From Mexes to Menez: An XI of AC Milan players from the ‘Banter Era’

By Jake Chorlton -

Now that it seems to be behind us, AC Milan fans can look back at the era of the mid-2010s with a bit of bewilderment but perhaps some affection in equal measure.

Milan won just one trophy from 2012 through until last season which was the Supercoppa Italian under Vincenzo Montella, and as a result many refer to the 2012-2018 period – therefore up until Elliott Management took over the club – as the ‘Banter Era’.

Who stood out from these troubled years? Who deserves to be part of the best XI from that time? Jake picks out his starting line-up based on players from that time…

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Despite his less-than-sanctimonious departure to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021, Donnarumma’s place in this XI was never in doubt. Promoted to the senior team by Siniša Mihajlović ahead of the 2015-16 season, Donnarumma had solidified his place in Milan’s starting line-up before reaching his 17th birthday.

Having displaced veteran goalkeeper Diego López, the teenage shot stopper rapidly became one of the most talked-about young talents in European football, prompting inevitable comparisons to namesake Gianluigi Buffon. Despite immense pressure to meet expectations, Donnarumma continually produced performances that belied his age and remained Milan’s starting goalkeeper until his controversial exit, having made over 250 appearances for the club.

Left-back: Luca Antonelli

Another product of Milan’s Primavera side, Luca Antonelli made a return to the club in 2014-15 following spells with Bari, Parma and Genoa. Perhaps one of Milan’s most under-appreciated players during the banter era, Antonelli claims his spot in this XI on account of his impressive consistency at the back.

Though he may not have grabbed headlines, the Monza-born left back was one of the Rossoneri’s most reliable defenders and offered a level of composure in possession that few of his teammates could match. Hindered only by his injury record, at his best Antonelli was one of the most dependable fullbacks in all of Serie A.

Centre-back: Alessio Romagnoli

Having deservedly taken the captain’s armband in 2018/19 aged just 23, Alessio Romagnoli was one of the most straightforward inclusions in this XI. Once one of the most sought-after young defenders in Italy, Romagnoli joined Milan at the age of 20 despite the club’s infamous 10th place finish the season prior.

The young centre-back made good on his early promise, cementing his place in Milan’s back line across the latter half of the decade. Romagnoli was a cultured, somewhat reserved defender who often made fewer tackles than his centre back partners, but brought crucial intangibles such as leadership and composure to Milan’s defence.

Centre-back: Philippe Mexès

Partnering Romagnoli at the heart of this defence is Philippe Mexès. One of the most polarising figures in Milan’s recent history, Mexès was infamous for his aggressive playing style and turbulent behaviour on the pitch.

Though his reckless attitude often drew criticism, the Frenchman’s raw defensive ability was undeniable and he brought much-needed resolve to a lacklustre Milan side. Remarkably, Mexès secured his place in Milan folklore with a catalogue of world class goals that very few players in world football could emulate. Revered and loathed in equal measure by rival fans, Philippe Mexès forged a truly unique legacy that will live long in the memories of Milanisti.

Right-back: Ignazio Abate

Referring to Ignazio Abate as a “banter era” player may be controversial. The third Milan youth product in this list, Abate was already an established presence in Milan’s back line before the club’s sharp decline, having made his Serie A debut for the Rossoneri in 2009-10.

Despite this, Ignazio’s longevity and commitment to the club throughout the period in question warrant his inclusion in this XI. In contrast to aforementioned teammate Luca Antonelli, Abate’s consistency on the pitch was occasionally called into question, however his commendable drive and athleticism ensured that he was able to produce periodic streaks of excellence across his 306 appearances for the club.

Defensive midfield: Nigel de Jong

Potentially the most distinguished name in this list, Nigel de Jong earns a place in this line-up having made 96 appearances for Milan following his arrival at the club in 2012-13. Often mischaracterised as a pure midfield destroyer, de Jong was also an excellent distributor from the base of midfield and was assured in possession.

In spite of his notorious disciplinary record, the Dutch midfielder possessed outstanding leadership qualities and played with a determination that few of his Milan teammates could match. Often regarded as one of Milan’s most important players during the early to mid-2010s, de Jong continually produced outstanding performances whilst the team around him was in decline.

Central midfield: Giacomo Bonaventura

Quite possibly Milan’s greatest asset during the banter era, Giacomo Bonaventura was the first name on this team sheet. Affectionately referred to by fans as “Jack”, Bonaventura single-handedly carried Milan through some of the most difficult periods in their modern history.

Jack was predominantly deployed on the left side of a midfield three, but was equally as capable in attacking midfield or on the left wing. Whilst Giacomo had an incredibly varied skillset, he particularly excelled when it came to ball progression.

Amongst central midfielders, Bonaventura’s ability to effectively dribble past opponents was almost unrivalled. Jack was arguably the brightest spark in an otherwise dark period for the Rossoneri, making him one very few genuine banter era legends.

Central midfield: Juraj Kucka

Despite spending just two seasons at the San Siro, Slovakia international Juraj Kucka (or “Kuco”) made an impressive 67 appearances for the Rossoneri between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The 6’1” midfielder operated in a box-to-box role, using his tenacity and substantial physical presence to regain possession and make powerful runs into the opposition’s half.

“Whilst Kucka was less technically gifted than many of his midfield counterparts, he retained his place in Milan’s starting line-up under three separate managers, highlighting his importance to the side during a period of great instability. Kuco’s fearlessness on the pitch made him somewhat of a cult hero amongst Milan fans, ensuring that he secures the final spot in this midfield.

Left wing: Jérémy Ménez

When Jérémy Ménez arrived in Milan on a free transfer following an unspectacular season with Paris Saint-Germain, few would have predicted the impact he would go on to have at the San Siro. The player in this line-up with the fewest appearances for Milan, Ménez immediately made headlines with an all-time great backheel goal on his away debut against Parma.

The French forward proceeded to score 16 goals and make 4 assists across the 2014-15 Serie A campaign, dragging a hopeless Milan side to a top half finish. Though his goal record was heavily boosted by penalties and his individualist attitude on the pitch was often cause for concern, Ménez had arguably the biggest impact on a single season of any player throughout the banter era.

Right wing: Suso

Having taken time to settle in Milan after signing as a 21 year old, Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáenz de la Torre, more commonly known as Suso, matured into one of the side’s key contributors under Vincenzo Montella. Suso became a regular starter under the Italian manager in 2016-17 after returning from a successful loan spell in Genoa, where he contributed to 7 goals in 19 appearances.

Despite his somewhat predictable style, routinely opting to cut inside onto his favoured left foot, the Spaniard was incredibly difficult to dispossess and provided both goal threat and creativity from out wide. Suso departed for La Liga in 2020 having contributed to 60 goals in 153 appearances for Milan.

Striker: Carlos Bacca

Completing this XI, Columbian striker Carlos Bacca proved to be Milan’s most reliable source of goals throughout the banter era. Bacca arrived in the summer of 2015 following a successful stint with UEFA Europa League champions Sevilla, having scored 49 goals across two seasons with the Spanish side.

Standing at 5’11”, the South American centre-forward relied upon his clever movement and instinctive finishing to score the majority of his goals, many of which secured vital points for a struggling Milan side. Though he contributed little to build-up play, Bacca was an incredibly effective poacher and would go on to score 34 goals in 77 games for Milan before returning to La Liga in 2017.

Tags AC Milan


  1. Looking back at these names you have really wholesome memories towards them but then you remember just the whole nightmare situation Milan were in

    1. For example Bonaventura was one of those players who would have deserved to play alongside with faaaar better players. Imagine Bonaventura on the pitch with players like Rui Costa, Seedorf, Kaka, Inzaghi. Oh boy… Bonaventura was great with the “crappy” teammates he had. Just think about how much better he would/could have been IF…

      Also. Bacca was a helluva poacher. Too bad his left foot was absolutely useless and his passes catastrophic.

    1. I wondered that I didn’t see montolivo name on the context. He was the best player we had those days then abate beneventura,mexes and mines I even wondered what brought DJing and suso names in there

      1. LOL. Montolivo was plain awful and would have NEVER deserved the captain’s armband. He did nothing but whine and complain. And donate goals to opponents. Montolivo was one of the reasons why Milan was so poor back then.

  2. Kucka was a beast. If i could have two players back in the curent milan side it would be him and the legend ignazio.

  3. Why did Milan wore + shield batch during 2014-15 season? It was really fascinating though but I’m okay with the traditional one. It is the lucky charm for us and rebranding brings no luck within the team. Which exactly what was happened last season with inter and juve. Phew!

  4. I wondered that I didn’t see montolivo name on the context. He was the best player we had those days then abate beneventura,mexes and mines I even wondered what brought DJing and suso names in there

  5. No one refers to this period as the banter era, the word banter is only used in England, and mostly by Southerners.

  6. Oohh boy!! The Memories!!
    I was really sad when “Jack” wasn’t renewed! I would’ve taken him over Kebaboglu ebefy single time!!! Glad to see him play i Fiorentina though!

  7. Carlos bacca,striker that can score goal witj few chance . Too bad after his suplayer bonaventura injury ,no one can provide him asist. Both are shining gem in AC Milan dark time

  8. When we struggle with creativity up front, I often lament the fact that we only depend on Leao brilliance or Giroud goal to win the game. If only we still have Bonaventura and Suso, we might have won the scudetto with a few game left.

    1. Milan could have won scudetto in week 35 if they didn’t got cheated by the referee at Spezia, Udinese, and Napoli.

  9. All of them coached by Pioli would finish at top 4.. Pioli has this amazing touch that can maximize what he has

    With the bench: Gerard Deulofeu, Krzysztof Piątek, Bonucci, Pasalic


  10. Subs:

    Diego Lopez
    Luiz Adriano

  11. I thought,we all remember andrea poli, keisuke honda, michel essien, muntari,alessio cerci,alex the guy we get for free from chelsea..what a team that was. If we were in premier league,we’ll fucked. No doubt.

  12. I would have taken this article seriously if it had been about the WORST players of the banter era. Like an article about the banter players of the banter era. Bur instead we get a banter article saying things like De Jong was the most “distinguished” player of the era. The most distinguished player of the banter era is, and will always be, NOCERINO. The absolute bomber we’re missing right now😉.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.