Devil’s Advocate: Plotting Milan’s summer – Five areas to strengthen and 12 possible targets

By Oliver Fisher -

After months of uncertainty, AC Milan’s future is clear: Stefano Pioli will lead the team into next season, along with Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara.

MilanNews confirmed as much on Monday, and thoughts have now quickly turned to what the summer may hold in terms of recruitment.

The outlet reported that Pioli has named the positions that need strengthening: right-back, a deputy left-back, a centre-back, a midfielder and one or two centre-forwards, depending on the future of Ibrahimovic.

Is that really enough though? And are those the right priorities? Below we have picked out six areas that Milan should be strengthening, and a couple of possible names for each…

1. Right-back 

The right-back position should absolutely be the Rossoneri’s priority in terms of summer recruitment. Calabria and Conti haven’t cut it all season due to combination of injuries, suspensions and general poor form, so it is time to look to the future.

Pierre Kalulu has arrived already but a guaranteed starter is needed. The expensive option appears to be Emerson Royal who Barcelona want around €30m for as per multiple reports, but PSV captain Denzel Dumfries is the wise purchase due to his leadership skills at such a young age, his physicality and tenacity at both ends of the pitch and his lower price tag (rumours of around €18m).

2. Centre-back

Simon Kjaer has already joined on a permanent deal, but it is clear – given the injury problems of Musacchio and Duarte – that defensive depth is needed badly. The Atalanta game was a perfect example, albeit a freak scenario in many ways.

Nikola Milenkovic appears to be the ready-made option given he knows Serie A from his three years with Fiorentina, and he knows Pioli from his spell with La Viola too.

However, an all-round unit would be better to partner Romagnoli long-term, and someone like Marash Kumbulla of Hellas Verona could be the captain’s accomplice for years to come given his raw power, spped, aerial ability and physicality. He won’t come cheap, but think of it as a five-year investment at the absolute least.

3. Defensive midfielder

Again, this one is fairly self explanatory. Biglia is leaving, Krunic doesn’t give the same guarantees (but is ok as the fourth slot on the depth chart) and the Kessie-Bennacer pairing – although superhuman at times – cannot be expected to play 50 games next season.

A young profile should be brought in, someone available on advantageous terms who is willing to grow and develop behind the current duo, safe in the knowledge being in three competitions will guarantee game time. The two most obvious names are Sandro Tonali – a boyhood fan of the club available at around €30-35m – and Florentino Luis, who could arrive on a two-year loan with option to buy.

Both are fairly low-risk investments in truth when considering age and the role they will play, hopefully for years to come.

4. Creative midfielder/winger

Milan currently have a few players who can play as a No.10 or out wide in the 4-2-3-1, like Bonaventura, Calhanoglu, Paqueta and even arguably Rebic and Leao to an extent. This creates fluidity of movement in the trident and it is a huge part of how Pioli’s quick counter system works.

Another player who is comfortable shifting would be ideal. Someone of the Dominik Szoboszlai/Aleksey Miranchuk mould could provide excellent depth and fit Elliott’s vision of affordable young talent, but signing a player like Memphis Depay – a proven goal threat who can play centrally too – simply has to be explored if there is a possibility.

A lack of goals from the supporting cast was Milan’s Kryptonite before the break, and slipping back into an attacking rut would be far from ideal, so the more goal threat on the team the better.

5. Centre-forward

There are two scenarios surrounding Milan’s No.9 position next season. The first is if Ibrahimovic stays, something which appears increasingly likely as per the media, and the other is if he goes.

If the Swede should remain, a centre-forward who is able to provide a similar set of skills would be ideal for Pioli’s game system, i.e. someone with size and physicality, able to time runs and finish, but also able to drop in, contribute and properly lead the line.

Andrea Belotti is a name that keeps being thrown around but he is unlikely to be cheap, while Dusan Vlahovic could also be costly but he is much younger and would therefore arguably be a wiser investment. His inconsistencies are well documented, but learning from someone like Zlatan could really light a fire.

If Ibrahimovic does end his second spell at the club, a serious acquisition would have to arrive, one €50m or more. Luka Jovic keeps being mentioned and he would likely cost a wedge, but the idea of reuniting him with Rebic after their Frankfurt partnership and having those two leading fearsome counters is almost too tempting. Failing that, why not try for someone like Duvan Zapata? An experienced Serie A player who has speed and physicality in bundles.

It is worth noting that for the purpose of the article we have picked out five targets to stay in symmetry with the original MilanNews report, but in truth a strong case could be made for signing a winger and a playmaker, maybe even two centre-backs and of course a back-up left-back.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments…

Tags AC Milan Aleksey Miranchuk Boubacar Kamara Dominik Szoboszlai Dusan Vlahovic Duvan Zapata Florentino Luis Luka Jovic Memphis Depay Nikola Milenkovic Sandro Tonali

12 Comments

  1. Phuong says:

    everton soares, dominik Szoboszlai , duvan zapata, milenkovic, that is good players

  2. Ado Mukhtar says:

    Why Milan shouldn’t go all out for Nikolo Zaniolo please, he’s better than all attacking midfielders mentioned

  3. Fredua Agyeman says:

    All the above players mentioned would be great signing for milan.
    All we need as a team is the commitment to bring back the glory of Milan.
    All the best. Red and Black

  4. Mohamed says:

    Thank you so much Oliver.

    I agree with you with most of the suggestions. However, Milan need to spend the money wisely and smartly. We are desperately looking for very good quality players in two positions which can make a big differences next season (Right wing and right back). Other positions is less important, as you need to have players for the depth of the team to be alternative to the main starters. So I will not spend too much there.

    Regarding the right wing position, I think Milan need to invest properly in this position and need high quality, experience and creative player with pace, who can beat one in one as we lacking that too much. The best suitable name is Depay. Alternatively, may be Boga from Sassuolo if you looking for someone who is young.

    Regarding the striker position, I will not invest on that if Ibra is extending his contract, which seems most likely. However, if he leaves, I think Dzeko will be the best option to replace him.

    So, I will spend the money as follwing:
    1. 18 million for Denzel Dumfries
    2. 30 million for Depay
    3. Exchange Paqueta with Milinkovic plus 12 million.
    4. Loan for Florentino Luis

    Total investment is 60 million.

    Following season we can spend money on:
    1. A quality striker and such as Dzeko or Beloti
    2. A creative playmaker such of Esco, Coutinho or Alcantara

    Kind regards,

    Mo

  5. Rahman says:

    Yeah. I agree with all u said. I’d prefer Dumfries for d right back, Tonali or ceballos for d midfield, Szoboszlai or dis Zenith playmaker(Azmunov) for d wing and Jovic as centre forward. Am so in love with Szoboszlai he can be one of d best footballers in d world in few years time! Hope Maldini signs Szoboszlai….

    1. Moahmed says:

      I agree with you with Ceballos. He is a very good player, but he wasn’t convinced last year with Milan project.

      I am not sure about Szoboszlai honestly, as I watch short clips for him and sometimes it is difficult to make judgment on that, especially he is playing on the Austrian league. When I watch Paqueta in those short clips, he impressed me, but playing in Seria A is not easy.

      Mo

  6. lawan S Umar says:

    Yes I agree with you in that way Milan should try to get a more players at list four or five to bring back the victorious position

  7. Asy says:

    DC – todibo/ fofana/ milenkovic/ kumbulla/ koch/ kilian (in this order)
    DR – conti / mazraoui
    MC – tonali/ samuele ricci AND florentino luis WITH pessina/ pobega
    AM – szoboszlai
    SC – ibra/ jovic/ belotti AND scamacca/ bustos/ vlahovic/ isak

  8. Boris says:

    Milan need to switch on….play right midfielder right….left on left….why? Simple because teams easey read game and defend space in 16….covered just playing leg!…. With fast wingers milan can do cross to 9….much better in running….save time that way and don’t give defense to react! For me i will chose deulofeu….or chiesa….ibra stay….leao out and buy belotti or mitrovic….for defense i will try upamekano if they can’t afford him then milenkovic! RB Lazzari is good…DM is probably most complicated

  9. Perttu Junnonaho says:

    I am also strongly in camp of bringing Zaniolo in at all cost! Good article!

  10. Kabiru Bagudu says:

    I agree this god idea bun atterk I prefer beloti defense milonc and tonili

  11. Qwerty says:

    The ideal replacement for ibra is Duvan Zapata. Purchasing him this year, or the next, has to be a priority.

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