GdS: Coach, No.9 and the big dilemma – Milan facing huge summer decisions

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan face some very difficult decisions this summer as they look to reduce the rather large gap that has opened up between themselves and their city rivals Inter.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) recalls this morning, Stefano Pioli’s first full season ended with Milan in second place in 2020-21 behind Inter, with the strong feeling of being a growing, fun to atch team, above all with a soul. Three years later Milan risk finishing in the same position but with a greater gap and a different atmosphere.

This 2023-24 season is hanging on the Europa League, the last chance to redeem a season marked by elimination in the Champions League – albeit from a very tough group – and in the Coppa Italia, against Atalanta at San Siro.

Gerry Cardinale clearly said (twice) that this is not enough and more will be needed for the next season, an opinion shared by the Milan fans. That means the owner must make some big calls, otherwise not much will change.

The coach

The first decision will logically have to be made regarding Pioli himself, who may have reached the end of his time at Milan after what will be well over four years in charge.

Julen Lopetegui is certainly a coach appreciated by the management but advisor Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have a fundamental say on what happens on the bench.

The Swede will have a central role in the decision on Pioli and the possible replacement. Naturally, the choice regarding the manager must come before big decisions regarding the squad construction.

The striker

The growth of the squad, however, will depend on investments. Milan are looking for a new No.9 regardless of what happens with Olivier Giroud who is on an expiring deal, because the club are waiting to hand over the attack to a young forward.

The two great candidates are Benjamin Sesko and Joshua Zirkzee. Sesko was born in 2003, plays for RB Leipzig, is physical and technical, with a sense for goal. Zirkzee was born in 2001 and at Bologna he demonstrated that he is more of a playmaker-type striker, a ‘9.5’ as the media put it.

However, there would be some calculations to do. Zirkzee can be purchased by Bayern Munich as per a buy-back clause for €40m, which is the starting price. Anyone who wants the Dutchman risks having to spend €60m or more.

For Sesko the price is a bit lower but not much. This is also why it is right to consider some alternative candidates, such as Jonathan David whose contract with Lille will expire in just over a year. Santiago Gimenez (Feyenoord) and Viktor Gyokeres (Sporting CP) remain valid too.

The other positions

The rest of the summer mercato is in the background, but Milan should sign a central defender to replace Simon Kjaer if the Dane’s contract is not renewed.

Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham), Maxence Lacroix (Wolfsburg) and Lilian Brassier (Brest) are on the wish list, and have been mentioned in various reports for months now.

Above all, the squad will be strengthened with a full-back and a more defensive midfielder than the five options currently in the squad, especially given the ‘Krunic experiment’ – which was supposed to stop the opponents’ waves in front of the defence – ultimately failed.

The dilemma

However, all of the above (barring maybe Pioli’s future) will depend on the answer to one question: will Milan accept the offers for Theo Hernandez, Mike Maignan and Rafael Leao?

Obviously all three will not be sold but offers will arrive and one from Bayern Munich for Theo is definitely expected.

Milan will only sell their stars if offers come in that are simply too good to turn down and which would change the entire market, as the Sandro Tonali case showed.

Here is the dilemma: with at least €80m more in funds, Milan could bet heavily on a striker and afford another big signing, but they would have one less champion.


Tags AC Milan


  1. new day, same “news”. If i had an euro for everytime i saw a version of this…

    gds, cm, mn, tutosport all beating the same bush day after day

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