No Calhanoglu, no problem: Brahim returns to finish the job with Milan

by | Oct 26, 2021 12:22

Brahim Diaz has finally recovered from COVID and the Rossoneri can once again count on the man who has proved to be the perfect fit to replace Hakan Calhanoglu, writes Matt Santangelo.

Amidst growing concerns over who would replace Hakan Calhanoglu, Brahim has quelled all doubts about who is the man for the No. 10 role at Milan.

At the time of his arrival on Italian soil in summer 2020, Milan fans knew the club had acquired quite a talent in the promising Spaniard. A diminutive, tricky little creative player, the Spanish international brought an impressive CV to the San Siro club, previously spending time at Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Though limited in those spells, there is something to be said about an individual who can suit up for two of the world’s most prominent sides. It speaks to the potential he possesses and the high ceiling he strives to reach.

Walking through the doors of Milanello on a dry loan basis, the focus for Brahim was to make the most of the opportunity afforded to him, assert himself in Stefano Pioli’s side and prove his worth to a broader football audience through continuity.

Official: Brahim Diaz recovers from COVID

Over 27 Serie A appearances and 1,227 minutes last season, Brahim showed tremendous promise, albeit in purple patches in and out of the starting equation, scoring four goals and delivering a further three assists.

Most notably, the now 22-year old rose to the occasion down the stretch for Milan last season when Hakan Calhanoglu seemingly went missing when it mattered most in the top four hunt. Demonstrating his array of qualities, he often found himself floating in and out of pockets to receive the ball and impose himself on a given match, specifically in the 3-0 thumping of Juventus.

Drifting in from wide areas to occupy central positions, he invited others to join play and drum up chances, a sign of a true playmaker and something that struck a chord with Milan management when they re-engaged in talks with Real Madrid to find a more permanent
solution.

The loss of Calhanoglu on a free transfer to city rivals Inter was not particularly felt around Milan and the fanbase, and even felt like addition by subtraction due to shedding his wages. However, the Turk’s departure did reinforce the need to ensure Brahim stuck around
for the foreseeable future as a focal point of the attack.

Striking a two-year loan extension with an option to buy set at around €22 million, both Brahim and Milan showed mutual commitment to one another, an important sign of the strength of the project being built.

Probable line-ups: Milan vs. Torino

Undertaking the heavy responsibility of becoming the primary playmaker while donning the important No. 10 shirt, Brahim’s dribbling and movements have plenty of purpose behind them and have already played critical roles in the Rossoneri being able to break down sides
more consistently early in this campaign’s hot start.

Thus far, the Málaga-born player has put up strong numbers in the league with three goals and one assist in seven matches, on track to blow right on by last year’s production. But beyond numbers, his impact late in games and in the UEFA Champions League against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid tell a story of his growing maturity and brimming confidence.

Throughout the summer market, calls from fans to upgrade over Calhanoglu could be felt all over. In Brahim, who has quelled all doubt about his qualifications for the job, the Scudetto contenders now have the answer at the No. 10 position.

@Matt_Santangelo

epa09470530 Brahim Diaz (2-L) of AC Milan celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League group B soccer match between Liverpool FC and AC Milan in Liverpool, Britain, 15 September 2021. EPA-EFE/Peter Powell

7 Comments

  1. DB Milan

    If he continues playing as he has been, 22 million will be a steal. Addition by subtraction is such a great way to describe the Calhanoglu situation.

  2. Chris

    Diaz is a good player but he’s a totally different style of player to Hakan so it’s a dead comparison. Hakan’s ability from set pieces is an asset to any team, and his ball striking ability can just cause problems out of nowhere (see the recent Dzeko goal as an example).

  3. Michael

    Hakan’s set piece ability was mostly missing during his time at Milan, IMO. I would say the vast majority of his corners and frees were poor, and the squad is immediately improved just by not having him deliver those important kicks.

  4. Viktor

    @Chris.. fair enough, but do understand this, at multiple times each game Diaz breaks lose, go forward and skis much like Messi trough the def while Hakan has 1-2 shots a game.. Diaz is 21 years old. Now with the scoresheet in hand I am beyond stokes we gave Diaz a chance and let Hakan the disgusting traitor he is, leave. And for set pieces we have plenty of those in Milan so we are not really missing out… Tonali, Theo, Ibra, Bennacer to mention a few

  5. Kristian Dahl

    I am yet to meet an ACM fan who misses Hakan. Personally I am thrilled we got rid of him, he was dead weight, and then we weakend Inter with Hakan. Win/win situation- Perhaps he should try a career as Field Kicker in American Eggball

  6. Michael

    Dude, don’t even talk about Hakan and set pieces… for years in every match the commentators say he’s a “set piece expert”, and every time I’d think, I can’t remember the last time he scored from a set piece! Almost always off target. To be fair in his last season he did better, but I wouldn’t think Tonali is any worse than him at set pieces, and Tonali still has margins for improvement unlike Hakan who’s at his prime now.

    As for Diaz, he is better at retaining the ball, better at dribbling, better at scoring. Maybe he isn’t as good as set pieces, but so what, we have others who are. And he’s better with his mentality, always giving his all. I couldn’t be more pleased with the change.

  7. Vero Rossonero

    The article mentions Diaz’s buyout clause, but fails to mention Madrid’s buyback clause. If he really does develop into a great player and Milan exercises its clause then Madrid will almost certainly exercise theirs. I’m not sure, but I think it’s set at 25-27m. So the better he is the more likely he is to go back to Madrid. The silver lining is that we’ll have made a bit of a profit and hopefully the money to replace him from consistent participation in the Champions League thanks in part to his performances.

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