Milan were one of the busiest clubs in Europe during the summer and Matt Santangelo highlights the pros and cons of the Rossoneri’s transfer activity.
Milan’s market saw plenty of fresh faces walk through the doors of Milanello but, for many, fell short in the end despite spending amongst the most in Serie A.
As we reflect on the summer transfer window that was, we can agree it was an unprecedented market and nothing like we have witnessed before, with the game’s two biggest stars leaving for pastures anew – Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo back home to Manchester United respectively.
The Parisian club stole the show this summer with a big haul, including three premium players on free transfers, the most relevant to the topic of discussion in Milan star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. The departure of the eventual Euro Player of the Tournament, as it turned out, kickstarted the Rossoneri’s market. In response to growing concerns as to who would occupy goal, Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara swiftly secured the signature of Mike Maignan from defending Ligue 1 champions Lille.
A premium goalkeeping talent with clear athleticism, agility and command of his area, Maignan is fresh off 21 clean sheets in France. Arriving for €13m and at a near quarter of Donnarumma’s salary, this bit of calculated business is what fans have come to expect with this management; given the circumstances, you could not ask for a better replacement. Though Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu left, player retention remained at the very core of Milan’s market activity, with the club deciding on several individual loanees.
Since coming over on loan from Chelsea last January, Fikayo Tomori has been a revelation in defence, with a versatile, modernized skill-set uncommon to the San Siro in recent years. The England international was purchased for around €28m, a meagre fee when considering the constantly ballooning market for high-level, central defenders and the comfort shown in his ability to take to Italy like a duck to water. Brahim Diaz found a more permanent solution to his young career after bouncing from Manchester City and Real Madrid without much continuity, inking a two-year stay with the red and black holding a €25m option to buy.
Confidently pulling on the No. 10 shirt, the Spaniard has already begun to provide very subtle alchemy as an undisputed starter and creator. We have already seen noticeable maturity in the way Sandro Tonali has carried himself through a few matches off the back of his first-ever goal. Stefano Pioli’s called on his No. 8 to lead in the midfield rather than sit idly by as a passenger, and Tonali has only answered that call – a sign of what’s to come. His first season had its share of growing pains, but the Lodi native signalled his desire to succeed with his boyhood club after he voluntarily reduced his salary for the better of the club as part of the restructured agreement set forth last summer with Brescia.
In a summer that saw some betrayal, this unselfish act will only strengthen fans’ already solid relationship with the 21-year old. Walking through the doors of Milanello with high praise and appreciation, Olivier Giroud should prove to be one of the best value additions any European club made this summer. A World Cup and Champions League-winning striker, the Frenchman brings a wealth of success, experience and a winning pedigree to the front line that will surely help alleviate some of the burdens off the shoulders of Zlatan Ibrahimović. Giroud’s longevity as a consistent goalscorer and his ability to invite others into play means Milan have another number nine who is tailor-made for this attack.
Much like with the former Chelsea forward, Alessandro Florenzi’s arrival as a veteran leader comes with a character that should only strengthen the changing room. At 30, the common belief is that the ex-Roma fullback can still offer quite a bit like a flexible right-back/winger at a minimal cost. Elsewhere, Fodé Ballo-Toure provides Theo Hernandez with relief as a backup, role management explored in January but failed to fill. Then there is Pietro Pellegri, whose injury record brings more uncertainties than guarantees. On a very low-cost loan with an option to buy, the 20-year old is quite clearly a flyer the club hopes to strike gold on should he grow underneath the wings of Ibrahimovic and Giroud.
A familiar face in Tiémoué Bakayoko made his long-awaited return back “home,” as he explained in his first press conference. After unexpectedly breaking out during the 2018-19 season under Gennaro Gattuso, the 27- year old made pitstops back at Monaco and Napoli, yielding very little results. Some players require comfort and the right environment to bring the best out, which fans expect with Bakayoko over the next two years on loan.
At the moment, perhaps there isn’t much to speak on surrounding Yacine Adli’s €10m switch from Bordeaux due to the fact he will remain in France for another campaign. However, this deal, shows management’s preparation to get ahead of the market adjustments that come with young players having breakouts. Even more, Adli’s purchase feels a bit of foreshadowing as fans anticipate a sale from the midfield department.
As football fans, we love an underdog story, and that is where Junior Messias comes in. With the 30-year old Brazilian, there is a story of great struggle, and within that struggle, an improbable rise. Messias has already made it from hauling refrigerators to shaking hands with Maldini – no matter what anyone says. Make no mistake about it, though, of all the incoming players, the Crotone loanee will be observed the most and will either be another stroke of genius on the market by Maldini or spark further outrage about the approach to addressing the attacking corps.
Nikola Vlašić and Romain Faivre were obviously rated highly by Geoffrey Moncada and company, but ultimately, deals failed to materialize. The moans and groans that poured in from all over are certainly warranted, yet it was a moment for the fanbase to face the harsh reality that even after booking a Champions League return, high-end players and excess spending should not be expected for the time being. No matter how indifferent fans may be around the market and the myriad of opportunities missed out upon to further bolster the squad, ultimately, it’s the work on the pitch and the results that will dictate everything.