Director lifts lid on De Ketelaere-Milan deal including Leeds ‘agreement’ and Maldini’s influence

By Ben Dixon -

Charles De Ketelaere’s time in Italy started with difficulty, and AC Milan opted to move him on last summer, and this summer, he could leave the club permanently. With this in mind, Vincent Mannaert, the former Club Brugges director, spoke about the deal that saw him move to the Rossoneri and his time at Atalanta. 

There can be no denying that the De Ketelaere who featured for Milan last season and the Belgian playing for Atalanta this term are vastly different players. Maybe the difference is confidence, maybe it is just acclimatisation.

However, there is now a talent that looks settled in Italy, and La Dea could ensure his future is in black and blue instead of returning to red and black once his loan concludes by paying the €23 million buy clause in his contract.

It is believed that the clubs will meet shortly to discuss his future, and the Bergamese club are looking to reduce the figure they will have to pay, but Milan are expected to reject this.

With his future a hot topic currently, Mannaert spoke to Gianluca Di Marzio about his move to Milan, and his words have been relayed by Radio Rossonera.

“Bruges had already reached an agreement with Leeds, who offered a considerable sum, but Charles was determined to go only to AC Milan. Initially, the Rossoneri offered 22 million euros, and the directors would have preferred a transfer to the Premier League.

“It was not easy [negotiating with Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara], but they showed great professionalism. Maldini always made his point of view clear to me, but in the end, Charles’ desire to move to AC Milan was decisive.”

De Ketelaere’s performances at Atalanta…

“Maldini had said that Charles would need time, and in hindsight, he was right. I think Bergamo is the right place for him, and it would be good if he stayed for another season: we are still in contact, and I know that Atalanta wants to redeem him.”

Tags AC Milan Charles De Ketelaere


  1. I guess it destroys the narrative that we can’t compete with EPL clubs for transfers and that the players didn’t come thanks to Maldini.

    1. I’m not Maldini hater but tbh I don’t see any part of this article that said CDK wanted to come to Milan because of Maldini.

      The director praise Maldini and Massara for being professional in negotiation but nowhere said that Maldini is the one that persuade CDK to come to Milan, or that CDK choose Milan because of Maldini.

      There were players like Theo that openly said he want to come to Milan because of Maldini but at least, here there is none of that.

      And about can’t compete with EPL clubs… It’s Leeds. Not one we call big clubs like Pool, United, City, Chelsea, etc. They were bottom half club in EPL… And they aren’t even in EPL right now.

      1. Yeah you’re right but I didn’t say he came for Maldini, I said he came thanks to Maldini. I think it’s very different when you have a call from a football living legend telling you “kid we play the Champions League and we want to win everything” rather than a ChatGPT voice message from Furlani saying “our algorithm finds you and we want you to wear our new outfit for our online store”.

        I regret so much these days when we were not publicly playing for top 4 and packing the bags of our best players. So be it.

        1. Well let’s hope Fonseca will turn to be a great coach…

          Even Pioli had no trophy to his name when he came to us.

          Hopefully we will get some trophy along the way, and can improve/at least keep our current position in league.

        1. I’m not. Don’t just spouting nonsense

          It’s just that I’m a neutral Milan fan, neither hating Maldini nor the management.

          Just trying to be objective and want Milan to win.

    2. Yeah, this likely has nothing to do with Maldini. Imagine you are young Belgian player and having option to join either Milan or Leeds, I think 90% of players would prefer Milan. Even if these times Milan is not as great as it used to be, just the history, prestige and fanbase speaks in favor of Milan. This still is one of the biggest clubs on the planet (biggest not meaning best sadly).

      And Leeds? No offence, but they are nowadays just 2nd tier English team. Can’t compare that.

  2. Agreeing to Atalanta’s deal was one of the worst transfer moves in Milan’s history.

    Atalanta risked nothing, as they just loaned him with option to buy for way less than Milan paid just 10 months before. If he would turn out great, Atalanta would buy him out cheaply (which is the case), and if he would turn out to be flop, Atalanta would hand him over back to Milan, and Milan would be left with overpriced flop wanted by no one.

    They should have either sold him directly, or just loan without option to buy. And if nobody was interested in that, they should have just let him stay, at that moment he was just 22 so he deserved one more year. Absolutely terrible transfer move.

    1. Fully agree. I once said the terrible performance of CdK might be more or less Pioli’s fault on how integrate him in the team. But the terrible deal of CdK to Atalanta is absolutely the fault of this current management.

      And now there’s report that Atalanta’s intention is to retract the terms of the agreement by letting the buying option expires (just like when we did with Tonali) to get a better deal. And if that happens, we go from bad to the worst kind of deal.

      1. Actually if Atalanta would let buyout option expire, then Milan might not be in that bad situation. If that would happen, I would just keep him at Milan. That is, unless he would desperately want to join Atalanta and wouldn’t want to go back to Milan…

        He can play as Attacking Midfielder and Striker, both positions that Milan does not have players for. He is young, proven himself in Atalanta well, and under new coach at Milan he might lift off nicely. But I think that won’t happen. Atalanta would buy him out. It’s too good deal for them, they probably only want to beg for even better price tag now.

        1. 1. Milan doesn’t employ a two striker system. CDK won’t cut it.
          2. Pioli would have kept him on the bench the entire season with some cameos, had he stayes, therefore plummeting his value down even more.
          3. Pioli did try him across the trident up front – he didn’t cut it as either AM or CF or even coming off the wing.
          4. CDK just couldn’t cut it in the pressure cooker that’s San Siro whereas at Bergamo there’s no pressure.
          5. Atalanta DOES have him on a loan with option. Which if triggered (with the resale attached) enables Milan to recuperate their money back.

          EVERYBODY. WINS.

          1. Well true is that he just didn’t cut on any position. He looked absolutely terrible in Milan and even had problem with putting ball into empty net staying 5 meters from it. It’s all true. But that doesn’t change anything that I said above. Milan took all the risk and Atalanta none. Atalanta won in any scenario in that deal. It would be smarter for Milan to loan him with a buyback.

          2. During the season 2022/23 I was going to San Siro a lot and you can see way better the movements of the players. De Ketelaere wasn’t really tried as a winger but he was probably asked to slide as a right winger sometimes and he was showing good things there. It was not often though as he didn’t have much playing time but you could see his potential.

            It was just foolish to loan him without any ability to get him back. We knew he was praised all over Europe, also by his Belgium teammates. Moncada probably found him and was high on him, we spent a lot on him, meaning that spending was accepted by the direction at the time. And suddenly we kick him out of the door after a failed tryout, and he was not playing so much. I think it was convenient for the current management to have him last season as a symbol of the failures of the previous management but now they look stupid, once again.

            I wonder if the management will get rid of Musah the same way now.

    2. Well it’s not as straightforward as that.

      While loaning CDK, what Milan get :
      – loan fee of 3m
      – salary fully paid by Atalanta, so we save 2.7m + tax, around 3.5m
      – option to buy 22m
      – achievable bonus after transfer (if Atalanta buy him) up to 2m
      – 10% future sale (for example if some EPL club buy him for 50m -> we get 5m.

      Beside that, 22m buyout clause if triggered already matched amortisation value of the CDK (2nd year of 5 year contract, so the amortisation value around 60% of 32m = 19,2m, more or less.

      So in theory, in financial term, it’s not a loss.

      1. It is straightforward. Milan would either lose nice promising player for less that they paid just 10months before, or end up with flop that they paid a lot of money for. Milan took all the risk and handed keys to Atalanta, which took 0 risk (just loan fee). In which universe this was not a terrible move for Milan?

        Not to even mention that Atalanta is a direct rival for Serie A top4…

        1. It’s not that straightforward as AR explained, even though De Ketelaere didn’t do well in Milan, financially Milan has almost no loss.

          1. Ehh, even if it’s not technically a “financial loss” in terms of regulations, then Milan would either lose money and/or great football prospect. You really don’t see that, especially in terms of doing such a deal with local rival, not some remote club in different league?

          2. Which – again – doesn’t change the fact that if you lose money on a deal, then it’s not a good deal.

  3. The CDK story is one to learn from:
    1. Any well motivated player can come good with time.
    2. A player on loan wins an European trophy while the players in his parent club ends with none.
    3. Don’t be too critical of a boy who you expect to do a “man’s” job.
    Forza Milan!

  4. everyone knew he’s huge talent & need time..
    he just in wrong period, CDK must be labeled as transfer flop for whatever reason cz jery need reason to fire Maldini

  5. He has now regained his confidence, played a leading role in Atalanta’s season of winning Europa league and qualifying for ucl. Bring him back and give him a playing time. He is now worth double the agreed amount.

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