Devil’s Advocate: Milan’s return to signing sweet spot is a welcome move

By Oliver Fisher -

Something that can get lost within the frantic start to the transfer window is the trends that emerge from it, and AC Milan have given some strong indications regarding their plan for signings.

Milan have been among the most active clubs in Serie A thus far and certainly the most among the ‘Seven Sisters’, despite the summer mercato having been open for less than three weeks.

Things began in a rather volatile way as Paolo Maldini and his right-hand man Ricky Massara were relieved of their duties as the technical and sporting director, plunging the project into disrepute.

A period of uncertainty followed in which the reasons for the fall-out between Maldini and RedBird Capital were debated, but in the meantime CEO Giorgio Furlani and chief scout Geoffrey Moncada got to work.

Their first major decision was to sanction the club-record sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle United, which created another violent storm just as the dust was settling.

Since then, they have got to work spending the money. Marco Sportiello and Luka Romero came on free transfers, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic joined from Chelsea and Tijjani Reijnders will undergo a medical tomorrow before his move.

The reliable MilanNews writes that Milan sold Tonali to Newcastle for a figure of €80m including bonuses and when factoring in the signings mentioned, the amount spent so far this summer reaches around €60m.

What is perhaps most interesting though is the fee paid out for Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic and Reijnders. The former joined for €16m plus €4m in bonuses, the USA winger cost €20m plus bonuses and the Dutchman the same.

From this it can be deduced that Milan are once again reverting into a ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to transfer fees, something that continues on from the Elliott Management era. They aimed to push a line of sustainability with targeted investments.

It yielded the core that was in place for the Scudetto-winning campaign, with players like Mike Maignan, Fikayo Tomori (he was a bit more), Theo Hernandez, Ismael Bennacer, Tonali and Rafael Leao (who cost less with Tiago Djalo going the other way) all falling into that same category of costing €15-25m.

What happened when Elliott permitted acquisitions above that? The record certainly isn’t as positive as the names mentioned above.

Four of Milan’s most expensive purchases of all time are under American ownership, and for this we are presuming that RedBird are continuing with the line of financial prudence.

Milan technically paid close to a figure of €38m for Mattia Caldara in the summer of 2018, and though that comes with the caveat of being part of the operation which saw Leonardo Bonucci go back to Juventus and Gonzalo Higuain join on loan, it still proved to be disastrous as his two appearances for the club show.

Lucas Paqueta and Krzystzof Piatek arrived midway through the 2018-19 season under Leonardo’s watch for a combined €73m and were supposed to push Gennaro Gattuso’s side into the Champions League places.

It didn’t happen, and both players ended up moving on after a disappointing second season with the Brazilian heading to Lyon for around €20m where he relaunched his career, and the Pole joining Hertha BSC for a similar figure before ending up back in Italy.

Then we come to Charles De Ketelaere, who we needn’t write much about other than recalling he came for €35m including bonuses from Club Brugge, never really fit in and now looks like he could be heading out on loan.

The reasons for each individual failure (De Ketelaere could of course redeem himself yet) of course deserve their own examinations, but the fact is that the trend shows Milan seem to have a proven ballpark when it comes to transfer fees.

With Moncada and Furlani in charge, there is likely to be a shift to a more algorithm-based approach, something Maldini is believed to have only embraced to a limited degree.

Now, the pennies will really be counted and Milan will only offer what they think is fair value for targets, all of which fall within pre-determined economic parameters to begin with and must involve a sensible salary too.

Looking at Pulisic as an example, Milan have bought on the dip with him, to use a stock market term. He went to Chelsea for over €60m after an impressive spell at Borussia Dortmund and has joined for less than one-third of that.

The Hershey-born forward may yet struggle to adapt to Serie A, but if he can stay healthy – on the face of things at least – it looks like he could be a very useful and versatile addition to a stumbling attack and at an age (24) where he could still explode.

Loftus-Cheek is joining for even less than his ex-Chelsea team-mate too. He has had trouble with injuries as well, but any top side in Europe would have jumped at the chance to sign him when he was under Maurizio Sarri and was a starter. Milan believe he will get back to those levels.

Finally there is Reijnders, who could have drawn a bidding war involving Barcelona if reports are to be believed. The 24-year-old got 8 goals and 11 assists last season, which was enough to earn him AZ Alkmaar’s player of the season award and get a Netherlands call-up. Milan got him for the price they wanted.

Another factor that plays into things with the paid-for signings is their impact on the balance sheet, which will be less than €11m for Loftus-Cheek (€8.55m), Pulisic (€10.2m) and Reijnders (€7.34m) in the 2023-24 accounts when factoring amortisation plus gross salary.

There are other hints about the recruitment so far as well. The Englishman, American and Dutchman are between 24 and 27 years old, neither too young nor too mature.

All are in the prime of their careers and are ready to contribute, each with a point to prove too. If all goes well, they are also resell-able in the future due to age and cost so could generate capital gains.

While that’s not something to think about for now, it is definitely one of the points that will be weighed up given the necessity for player turnover.

What about the rest of the window? The main targets being looked at are believed to be Yunus Musah of Valencia, Mehdi Taremi of Porto and Samuel Chukwueze of Villarreal.

Musah is seemingly the closest to arriving for a figure of €18-19m including bonuses, while the Rossoneri leadership seem to have stood firm on not wanting to pay over €20m for Taremi and €25m for Chukwueze.

The reason for each is similar, given both have a deal expiring in less than a year and do not seem likely to renew, but for the Nigerian winger they see the potential and the Iranian striker has a fantastic scoring record. Targeted investments.

This has already been an intriguing summer transfer window for Milan as they aim to construct a deeper and more balanced squad for Pioli. Tonali’s exit was a painful but perhaps necessary collective sacrifice to achieve that aim.

The notion that Milan would go out and spend €70m on a replacement for the former Brescia star was simply never a serious one, and now we are seeing a return to the safety of the €15-25m sweet spot.

Tags AC Milan


  1. Great article Oliver!

    Ok So Inter is also going for Morata now – soooo

    They will potentially have:
    Balogun AND

    as forwards…

    Sounds great! and how will they afford all that given the big black hole they are in financially?

    1. They are hard selling correa too ( buying from lazio 30m euro ) , correa are like rebic in ACM reject all offer. Balogun have price tag more than 40m euro , i dont think they are willing to splash budget for player that have similar style with marcus thuram ,probably they just go to low cost option like morata

    2. Correa is a bust. Morata isn’t a sure thing. They can’t afford Balogun. That leaves them with Martinez and Thuram (unproven). Far from a sure thing…

    3. They are fucked in the near future that is all I am gonna say maybe not next season but season after they are definitely fucked..

  2. If we look at it this way, this Milan administration is ahead of its time. They sacrifice what at first glance seems irreplaceable, and invest wisely in something that, in their opinion, should bring a better future! Of course, all this needs to be proven in practice. To be continued..

    1. Most importantly players struggling last year should get used to italian league and bring back their best to consider as a success of signings.

      God even dont know pioli will play with new players or continue with Lord krunic(with respect).

      Except krunic we dont have regular midfielders from past seasons


      Forza Milan

  3. I expect the trend for the next few seasons under Redbird to be selling 1 of our top players for huge capital gain and investing the money in 2-3 new players. I could see Theo or Mike being sold next summer for about the same price if the correct offer arrives.
    Personal feelings aside, if it makes the team stronger overall by investing in the right players – I’m all for it.

    1. How will instability make the TEAM stronger?

      What TEAMS do you know that benefit from 25% staff turnover?

      Seriously if you went to work today and your employer said:

      “We’ve decided to “sell” our top sales person to our rivals and bring in 6 replacements to our team of 25”

      would that sound like a winning strategy or that your employer had lost the plot?

      In no other business or sports team is this normal. Other sports that have transfers don’t engage in this level of transfer activity.

      This has got nothing to do with football. It’s got nothing even to do with money since clubs are losing a ton. It’s egos and corruption that is driving this and it’s destroying the game.

      1. This level of transfer activity was warranted since before the last season started. We were never reinforced after winning the Scudetto. Letting Sandro go has made for major improvements all over midfield.

        Theo and Mike are Top 3 in the world in their position. If a stupid offer comes in for wither one of them, then yes, Milan should consider it by all means and make further upgrades with the proceeds, improving our depth hopefully.

        Makes perfect sense. I’m not sure what you’re having an issue with.

        1. Sell Theo and Mike and bring whom instead ? Like for Tonali it is understandable, he is good but not world-class. But if you sell Theo, Mike or god forbid, Leao, who are you going to bring as their replacements ? just because selling one player allowed you to bring 3 or 4 others doesn’t mean it is always a good strategy. When you have the best players in the world in their position, you have to do everything you can to keep them.

        2. It’s got nothing to do with money.

          It’s all about stability.

          That is the key to the success of all the great sides.

          People just do not engage their brains when it comes to the transfer market. They just get excited by endless signings and think this is some kind of sign of progress when in fact it’s chaos and regression.

          1. What are you on about only player that left from the starting 11 is Tonali.. And hopefully Messias look at Napoli last season how “horrible” their staff turnover went 😂

      2. So if someone isn’t up to the task there shouldn’t be any turnover? Milan are making this many signings because every department needs reinforcements whether you like it or not. Fresh off a scudetto and finish in 4th(really 5th) is not good and the midfield was the worst part about them. Attack was bad too. Defence was decent and that’s why the midfield is being heavily reinforced and the attack needs a side fixed. We can’t just continue with the same guys if they have no room for improvement and keep putting in bad performances. I for one couldnt bear to see messias and saelemaekers every game,Having no alternative to giroud, and watching the midfield get beat every game.

        We definitely needed reinforcements now time will tell if these are the right ones..

      3. “How will instability make the TEAM stronger?

        What TEAMS do you know that benefit from 25% staff turnover?

        Seriously if you went to work today and your employer said:…”

        Yeah, because playing football and/or running a football club is EXACTLY like running a normal business company (e.g. general store or media company).

        Sometimes 25% staff turnover is good. Sometimes it’s not. What is certain that Milan’d midfield wasn’t good enough to win trophies. Now it has been renewed completely. Was it the right choice? Time will tell.

        1. You’re right.

          In football a split second is the difference between winning and losing so it’s even more stupid.

  4. This cannot be a trend. Sacrificing one, yes. Sucks it was Tonali but what’s done is done. The problem is not reinvesting the money wisely and every single signing so far is a huge gamble. Sure they may have some upside but buying a bunch of injury and error prone replacements to fill in for one another is recipe for disaster. Take a look at what Gundogan said when he joined Barca. “Mix of veterans and youth, all with quality.” Quality

    1. Well they’re all quality, all of our first XI are internationals, and the player who will most likely see the least time on international duty in this case is probably Tomori. Even Loftus-Cheek has represented England at every level from U/16 to the 3 Lions and even went to the World Cup and has represented England more times than Tomori, Pulisic is the captain of his national team, Maignan is Frances undisputed No1 GK, Giroud is Frances all time top scorer, Theo is the best LB on the planet, Thiaw is a rising star in the German setup, and Leao is the new Gem of Portugal, let’s not forget when Krunic plays for his national side he does extraordinarily well. So our squad in essence looks really good, and on the bench we have our mainstays and should be getting additional backup. So we look way better than we did last season.

      1. Loftus cheek is not in top50 players list for england anymore.
        There is no midfield player among the ones you have written.
        It takes 1 or 2years to get settled in league for midfielders especially with Pioli more big problem.

        Last year our problem was not having good bench strength, now we are weakening our first team with bench.
        We will have to wait another 2years to come back to this level 2022-23, only if the new management dont sell existing big players.

        It took 1year atleast for ismael/kessie/tonali even after coming from italian leagues, then understand for foreign players how difficult it is to perform from the first minute.

        1. Serie A is sadly below par compared to EPL in terms of speed, intensity and physicality. That’s why EPL “rejects” tend to do well here. NAtional team or not, I don’t see any reason RLC wouldn’t do good here after hopefully a brief introductory period.

          1. Which EPL rejects have done well in Serie A?!?! Lukaku and Abraham tanked in their second seasons. Which player who failed at a big EPL club has gone on to become a star in Serie A? There aren’t any, and no, Tomori doesn’t count because, like the other two I mentioned, he was poor in his second season. Serie A isn’t as physically or athletically demanding as the EPL, but it’s more demanding than all the other leagues and far more demanding tactically.

      2. Quality makes no difference with high turnover of players.

        It takes months to settle into a job. After a break up and moving house, it’s apparently the most stressful thing a person can do. A person has to learn new systems, learn to read new colleagues, and new situations. And that’s an office job. These are supposed to be elite athletes stepping onto a pitch where a split second makes all the difference. And many are learning a new language to boot.

        This is not normal. In no other situation would this level of staff turnover be normal. No other sports operate like this.

  5. Even the likes of Fulham and Bournemouth didn’t want Loftus Cheek. Let’s not pretend he isn’t anything other than average even if he had one good season years ago.
    Pulisic will be ok for the 20 games he plays.

    1. He was pretty good at both Fulham and Palace the thing is they couldn’t afford him as their Wage Bills are over the 70% of revenue set by UEFA, why do you think he went to the World Cup and that’s before he returned to Chelsea under Sarri. Pulisic has played a lot of football in the past 3 seasons even though it doesn’t seem that way and he’s even lifted the Champions League, dude has played 111 games in the past 3 seasons, and that’s excluding his performances for the national team.

      1. He hasn’t played for England since 2018 and was only in the squad because Oxlade Chamberlain was injured. Lingaard and Dele Alli were also in that squad it’s hardly a ringing endorsement as you wouldn’t want either of them these days.
        It’s 6 seasons since Pulisic managed to make over 30 league appearances in a season – it won’t be any different this year.

      2. you don’t know what you’re talking about every epl team gets more revenue than the top series a team. Fulham and Palace can dish out 35m with ease but they didn’t because loftus cheek is an injury prone player who was almost never a starter consistently and mediocre when fit. He played almost no part in the UCl triumph and many of his appearances are as a sub

      3. Pulisick has missed 100+ days due to injuries in each of the last 3 seasons, that’s the opposite of a lot. Had Inter signed him, most of you would be laughing. He’s a useless cripple.

      4. Pulisick is one of the most injury prone players in the top leagues, he is feeble. His injury record.

        22/23. Knee Problems. 59 days

        21/22. Ankle Injury. 52 days

        20/21. Muscle Injury. 24 days
        20/21. Hamstring Injury. 63 days
        20/21. Calf Strain. 21 days

        19/20. Tear in the abductor muscle. 156 days
        19/20. Groin Injury. 12 days

        He’d miss even more games – had he actually played!

        RCL is even worse:

        2022-2023. 59 days injured
        2020-2021. 44 days injured
        2018-2019. 333 days injured
        2017-2018. 135 days injured

        It’s negligent to sign players like that. Pioli is an utter buffoon. He signed both on the back of their performances against Milan in the UCL. That’s the type of stupidity Galliani was famous for.

  6. “The reliable MilanNews writes that Milan sold Tonali to Newcastle for a figure of €80m including bonuses”

    So MilanNews is more reliable than Romano who reported €70m including bonuses? 🤔

    1. Lol. Agreed. If Romano doesn’t post it it’s not true.

      “What about the rest of the window? The main targets being looked at are believed to be Yunus Musah of Valencia, Mehdi Taremi of Porto and Samuel Chukwueze of Villarreal.“

      Unfortunately we can either get Taremi OR Chukwueze not both. Seems like it will be Taremi and Isaksen as we have gone a bit cold on all other strikers….

        1. Dejan you are always nice to others but you are usually surprised why would someone write something bad to you. 🤣🤣

          1. and here’s the other clown who said Milan would now sell everyone and get relegated without Maldini

            It will hurt so bad for you when Milan wins next season

      1. “Lol. Agreed. If Romano doesn’t post it it’s not true.”

        The same logic applies here: If Juro posts it it’s not true.

    1. The best part of the article is how allegedly this is a continuation of something, getting 2 Chelsea injury prone players for 40M is somehow the same as buying Tomori who was always fit at Chelsea, or Leao, who was a top talent. These 2 guys couldn’t be less similar to the signings that are now the core of the team…

        1. Which part haven’t I “grasped”? The part where it says Milan is back in the “sweet-spot” regarding fees and comparing the signings to the team core without mentioning those were young players signed for their value and developed into top players? Buying RLC, Pulisic and Reijnders is a continuation of what? Spending around 20M? think I got it pretty good. The only good signing for that money will be Musah, others are a waste. I’d be happy to be wrong but I usually am not.

          1. Musah has been poor this season and Dominguez is much better. Reijnders seems like a good prospect and, unlike the ex-Chelsea cripples, he can stay fit.

  7. I expect, as article refers, many “collective sacrifices to achieve that aim” in coming seasons under RedBird.

    Something like Game of Thrones series, when *SPOILER ALERT* they introduced a character, make him audience favourite and then kill him off in most shocking way possible.

  8. People say these new signings are still a gamble, isn’t all signings a gamble?
    We’ll never know for sure if any wether the player will immediately shine in new team, need time to gel, or become a flop.
    But from the signings so far, and more to come, at least Milan will have depth.
    A lot of fans also asked for the likes of sandro and leao to be sold, after Milan declining form last season.
    Now suddenly they are the ones who oppose the sales of sandro.

    1. Correct, but these ones are bigger gambles than someone like Dominguez or Milenkovic Savic who have plenty of experience in Serie A and good injury records.

      So the potential upside is bigger but there are also bigger risks that they don’t adapt and an increased chance of them getting injuries

      1. True, but the likes of theo, leao, tomori, didn’t have serie a experiences before they came to milan.
        Players who had serie a experiences can also be a flop, like kalinic, matri, etc.
        I know it may not be apple to apple comparison, but the point is every signing is a gamble.
        What milan have done so well this transfer window is they gamble with lower risk, since they only buy players at reasonable prices.
        If these new players can play their best from the start then great, but they’re still gonna need time to adjust.
        But i agree, Dominguez would be a great signing, with lower risk.

        1. Yes, and when they signed Leao for example, what did he do the first season? Nothing. Second season? He was average. 3rd season, he was a player. Theo and Tomori both had top league experience and were rarely injured before joining Milan. The difference is visible if you don’t wear pink sunglasses. The risk is way bigger now, who will pay a transfer for Pulisic if he continues being injured? Who will pay his wages for 4 years while he is injured? Will Reijnders ever be good in Serie A? Will RLC be injured also (I also think he isn’t good enough but ok)? You get a completely new midfield with unproven players.

        2. And I forgot to mention Musah, because he is the only signing that Milan should be making. Young, already good, has a big growth potential. That is a signing like Leao or Theo were at the time, not Pulisic, Reijnders or RLC.

  9. All I’m gonna say after I read all these comments. To @Martin @AC1899 #Bb #Dejan
    What RLC can do at Milan? Score no Assist yh 1 assist every 22 apps Pulisic he hasn’t played for 1 year Reijnders can be good signing but these two and Musah can’t score enough so we are gonna rely again in leao and giroud for goals why? Also if they buy Taremi for 25m we are done 👍 31 yrs old for 25m wow. At last all I wanted to see was good replacement for tonali which they didn’t sign anyone CAM positioned players are useless with the possible new formation we are gonna keep pobega which he doesn’t provide anything also gonna keep kjaer florenzi rebic who are all injury prone so yh they bring 60m players that doesn’t score or doesn’t assist enough to improve last year results 👍 Romero adli cdk doesnt gonna try to help them cdk was playing to he’s worst position adli didn’t play for no reason so all of them adli Romero are going to be loaned out and cdk which for me is still stupid. Drop from the squad rebic Origi messias and put cdk Romero as winger and adli as CAM . But no 43m going to be sold after one year with not playing best position or not even playing at all wow and they didn’t fired Pioli for that also in midfield they can bring hjulmand and Dominguez

  10. The article is well written Oliver.

    I really hope all of our signings work this season.

    The problem is, what could’ve been vs what is.

    So far we signed RLC, Pulisic, Reijnders, Romero.

    And we are still EXACTLY in the same spot as we were last season. Attack is toothless, RW is useless. Midfield is empty.
    Pulisic at 23 is so injury prone, he barely plays due to health. It will get worse with every passing year. Pulisic signing has no sporting value. It was done to draw USA audience to Milan, which is actually a very good thing at it means money..
    Reijnders can be good. But the bidding war thing wouldn’t have happened anyway. 4th choice in Barca and 1st choice in Milan means bidding war was never a possibility. I wouldn’t count on Dutch football much. Eredivisie hasn’t produced good talents in a long time.
    Romero is new and Pioli probably just sees him as an infant asking for mommy every day lol
    Only wildcard can be RLC. He can either be a talisman or a total failure.
    With Tonali we had some assurance. people think he is bad, but those who know football, will never say that. You don’t get to be the one to create most chances in UCL by mere coincidence, specially in a 4231 formation without a RW nor CAM.

    The same 15/20 mil sweetspot would apply if we had gotten Thuram, Kamada, RLC, Berardi/chuku, Baldanzi and Pulisic. Instead of selling Tonali, Tomori sale would yield same money, would’ve been much cheaper & easier to replace.

    1. Exactly! Same bad decisions. Why sell Tonali when you could do it differently. It’s clear we are always two steps behind, Maldini or no Maldini. While other clubs have clear plans set in motion even before season ends

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.