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.
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
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.
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.