Brahim Diaz running out of time to justify Milan’s gamble – the data shows his struggles

By Rajath Kumar -

“In the history of AC Milan, many great players have worn the No.10 shirt, but I enjoy the pressure. I have personality. I take responsibility and I hope to live up to this shirt and to express myself at my best. It’s a No.10 that brings leadership, but I’m not afraid of the pressure, it gives me energy.”

And energy it brought in abundance to the diminutive Spaniard, who inherited Milan’s coveted number 10 jersey from the outgoing Turk, Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Brahim Diaz saw an opportunity and took it.

Çalhanoğlu’s last-minute ‘betrayal’ in the summer left the senior management at AC Milan startled and shaken up. They found themselves in a fix, compelled by the adherence to a self-imposed policy of strict financial discipline. Without adequate funds to sign a direct replacement, they conveniently marketed Diaz (intended to be Çalhanoğlu’s deputy) as Milan’s golden angel and saviour elite.

Some bought into this spiel without question. Others viciously attacked the management on social media for the signing of Junior Messias. The Brazilian arrived at Milan amidst scathing criticism of the management for their inability to do better. Messias was pitched as a hybrid option for Stefano Pioli, a player capable of pulling the strings in the middle or on the right of a line of three. 30 games in, Messias has played centrally on one occasion.

Adaptability issues and the impact of COVID-19

Diaz is a shifty dribbler, possessing a low centre of gravity that enables him to move swiftly in tight spaces. He is especially good in transition when he has acres of space to run into. But, the wily wiseheads in Serie A found chinks in his armour.

They stifled him for space and unleashed wave after wave of physical domination upon him. Diaz’s struggles against brawny opposition set the template for others to follow, leading to him being ousted from the first team and planted firmly on the bench.

The Malaga-born attacking midfielder has been virtually unrecognisable since recovering from COVID-19. In 23 games, Diaz has recorded two assists and zero goals. The drop-off is particularly staggering when viewed against his pre-COVID form, wherein he made four-goal contributions in the opening seven games, helping Milan to secure 19 points during that run.

Diaz’s form aside, his confidence appears to be in tatters. Or maybe, he has reverted to his mean. Only 22, Diaz is yet to come into his own, showing flashes of sublime, but unsustained form. This is possibly why he continues to be perceived as a prodigious talent and not a top-class, dependable footballer.

The numbers don’t lie

Diaz was statistically inferior to Çalhanoğlu last season. Sadly, he involuntarily perseveres to champion that trend this season as well. Diaz’s goals and assists per ninety minutes have not only dropped from 0.51 last season to 0.35 this season, he is significantly behind Çalhanoğlu (0.69) as well.

Diaz is trailing Çalhanoğlu on expected assists per ninety too (0.12 v 0.28), which is a stark indicator of Diaz’s ineffectiveness on the ball. He ranks 119 in the league for big chances created and 72 for key passes per match. These numbers are damning, to say the least.   

Following Diaz’s diabolical form, Pioli took to the drawing board and remodelled Franck Kessié to play higher up the pitch, painting an abundantly clear picture of Diaz’s current equity at the club. Milan may yet win the Scudetto this season, making it an astonishing feat given the shocking lack of contribution from the club’s supposedly primary creator.

Diaz has under 10 games to save his Milan career. He will have to pull up his socks and leave a lasting impression to continue his loan spell. If not, what he would be leaving instead is the fabled city of Milan.

Tags AC Milan Brahim Diaz


  1. Diaz just needs to know when to let go of the ball. Being small and easily bumped off the ball is not a problem if he better times his release of the ball before the contact. Too many times I’ve seen him over-dribble into a defender that physically disposes him. So just get better at making the pass before that happens and/or better at dribbling even.

  2. I think Brahim needs to be given a chance since he has not been the same since having COVID-19. People seem to not take it seriously that even professional athletes have been struggling since recovering from COVID-19. Even Alphonso Davies is still not at full fitness: Brahim is young, and we know he can perform well. I think we need to cut him some slack.

  3. I like his motivation and skills. But he´s just not good enough. He is not worth the 20M. Indeed, too much needless dribbling. I miss game intelligence. Physical issues are not the problem. It´s his game.

  4. Brahim doesn’t have good decisions,he always insists on dribbling the ball even though his dribbling ability isn’t too brilliant..
    plus his physique is weak, not a good passer, and his shots are awful..
    very far to be a good trequartista

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