Stars, signings, stadium and structure: Everything you need to know about Milan U23

By Oliver Fisher -

It has been talked about for months, but AC Milan’s U23 team project really does seem set to materialise in view of the 2024-25 season.

As we reported earlier in the month, Milan got their slot thanks to Ancona’s failure to register for next season. For a place to become available in Serie C it required one of the teams to drop out for whatever reason, and the green light arrived.

The new Serie C season should begin on August 11th with the first two rounds of the Coppa Italia qualification process and subsequently on the weekend of the 23rd, 24th and 25th of August the league campaign will begin.

How will the U23 side work logistically? Who will be the key players in the squad? How does the management look? Will there be any signings? We answer all the commonly asked questions below.

Venue and group

Calcio e Finanza recently reported that Milan are preparing to put on the table a total investment of €12m for the second team project. The plan is to create a large player pool of 50-55 across the first team and U23s.

The stadium chosen is the Stadio Felice Chinetti in Solbiate Arno, just 3.5m from Milanello. Solbiate Arno is a region Province of Varese in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 40km northwest of Milan and about 11 km south of Varese. It is very close to the Rossoneri’s training complex Milanello.

The Rossoneri also intend to take care of any improvements to the facility where the U23s will play, to create a stadium that is up to par. Milan have made over €700k available in order to make the necessary improvements for Serie C.

The third tier in Italy is split into three regional groups of 20 teams each, and there is some uncertainty at present about which group Milan will be in. If they directly took Ancona’s spot they would be in Group C which is ‘South and Islands’, therefore not ideal logistically. The teams are as follows:

Altamura (promoted), Avellino, Benevento, Casertana, Catania, Cavese (promoted), Cerignola, Crotone, Foggia, Giugliano, Messina, Milan U23, Monopoli, Picerno, Potenza, Sorrento, Taranto, Ternana (relegated), Trapani (promoted), Turris.

However, it is also possible that Milan will speak with Juventus (who have the Next Gen team) and Atalanta (who also have an U23 side) to try work out between them who should go where, with a max of one B-team per group. They could even draw lots to decide it.

The management

According to what was reported by The Athletic, Jovan Kirovski is the man that has been chosen to oversee the project and it seems as though Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a key endorser.

He will become the sporting director of the U23 team, and managed to bring talents of the caliber of Steven Gerrard, Douglas Costa and Chicharito Hernandez to America, as well as obviously Ibrahimovic. We profiled him in a feature some time ago.

However, Milan will not be able to call him the ‘sporting director’ officially. Instead, he will have to be an executive at the club who has responsibility for the U23 side. This will not change what Kirovski was brought into the club to do, it is just a technicality that Milan have had to find a way around.

It changes how he appears in the organisational chart of the club, at least until he undertakes the relevant Italian qualification so that he can assume the role of sporting director formally.

The team will be coached by Daniele Bonera, who got his first taste of being a manager during the friendly against Roma in Australia at the end of May. He was chosen over Ignazio Abate who instead decided to leave when his contract was up.

The guidelines and playing style of the U23s will be aligned with the ‘Milan style’, which means that from the academy to the first team there will be the same sporting vision and same playing principles, so Paulo Fonseca will likely have some input too.

Current squad status

Ibrahimovic was very clear in his recent press conference: in the ideas of the Rossoneri management, the Under 23s will have a fundamental role in the development of the best talents in the youth sector, and there are plenty of them.

All eyes will be on Francesco Camarda, fresh from winning the Under 17 European Championship with Italy as MVP and becoming the youngest ever player to debut in Serie A last season, doing so before he had even turned 16.

Kevin Zeroli – who has already made his debut in Serie A and was one of the best players in the last edition of the UEFA Youth League – will be a star, as well as the French goalkeeper Noah Raveyre and the Italian winger Diego Sia.

Other familiar names that could feature include Jan-Carlo Simic, Davide Bartesaghi, Filippo Scotti, Victor Eletu, Chaka Traore and Alessandro Bonomi. Quite a few of the aforementioned names have recently signed new deals, showing a clear intent to build around them for the future.

The Under 17s also have several players that could make the leap, perhaps to the Primavera first and then the U23. Goalkeeper Alessandro Longoni, midfielder Christian Comotto and playmaker Mattia Liberali all stand out from that group.

Potential reinforcements

The U23 team has almost had it’s own swathe of rumours ahead of the upcoming summer transfer window, and there are reasons why Kirovski will be looking to recruit from outside the club.

Firstly, in order for the project to be successful, the team will at least need to be competitive. The current Primavera core are all teenage players, and playing against fully-grown adults week-in week-out might see them struggle physically until they adapt.

Simply put, it is no good investing in a team to play in the third tier if they cannot get results at that level, and that is why some addition from other clubs might be needed to bring the average age and the size of the squad up a bit.

The first signs on this front might have actually come from who will be leaving rather than arriving. Daniele Longo of Calciomercato.com reported that Milan will not sign Alexander Simmelhack permanently who thus returns to FC Copenhagen.

He arrived on loan with an option to buy and scored seven times in 29 games last season across all competitions, but the management did not opt to keep him, clearly preferring to go in a different direction.

According to MilanNews, one of the first reinforcements for the new B-team will be Mbarick Fall, a 27-year-old striker. Meanwhile, Milan were linked yesterday with a move for the 24-year-old Andrea Adorante who scored 20 goals last season to help Juve Stabia get promotion from Serie C.

Il Giorno yesterday spoke about about reinforcements for the defence and midfielder. For the former, the target is Gabriele Minotti, a 21-year-old central defender for Giana Erminio and former captain of the Monza Primavera. He has only been there for one season, but made 41 appearances.

For the midfield, the return of Alessandro Sala is expected. He was with the Rossoneri until 2020, then moved on to Cesena, Renate and Pro Sesto, and now the management are keen to bring him back after four years.

Meanwhile, Foggia right-back Emmanuele Salines could be brought in at full-back. He scored seven goals in 35 appearances last season which is impressive from a defender, and he has got three seasons of Serie C football under his belt.

Key regulations

Seeing links to players over 23 as mentioned above will no doubt have a few fans scratching their heads regarding the rules on over-age players within the squad, given they go against the ‘U23’ tag.

The regulations for Second Teams of Serie A clubs in the 2024-25 Serie C Championship state that Milan U23 will be able to include up to 23 players in their matchday squad list.

Only four players born before 1 January 2002 can be included in that list; all the other players on the match list must have been born after 31 December 2001. A maximum of seven players who have been registered with a football club affiliated to the FIGC for less than seven sporting seasons may be included.

All the other players on the match list must have been registered with a football club affiliated to the FIGC for at least seven sporting seasons. The players included in the match list must not be present in the list of 25 players for Serie A, nor must they have played more than 50 matches in Serie A.

Players shuttling between the first and second teams will be permitted. Only those players who have not reached 25 appearances during the season with at least 30 minutes played for each appearance, in the league played by the first team, may be used in any Play-Off or Play-Out matches.

Violation of any provision referred to in the previous paragraphs will result in the second team losing the match with a score of 0-3.

What if Milan do really well and gain promotion? Well, the rules state that a second team will be able to be promoted to Serie B but will never be able to participate in the same league as the first team, nor in a higher tier than the second tier.

A Serie A club that participates with a second team in a lower league (e.g. Milan U23 in Serie C) do not acquire economic rights or the right to vote, despite being represented within said league.

Finally, the second team of a Serie A club will not be able to participate in the main Coppa Italia which includes Serie A sides, but it will participate in the Coppa Italia Serie C.

Tags AC Milan Milan U23

5 Comments

  1. If we actually wants to buy some serie c players to reinforce the u23 squad we should probably look into Cristian Shpendi. Italian/Albanian who is 20 years old and plays for Cesena in Serie C and who this season played 35 combined matches over 2452 minutes (equating 27.24 full matches) bagging 22 goals and assisting 6 times. Seem like a good acquisition compared to some of those mentioned recently and he should increase in value as he most likely will end up as an international player for Albania so there is also a resale potential there if he never takes the step up to the Serie A team. Im not saying we shouldnt add any older players but Sphendi at least seems like a promising player considering his age and stats.
    So the u23 teams are actually now allowed to move up in Serie B, then there must have been made a change in recent years or what as i was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be able to get promoted to that league.

      1. Neither did i but its really great because we could end up getting really valuable experience there compared to Serie C, it was a great article by Oliver that I actually also felt that I learned something from.

  2. Re. “A maximum of seven players who have been registered with a football club affiliated to the FIGC for less than seven sporting seasons may be included.”

    I presume the intention of this is to limit the number of young players brought in from academies from outside of Italy. Presumably this means players like Simic would have to take up one of these seven spots.

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