least to a certain extent) teams in the league this year, so I think it’s valuable to have a look at what they’ve done so far. With me for this article is my long-time friend, Gino, who has been a lifelong AC Milan supporter. He’ll give us his take on the current state of the squad, and his expectations.

Last Season

To quickly recap, Milan finished the 2016-17 season in 6th place which qualified them for the Europa League this coming season. Vincenzo made the switch to Milan from Sampdoria and had a very successful first season. According to W/S, their main formation was a 433. Their most used XI was: Donnarumma; Abate, Paletta, Romagnoli, Di Sciglio; Kucka, Pasalic, Locatelli; Suso, Bacca, Niang/Deulofeu. Of those players, Kucka has been sold, while Deulofeu and Pasalic returned to their clubs as their loans expired. Now let’s have a look at who’s been added so far, from lowest to highest transfer fee.

The New Faces

Antonio Donnarumma (Age 28) - Previous club: Asteras Tripolis (Greek Super League) - €1.5 million

This is the fun one I was talking about. Shortly after Milan signed Donnarumma to a lucrative contract extension, they also signed his brother who was playing in Greece. It’s hard to pinpoint where Antonio fits into the squad, as his younger brother played all 38 league games last year. He will likely be behind Gabriel and our old friend Marco Storari (he moved to Milan in January, I had no idea either) on the depth charts, and he will likely be okay with that. You have to think that one of those two will be moved though.

Lucas Biglia - CM (Age 31) - Lazio - €17 million

Lucas Biglia has been a solid central midfielder in the Italian top-flight since 2014 when he came over from the Belgian league. Since then he has cemented himself as one of the league’s better deep-lying playmakers. He is one of the game’s better passers by many metrics, and has been doing it for years. Concerns come with the age at 31, but for a player that doesn’t rely overly on his speed, he could very well be an impact player for a couple years - a definite win-now move.

Frank Kessie - CM (Age 20) - Atalanta - €6 million loan fee, €17 million optigation™ to buy

Kessie took the league by storm this year as a 19/20 year old. He was a large part of Atalanta’s rise to 4th place in the Serie A table this past season. He finished the season with 6 league goals and 3 assists, and many agreed that his performances tailed off in the latter half of the season. His stats aren’t overly impressive but he is only twenty and has plenty of time to work on his consistency, but there is no doubt that Kessie is a talented young player who could be a force for years to come.

Mateo Musacchio - CB (Age 26) - Villareal - €18 million

Mateo Musacchio made the move from Villareal after being widely regarded as one of the Spanish League’s better defenders. He isn’t an overly quick nor large defender, standing at around 5 foot 11. He isn’t known to be a bully or physical defender, but rather awarded his positive reputation by solid defensive work. Don’t expect him to score many goals either. It remains to be seen if there is a spot for him in the starting XI whether through a formation change to add a third CB, or displacing Alessio Romagnoli.

Ricardo Rodriguez - LB/CB (Age 24) - Vfl Wolfsburg - €18 million

It wasn’t too long ago that many were calling Ricardo Rodriguez the best left back in the world, or at the least a guy that could be #1 very soon. The Swiss international heavily impressed during Switzerland’s 2014 World Cup run, scoring twice. It seemed like every big club in Europe had him on their radar, including Juventus, but a move never materialized. Flash forward to now where he’s coming off a disappointing season both for himself as a player, and for his team as his Wolfsburg team finished 16th (!) in the Bundesliga last season, having to win a playoff game just to stay in the top flight. Rodriguez’s goal totals and other stats have taken a dip in the last couple seasons, but he is still young enough to reclaim some of his past form. Part of this could be due to his position change, as he saw an increased number of minutes at CB last season. Milan likely view him as a left back going forward.

Hakan Calhanoglu - CAM (Age 23) - Bayer Leverkusen - €22 million

Calhanoglu is that Turkish player who’s really good at free kicks. He was noted as a potential Juventus target during the 2015 trequartista hunt, which ultimately led to Hernanes’ signing. He can really hit a dead-ball, nobody is denying that, but his passing numbers for a CAM are pretty atrocious. In his time in Germany, he hasn’t passed above 80% completion in any competition. In the last four years though he has been good for 2.3 Key Passes per game, which is better than Pjanic’s 2.0 Key Passes per game, which shows that he’s capable of a good final ball. At only age 23, if he can work on his consistency and turn over the ball less, he could become quite a good attacking piece. He does not come without off-field issues, however, as he was recently suspended by FIFA over his messy transfer from HSV in 2014.

Andrea Conti - RB/RWB (Age 23) - Atalanta - €25 million

A big money move for a right back in a market which appears that quality options are limited. Andrea Conti was the fullback/wingback on the opposite side of Leonardo Spinazzola at the overperforming Atalanta side last year and put up outstanding numbers scoring 8 goals and getting 5 assists. His weakness is his crossing, as he only managed 0.2 crosses per game. The rest of his passing numbers are similar to Lichtsteiner’s, but Conti even outshone Dani Alves on interceptions, clearances, and blocks per game. He seems like a player who could provide very solid defensive contributions right now, and also build his offensive game in the future.

Andre Silva - ST (Age 21) - FC Porto - €38 million

This was a move that seemed like it would be the highlight move of their summer. Andre Silva scored 16 goals and racked up 5 assists in 32 appearances in the Portuguese League as a 20 year old. That will tend to turn a few heads. He already has 13 caps for the Portuguese senior National Team, and has scored 8 goals and 4 assists. The guy is a scoring machine, has champions league experience, and is only 21 years old. If he keeps up this trajectory, Milan will have a top striker for years to come.

Leonardo Bonucci - CB (Age 30) - Juventus - €42 million

There’s nothing left to be said from a Juve perspective about this one. Milan got a great CB and Juve got some much needed cash to address other areas of the squad. A true win-win.

Gino’s assessment of the current Milan situation:

As many know being a Milan fan has not been very easy these last few years. Several losses to inferior teams has made many the fan question if Milan will ever return to the heights of the past. Then the new ownership arrived. They spent absurd amounts of money and gave Milan fans optimism. Finally we can actually believe that we can complete with the likes of Juve and Napoli. Although I will always be a Milan supporter (I bleed red and black), the last few years have brought out the pessimist in me. Milan have spent well and have done the work to return the club to where it should be, but to say that they will compete for a Serie A crown seems far-fetched. As Milan fans know, there's a lot more that goes into a championship team than just players. Team chemistry, experience, and a winning mentality are all pivotal characteristics that the ‘New Milan’ lack. Now, I do think Milan will return to fighting for a champions league place (they better or Montella-out), but I strongly doubt their ability to challenge the likes of Juve and Napoli. My prediction is a 3rd place finish with a Serie A title arriving within the next 3 years. In a time where Milan fans are being very optimistic, I choose to remain a realist."

Projected Starting XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Mateo Musacchio, Leonardo Bonucci, Alessio Romagnoli; Ricardo Rodriguez, Giacamo Bonaventura, Frank Kessie, Calhanoglu, Andrea Conti; Carlos Bacca, Andre Silva.

Another variation is to remove a CB (Musacchio) and play Biglia as a CM and push Calhanoglu to CAM in a 4-1-2-1-2 where he’ll likely be more suited for, but we’ll likely see a wide variety of formations used given the amount of quality players they’ll have to work with, barring a major number of sales. I think this team could be a threat to do some damage in the league next year, but I don’t see them finishing in first place barring a major disaster of a season from both Juventus and Napoli. They’re a side I could see reaching the later stages of the Europa League, provided that they ‘click’ as a team by then. The additions they made will no doubt strengthen the squad, though they’re cross-city rivals Inter have proven that even if you buy quality pieces in the summer, you can still suck. I don’t think this will be the case with Milan, but I have been wrong before.


What place do you think Milan willplace in the Serie A next year?

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