AC Milan confirmed their fifth signing of the summer last weekend as Fode Ballo-Toure arrived on a permanent deal from Monaco.
It would be fair to say that Ballo-Toure arrives as somewhat of an unknown quantity, at least to those who do not watch Ligue 1 week-in week-out, and while he is arriving as a deputy to Theo Hernandez, he will have ample time to show why Milan pursued him so aggressively.
Our writer Rohit Rajeev has provided an in-depth analysis of the player…
Born on 3rd January 1997, Ballo-Toure started out at the PSG academy which reached the UEFA Youth League final but lost to a Chelsea side which funnily enough featured Fikayo Tomori.
He then left Paris Saint-Germain well knowing that the first team was already stacked and opportunities would be tough to come by, so he was picked up by then-Lille coach Marcelo Bielsa. Under Bielsa he stayed for one and a half seasons and played 47 times before Monaco shelled out €11m for his transfer.
He represented France up until U21 level before switching his allegiance to Senegal where his mother was born, and now he has completed his dream switch to Milan.
Fode Ballo-Toure is extremely pacey, as is common knowledge. His extremely agile frame and thin legs make it extremely easy for him to take long strides in a short time thus making it easy for him to cover more ground.
Ballo-Toure was originally a wide midfielder who was converted and drilled as an attacking full-back by Bielsa at Lille. As a defender who likes to stride forward, the 24-year-old makes overlapping runs off of his winger who tucks in to create space.
He has a good cross and can float in good deliveries using both his feet. Given how Milan have invested in two big centre-forwards, crosses can be useful when trying to break down deep blocks.
In-terms of defending Ballo Toure needs to improve on his concentration and avoid unforced errors.
In terms of pressing, Ball-Toure is extremely aggressive and presses the player on the ball sometimes to an extent he commits a foul.
Ballo-Toure also has decent ball control and is assured in possession, with not too many bad touches, which is particularly good for Pioli given the left-sided dominance of Milan’s build-up play.
With pace he is able to track back quickly and recover in time to make tackles. This is an important feature for Milan’s left-backs, who are expected to join the attack but expected to commit quickly to defending in case a counter breaks out.
In terms of 1v1 defending, Ballo-Toure needs to improve on and not slide into challenges and concede space to the attacker.
The comparison with Theo Hernandez is actually an interesting one as the Senegal international comes out on top in a number of different categories, including accurate crosses per 90 (1.2 to 0.5), attempted tackles per 90 (4.6 to 2.6) and percentage of successful tackles (61% to 56%).
However, Theo is better when it comes to key passes per 90 (1.2 to 0.9), dribbles completed plus fouls won per 90 (4.7 to 1.9) and interceptions per 90 (1 to 0.8).
Deal or no deal
Milan have been in the market for a back-up left-back since January 2020 and ever since Ricardo Rodriguez left. While Milan filled the gap last season by making Diogo Dalot play two positions, qualification for the Champions League meant that Milan needed reinforcements and quality in depth for these positions.
For €4m plus add-ons, Fode Ballo-Toure looks like a low-cost low-risk signing made by Maldini under the watchful eyes of Moncada. Experienced, pacey and still with potential, Ballo-Toure did not have the expected breakthrough at Monaco but it could well come in Italy.
Transfer rating: 7/10