Devil’s Advocate: A defence of Milan’s approach to transfer negotiations amid anger from fans

By Oliver Fisher -

There is an undercurrent of frustration swimming through the AC Milan fan base at the moment, perfectly visible through the torrent of panic on social media.

The reason? Well, without wanting to downplay or exaggerate, the reason is this: Milan have missed out on the signing of Ligue 2 side Toulouse’s 19-year-old midfielder Kouadio Kone.

It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing worthy of sparking such uproar, does it? The transfer window is only a few days old and it appears that one transfer target is heading for one attractive project over another, or rather the player’s will to join Milan has paved way for the higher transfer fee that Borussia Monchengladbach offered.

First of all, it must be said that the frustrations are understandable to an extent. Virtually all the reliable sources are suggesting that the Rossoneri would not budge on their offer of €6m, so in theory they missed out because they refused to raise the offer by €3m.

In this day and age, is keeping €3m really worth missing out on a priority target? Is this the product of stubbornness? Was Kone even a major target if the club were not willing to stump up the extra cash? All of these are valid questions, to which the answer is yes.

To set the scene and paint a picture of trust, Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara have done exceptional work since taking on roles as directors. They have cleaned up the wage bill, signed promising young talent in cost-advantageous deals and have sold spare parts for on or above their market value.

That is why they have earned the right to carry out negotiations the way they see fit, not the way we as supporters do. It is easy to say “just pay the extra few million” when it isn’t your money and you are not being scrutinised by the ownership and the media for every single cent you spend.

The fact of the matter is that a squad has been assembled which currently sits first in the Serie A table despite a wage bill and despite net expenditure (over the last 24 months at least) far below that of their rivals, which is just another reason to believe in the way the management want to do things.

Simakan and Kone

Now, looking at the Kone and Simakan cases in the scheme of things.

It was apparent in the summer that Milan have no intention of overpaying for any of their targets, regardless of age and potential.

It’s clear that the recruitment and data teams have made their assessments on how much they believe Simakan and Kone are worth, and going €5m over that in this climate clearly does not sit right with Maldini, who as mentioned is working under budgetary pressure and has multiple roles to fill.

There will be a list of targets for each position, and there is a plan. We are three days into the transfer window, and to put it bluntly losing out on a 19-year-old player in the second division in France does not mean that the team are due an imminent collapse.

Yes it is important to strengthen in as timely a manner as possible, and yes the urgency becomes a bit more intense because of the current injury crisis Pioli faces, but that quite simply isn’t an excuse to consciously overpay. As mentioned, it is clearly something that doesn’t rest well with Maldini given he is spending the money of the club he loves.

Maldini was actually given the extra budget he required to seal the Simakan deal in the summer by Elliott, but he chose not to because he did not want to overpay.

He believes in the methods, he believes in those over his shoulder who give scouting reports, feed figures and give evaluations on targets. And if Paolo believes, so should we. The patience has been earned.

Tags AC Milan


  1. I appreciate this post Oliver. And I agree somewhat in that no our team will not collapse because we didn’t get Kone or maybe even Simakan. But I don’t think that’s why fans are upset. We are upset because for the first time in the the last decade we have a real chance to win the Scudetto. We have patiently waited for this opportunity. We have been teased by our amazing run of form. Let’s face it no one believed we would be first place at this point. We all would settle simply for CL qualification this year. But now that we are in first they owe it to the fans to go for it. We cannot be arrogant and rest on our laurels and think we have a good enough team to win it all. We don’t. Juve game showed us what their depth of a squad looks like compared to ours. We have been told we cannot spend like other clubs only able to get bargain signings. Well if 9m isn’t a bargain then what the heck are we doing? Not every deal will be like Hague. 9m is peanuts for the next Pogba as some have claimed he will be. But that’s not the point. If we cannot outspend a team like Broussia MB (not Dortmund, or Munich – but Monchengladbach!) we are in trouble and will never compete with the best. It was an extra 3m not 30m for a player Moncada scouted heavily and we should all trust him that Kone was worth it. As for Simakan? You said “Maldini was actually given the extra budget he required to seal the Simakan deal in the summer by Elliott, but he chose not to because he did not want to overpay.” Well look what happened since the summer. The price went up! An extra 3m. The 3m we could have used to sign Kone had we signed Simakan in summer. Prices go up the longer we wait once teams find out Milan and in particular our amazing scout Moncada want a player. And now we may lose him to Leipzig? Why? What a waste of time to loose him after such a long chase over a few million dollars. Again, it’s not 20m it’s 2m. Reports say we are after Meitie from Torino for 11M who is already 26yrs old and is what he is – average? Kone was within our budget and policy of young players with huge upside. Simakan too. Sometimes you have to move quick otherwise you end up with what we have now – nothing. And pls don’t tease us with reports we are after Soumare (25m) or any other player over 20m as it is a waste of time as we won’t spend that kind of money. Shame because if we miss this opportunity at a Scudetto or a CL spot our lack of action will cost us much more than an extra 3M. Then the fans will really show Elliot and Maldini how they really feel.

      1. Yes die hard. Just frustrated. Started with missing out on Szobozlai – who was a steal at 25M – proven in CL. Would rather spend $ signing him than Diaz who is on a dry loan and would provide insurance in case Hakan leaves or asks for too much $. We could have had him in summer but again Maldini waited and we lost him. Another player we scouted heavily and beat everyone to who wanted to come but when we waited that was it. Other clubs entered and we lost out. Szobozlai Kone and Simakan would have been amazing… Young and amazing upside fits our transfer policy. 25m, 9m and 18m are not huge sums in today’s game…not if you expect to compete with the worlds best. Let’s see if we can finally sign Simakan and get another young mid in January. In Summer hope we can add a RW and CF…ball is in your court Paolo we are all watching! FORZA MILAN!!!

        1. I agree. I listened to Football Today pod some time ago, apparently milan was offered marcus thuram for 9 million euro. Milan thought he was worth 6 mil. so Gladbach payed 9 mil and how much is he worth now? this penny pinching won’t work. You can only get hauge type of deal so often. even though he’s still very raw and can’t be depended upon in serie a yet.

    1. Couldnt have said it better myself and i agree with every point you made atleast if assuming those players has been our targets. Sempre Milan though and regardless of me liking to frequent the site posts so much stuff that are contradictory to eachother and that often in a matter of hours so i would take anything posted with a grain of salt. Add to that in general sports news are not far off tabloid newspapers nowadays as the main prurpose is to gain clicks on articles and in that sense i do believe that the premise often becomes a hurdel in regrd of fans expectations of how we move in the market.

    2. Who are you to judge whether Kone is worth the 9M they were asking? I’ll trust the judgment of Maldini, Massara, and Moncada over some random pounding on his keyboard over the “next Pogba”.

    3. Milan in recent years was known to be a club that overpays for unproven talent, this image was set by years of instability and stupid ad-hoc decisions by previous managements. Maldini has done an excellent job in his 1.5 years of management to amend this image of “overpaying Milan” and the way him and Massara conducting their market movements sent out a clear massage; the days of throwing out foreign money on unproven players are no more. To throw away 1.5 year of work to set this image for a player in the second division of the French league is not responsible management. Both the signings mentioned in the article above would have been good signings but we did not miss out on a generational talent, there’s still more plenty of fish in the sea.

  2. The team needs reinforcements NOW – Milan are in a great position to win the league for the first time in many years. Never mind the “project”, the “budget” or the “focus on youth” – pony up! Get a few proven performers in, even if they’re loans, even if they’re grizzled veterans, even if only for 6 months! Win the bloody thing, then do the long-term transfer business in the summer.

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