Departures, déjà vu and defensive help: Milan’s midfield could be overhauled again

By Oliver Fisher -

Substantial changes were made to AC Milan’s midfield department last summer after the sale of Sandro Tonali, and yet there could be another revolution of sorts this year too.

Milan head into the summer transfer window in search of a more defensive-minded midfielder who can bring some balance to the department given the abundance of more natural box-to-box players like Tijjani Reijnders, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ismael Bennacer.

While that might be what dominates the headlines in that particular area, there is also the chance that some rather notable names will depart in order to shift the ballast into the right places, freeing up funds and spots in the squad.

Exit candidates

According to what is being reported by our colleagues at, there are at least a couple of stand-out profiles when it comes to those who might leave, and it begins with Ismael Bennacer who has been at the club since 2019.

He would be strongly tempted by the idea of ​​moving to Saudi Arabia despite the fact he is entering his prime. The Algerian midfielder would be tempted by a huge salary of course, but as has been documented before he would also have no issues living and playing there.

Bennacer was a key part of the team roughly one year ago but a serious injury and then an underwhelming return to the team has changed the situation, and it is possible that Stefano Pioli might ask Al-Ittihad to re-sign him.

The former Empoli man is under contract with Milan until June 2027 and has got a €50m release clause. The feeling is that Milan would be willing to negotiate a deal that sees him move for less than the value of said clause, around €30m per our information.

The other name is Yacine Adli, who has several suitors in Europe but is not currently considering leaving Milan in the summer. What could make the difference will be the meeting that the Frenchman will have with Fonseca on the first day of the training camp in a few days.

During those talks, the Portuguese coach might tell Adli that he is not part of the project and will instruct him to look for a new club as soon as possible. From his sale, Milan intends to earn no less than €15m which would generate a capital gain.

As was reported by MilanNews among other sources in the past fortnight, there is the interest from Torino and Fiorentina in Tommaso Pobega. The midfielder is open to listening to any proposals from other clubs because he knows he is at the stage of his career where he needs to play consistently.

For now it is the Granata who have ‘made moves’ to sign the Milan academy graduate, and it would be a return there for him given that he had a loan spell there, but Fiorentina have just hired Raffaele Palladino as their new head coach and could try for Pobega too. Thus, he could be a third exit.

Fresh blood

Initially it seems as though Milan were pushing for Mats Wieffer of Feyenoord. Fabrizio Romano mentioned Milan as suitors, but his latest update stated that the Dutchman will be swapping red and white for blue and white rather than red and black.

That is because Brighton have agreed on deal to sign him from Feyenoord. The final fee will be £30m plus add-ons, which means that the Rotterdam club will be getting a guaranteed €35m, and Milan must find other targets.

According to our information, however, Geoffrey Moncada never really pushed for Wieffer because he has another dream name in mind: Youssouf Fofana, the midfield star for Monaco who is currently away with the French national team at Euro 2024.

The management asked Mike Maignan, Theo Hernandez and Olivier Giroud for some feedback on Fofana and the response was positive, while the player himself would be strongly tempted by the idea of ​​moving to Milan in the summer.

However, it remains to be seen what formula Milan will use to snatch Fofana from Monaco. He has a contract expiring in 2025 but they want €25-30m, a figure that the Rossoneri want to try and negotiate downwards.

Seeing that Juventus have already signed Douglas Luiz and Khephren Thuram for their midfield and with Teun Koopmeiners potentially to follow, Milan might feel pressure to do additional business and it is the Bianconeri that has attracted their attention.

MilanNews reported yesterday that the interest in Rabiot is ‘real, true, concrete, quite alive’. The Frenchman – also currently playing for his country at the 2024 European Championship – is tipped to depart Juve and would be available on a free.

Rabiot’s salary would be high by Milan’s internally imposed limits, but it could be helped by the Growth Decree. Just like with Fofana, the club can rely on Maignan and Theo to perhaps try engineer a deal.

Other options remain in contention too, and in recent days the name of Andre Trindade has arisen. The Brazilian midfielder currently plays for Fluminense and topped the statistical charts last season in two key areas.

Déjà vu

Cast your minds back one year. Less 48 hours after the win against Verona at San Siro to close the 2022-23 season in what was also an emotional farewell to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it was confirmed that Paolo Maldini and his right-hand man Ricky Massara were being sacked..

A period of uncertainty followed in which the reasons for the fall-out between Maldini and RedBird Capital were debated, as well as mystery regarding who would be taking over the reins ahead of a vital summer window.

The answer is CEO Giorgio Furlani and chief scout Geoffrey Moncada, whose first major piece of action was to complete a club-record sale. It wasn’t just any exit though, it was fan favourite and supposed future Milan icon Sandro Tonali, which created another violent storm.

A number of sources reported that Milan sold Tonali to Newcastle for a figure of €80m including bonuses but it left them with the task of rebuilding a midfield that was actually looking to add pieces such as a Franck Kessie replacement rather than subtract further pillars.

In the end around €60m between fixed fees and bonuses was spent on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tijjani Reijnders and Yunus Musah. The variety was obvious not just in age (27, 24 and 20 respectively at the time) but also in profile.

Loftus-Cheek ended up becoming the attacking midfielder under Stefano Pioli, Reijnders a box-to-box player who could also create from deep, and Musah a more versatile all-action player albeit still raw in certain areas.

The problem that emerged was mentioned at the start of this piece: the lack of a traditional No.6. By that we mean a player more suited to breaking up play than advancing it, who leads in areas like tackles and interceptions rather than key passes and dribbles.

If players like Bennacer and Adli depart this summer there is a chance to reshuffle the deck in midfield again and the financial margins to provide a trio that best suits Fonseca’s style. It might be seen as a second straight summer of overhaul, yet once again there might be no choice.

Tags AC Milan Adrien Rabiot Ismaël Bennacer Tommaso Pobega Yacine Adli Youssouf Fofana


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  1. I hope we sign fofana ofc and maybe Andre Trindade but I feel like we might lose fofana because we will keep negotiating to go lower and lower but then someone else will come and pay the real price and steal them away

  2. “He would be strongly tempted by the idea of ​​moving to Saudi Arabia despite the fact he is entering his prime.”

    Bennacer might be entering his prime age wise, but when it comes to performance and production on the pitch his prime was in ’19 and ’20. Since then he has been either injured, part time bench player or in poor form.
    Also, if he is considered box2box and not a regista or a DM, then he is not as good in that role as Reijndeers and RLC, and definitely not as good as Rabiot or Fofana.
    Get the 30 mil and run. He is behind in the pecking order and he is unreliable to be available when you need him. Use the money to buy Andre Trindade.

      1. Bennacer 5 years at Milan never had a season with more than 5 goals production.
        Reijnders in his 1st season at Milan, new league, new country, new coach, new teammates, played further back out of position, 8 goals production, 4 goals, 4 assists.
        RLC in his 1st season at Milan, everything new, 12 goals production, 10 goals, 2 assists.
        Yeah weaker.
        If he can’t play as a DM, he can’t hold candle to Reijnders or RLC in a box2box role.
        BTW same RLC dog walked Bennacer AND Tonali in both UCL games with Chelsea.

        1. Lol since when are goals they only thing that matters ? In that case Mike Maingion is a terrible player lol. You understand that Benaccer has higher value then those players even now, let alone when he was fit.

          1. Wow, what a great response.
            I was comparing midfielders that more or less play the same role but you came in with a GK vs a midfielder comparison. 👏
            What is next? Are you going to try to compare a coach with a midfielder?

          2. Z,
            He’s saying that goals and assists shouldn’t be the right measures to compare players from every role. Like for example Lampards goal contribution being higher than Iniesta’s doesn’t necessarily make the former a better midfielder.. If that’s the case then you may as compare goalkeepers with goal contributions I think it’s what Rossi is saying. As far as I know midfielder’s main objectives are linking up the defense with the attacking through playmaking and or destroying play.

        2. different types of players dude. Bennie was always used as more defensive mid with the ability for a great pass. Reijnders is allowed to go forward more and hence score more goals. In the bennie-tonali partnership it was Tonali who had the “Reijnders” role of going forward and in his partnership with Kessie before that, it was almost 50/50. Bennie is a better DM that Reijnnders , that’s a fact. (and better DM than all of our mids). However, i agree, he isnt a DM. That’s our big problem, we dont freaking have one. our best DM isnt really a DM. If we sell Bennie we need 2 DMs. I blame Pioli… he thought Krunic was his defensive guy.

          1. Where was Reijnders used last season? Wasn’t he used in a more defensive “Bennacer” role, and he still outperformed Bennacer in his best season.
            On the rest of it read my comment.
            I said if Bennacer can’t play as a DM, but he is considered a box to box, as the article states, than in a box to box, NOT A DM ROLE, he isn’t on Reijnders and RLC level.
            It’s explained very simple if people bother to read to understand instead of just read to argue.

          2. Krunic was someone he had relied on and it had paid off…when they needed 3 wins to finish out the 21/22 season. The midfield was Krunic kessie and tonali.

  3. This ownership makes it clearer everyday they had no plan or vision. A yearly overhaul is pathetic and just shows how poor your decisions were

    1. 100% owner has struggled with managing a winning entity.
      Moncada and Co tailor made a squad last season that failed against big sides and Now?

      They are talking about a box to box midfielder from France, but are going to negotiate a cheaper price?
      I believe that formula failed last season in getting what they wanted last time and will haunt them again this time Moncada Déjà vu

  4. Why? Why do we need to do this, again?
    The very thing we said was going to happen. Dismantle dismantle until the most important part of the pitch is unrecognizable. This is not how you build a winning team. Keep having that terrible wage cap and no growth that’s commensurate with the growth of the squad itself and it’s bound to happen. Kessie, Tonali, Bennacer, Krunic are better than the current crop (Reijnders, Musah, Adli, Bennacer). It’s a weaker midfield and yes that’s after spending 120m. It’s poor management and recruitment for that section of the pitch. Each year we’ve lost an important cog and the more it keeps happening the less likely we’ll see winning results

    1. Ppl keep asking for DMF . As we know benny,adili,pobega not DMF ( 2 from this 3 player need to go to give room for 2 DMF ) . 120m euro last season not only midfield but also fixed right winger and give left winger rotation while 2 season ago 50m euro transfer market not fixed anything and bring burden to club like origi . Salary cap 7m euro nett i think low too , need to increase that become 8-9m euro nett

      1. Yea that’s why I said poor management for that section of the pitch…it’s the most important. Who sets up a 433 and no DM? Or any formation and no DM at all. U can have a dud like Origi and it really doesn’t matter so much but several duds in the middle of the pitch and they were supposed to be starters?? And they had that much money? Why do u guys always have to compare with the prior season transfers, why not just look at what happened last year and critique. I don’t need to know how the prior year’s transfer was spent to critique how last year’s transfers were spent. But since we’re here yea they spent the measly 50m mostly on one player which should have been a CB in Botman. Got CDK, Moncada’s good scouting work (not being sarcastic here), only to send him away the very next year, did very well and sold him for less than he’s worth. He did so well he actually justified the original purchase price. We also got Thiaw for 8m and is now worth 30-40m. The rest were obligations and loans to plug holes. Still made UCL semis with that. We spent 120m last season and by January out of the title race, out of Europe – the real one- and out of the domestic cup.
        But anyways let’s focus on the poor recruitment from last year please. Who fails to buy defensive coverage in midfield. Not only that removes defensive cover without replacement

        1. ACM not buying DMF last season because pioli says he will use krunic for DMF, they give pioli more power in transfer market but too bad krunic tempted by 3,5m euro nett salary from fenerbahce and leave pioli, that forcing him to play tiji & adili as DMF and the result we all know not good. That 120m euro because they sell player ,if not the budget will be same 50m euro but it is good from that selling one player they fix RW and give LW coverage. This time they are serious to fix DMF. Ibra also say theo will stay and jimenez his vice ( source fabrizio romano) , the core still there. Just need 3more player : CF , DMF , RB ( if florenzi leave because fonseca dont like him )

    2. You’re assuming they want to solve problems rather than unsolve solutions.

      The modern economy is mostly made up of people who create problems rather than provide solutions because that’s the easiest way to make money.

      Like everything management consultants do.

      Or lawyers, accountants, estate agents, sales people.

      The secret is to play musical chairs with an increasingly dwindling number of resources.

      Now back to football…the transfer market really isn’t any different. They’re not trying to improve the squad but flip assets.

      Can’t wait to re-build the midfield again next summer!

  5. Maignian
    Calabria Tomori LF CB Theo
    (Or whoever)
    Reijnders Benny
    Puli Leao
    I think this can work. Basically 3 transfers.

    1. Exactly. No need to complicate things. I’d go as far to say 2DMs and a striker is all that’s needed. Can get a good CB with experience on the free (Hummels, Varane). Save the money for the objective. Keep the core

  6. If you’re going to be cheap just get Amrabat and Morata. I don’t have any expectations anyway, so let’s just move on and start preparing for the season ahead.

  7. Morata ? Ok I don’t like him but yes. In his 31/32 years he is good for 13m and experienced (Milan definitely need experienced players).
    Ambrabad is in my opinion not good. He is flop. But yea our management are crazy, they can call him for next seasson.
    I really don’t know who they want to buy and why there are no topic about free players. So many massive players are for free from defence to attack , just need to pay wages ( maybe commission) and you are fine… our team are not bad, just need more experiences and certainties

    1. Yes we should be chasing free signings, Bonaventura, Spinazzola, Hummels….all would provide desperately needed experience and leadership, and all are free !!!

      1. Spinazzola signed with Napoli. At least Conte recognized what he can offer. He’d be perfect alternative to Theo and would bring experience.

  8. Moncada and Furlani are not fit for purpose. They are 2 blind parrots who simply follow cardinale’s orders not to spend money. This summer they chased 10 coaches and ended up with Fonseca (who?). They have chased 10 attackers and not managed to get one!!!! Pity milan season ticket holders …….

  9. So says Bennacer “might” leave (for big bucks) and MilanNews says Fiorentina are mad enough to pay us money for Pobega…. then the rest of the article says what we already know – we want either Fofana, Trindade, or Rabiot in midfield…. Can someone tell me what we’re complaining about?

    1. “Can someone tell me what we’re complaining about?”
      Perhaps the fact that we are slow in contacting players, making contracts while Juve and Inter already got some players.
      Also that the only players we seem to have truly contacted so far are Royal (who is a downgrade from Calabria but costs 20M€) and Zirkzee (who is already moving away) and now we’re interested in Morata.

    2. Well, people like to complain because the club is owned by Americans. They won’t let facts (€100 million spent last season, most of the players were a big success) get in the way of their agenda.

      I also don’t know where this idea that selling a Bennacer would be a big loss comes from. He’s regressed.

      1. “I also don’t know where this idea that selling a Bennacer would be a big loss comes from. He’s regressed” tell us you don’t know football without telling us you don’t know football. Selling Bennacer, the last person who plays defence in midfield is a disaster waiting to happen especially IF he doesn’t get replaced by someone who is good on defence.

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