Stars shining on big stage and transfer targets: Milan’s World Cup opportunities


While several members on the current roster look to Qatar as a showcasing of their talent, Milan also set their eyes on potential reinforcements for January or June, writes Matt Santangelo.

Olivier Giroud, Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leão, Fode Ballo-Toure, Charles De Ketelaere, Simon Kjaer and Sergiño Dest will represent Milan at the World Cup, each with unique opportunities and ambitions in different parts of their careers.

For France, the veteran Giroud has his eyes set on surpassing Thierry Henry for Les Bleus’ all-time goalscoring record, a feat that would only strengthen his legacy as one of football’s most underrated strikers of this generation: three goals would put him clear of the Arsenal legend.

Despite his initial failure to launch after a big money move from Club Brugge, De Ketelaere will be making the trek for the World Cup in search of a spark to ignite himself for a strong second half under Stefano Pioli. The 21-year-old is still finding his footing in Italy at the moment, having been rotated in and out on a regular basis as Pioli searches for harmony and chance creation within his attack. A change of pace by pulling on his Belgium shirt could be exactly what he needs to unlock his true potential in 2023.

Lastly, there is Leão, the live-wire winger currently in a tension-filled contract negotiation with Milan. The Portuguese attacker has taken flight over the last year, with his explosive pace and mesmerizing dribbling ability taking centerstage on Italian soil for the current Serie A titleholders.


As some of Europe’s elite circle like sharks waiting for the opportunity to swoop in should Milan fail to reach a new deal for the former Lille starlet, Leão is expected to play a prominent role for his national team who will be looking for a successor for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Off the pitch, Milan directors Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara will most definitely have a vested interest in how the World Cup could potentially drive the plan of attack for the markets to come.

Noah Okafor, the RB Salzburg youngster who Milan witnessed in great detail over 180 minutes throughout the UEFA Champions League group phase, will be on display for Switzerland. At 22, Okafor has appeared in over 100 matches for the Austrian club, scoring 34 goals and lending a further 20 assists. Interest in the Class of 00′ talent is plenty, with Liverpool and Manchester City both reportedly keeping tabs on how he gets on this month.

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As a result of stiff competition, a rather large bid in excess of €30m could perhaps get a deal over the line as his contract expires in 2024. However, if Milan lodge a bid close to that, it likely means they are shopping Leão come June.

Hakim Ziyech is a name that continues to fill the transfer rumour mill, and with him featuring for Morocco, that will remain the case as we approach January, especially if he shows he can still make the difference.

The winger has been out of the picture at Chelsea for a while now and is certainly deemed surplus to requirements under Graham Potter. As he is only getting older, and his wages aren’t being put to good use, there is a real good chance Milan revisit talks with the Londoners in January for Ziyech’s services.

On the topic of familiar attacking names, there is Noa Lang of the Netherlands who, for better or worse, has people chatting in football spaces these days. The Club Brugge wide man may have an ego and arrogance that turns people off, but when it comes to performance on the pitch, he has quite a bag of upside to offer any club willing to deal with the risk involved in signing a wild card.

These are a few names who could be shortlisted for Milan come January and June. Ultimately, any breakout performances from the aforementioned names and those soon to be linked likely come with a premium – something that the Rossoneri always have to be mindful of when it comes to transfer budget.


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