GdS: Botman, Leao, Santos, David and more – the red hot axis between Milan and Lille

By Oliver Fisher -

The phone line between AC Milan and Lille has been frequently used in recent years, and that is a theme that is likely to consider into this summer as per a report.

As La Gazzetta dello Sport recall, Rafael Leao and Mike Maignan – now stars at Milan – arrived from Lille and helped win the Scudetto in 2021-22. Sven Botman and Renato Sanches didn’t end up arriving, but the Rossoneri tried for them.

The axis begins

Tiago Santos could retrace the path followed by Leao and Maignan. The former arrived at the Rossoneri in July 2019 when Paolo Maldini beat the competition (including Inter) by writing a check for €35m, with the simultaneous sale of Tiago Djalo – now at Juve – to the Ligue 1 club for €5m.

Leao arrived as a diamond to be polished, a talented boy to build the future around, and he was the protagonist of the 19th league title while today he wears the No.10 shirt and is the highest earner, something that reflects his status as the most valuable player.

The Scudetto also arrived thanks to the saves of Maignan, signed from Les Dogues in the summer of 2021 after winning Ligue 1 with Lille. It cost €15m to bring Gianluigi Donnarumma’s replacement to Milanello, now the starter for Deschamps’ France.

Meeting on the field

In between, the two teams also competed on the pitch back in 2020, in group H of the Europa League. It didn’t end well for the Rossoneri: in the first leg, a 3-0 defeat at San Siro with a hat-trick from Yazici, which broke a string of 24 games without defeat.

The return match ended 1-1 and in the end the Rossoneri managed to finish the group in first place, just ahead of the French side. Samu Castillejo gave Stefano Pioli’s side the lead just after half time, then Jonathan Bamba equalised for the hosts.

Returning to the market, Lille has also been a source of disappointment for Milan. Before going all-in on Charles De Ketelaere, Maldini had done some work to sign Botman for the defence and Renato Sanches as Franck Kessie’s heir.

Regarding the former, Botman chose the ambitious project of Newcastle United and the chance to play in the Premier League. For the latter Luis Campos made the difference, the then-new sporting director of the Parisians having departed Lille.

The latest plots

Current events bring Lille and Ligue 1 back to the centre of the Rossoneri world. Fonseca is ready to take up Pioli’s legacy after having established himself in recent years as one of the best coaches in the French league.

Here a parenthesis opens: Ligue 1 is a division followed carefully by Milan and always appreciated by Geoffrey Moncada’s watchful eye. First of all because of the propensity to give playing time to young people, without too much pressure.

This is how Tiago Santos emerged, one of the top full-backs last season in France, and this is how Jonathan David managed two consecutive seasons of 26 goals. Both could end up swapping Rouge for Rossonero.

Tags AC Milan Jonathan David Paulo Fonseca Sven Botman Tiago Djalo Tiago Santos


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  1. Oh yeah Botman, we missed him because Maldini’s extension took too much time to pen. Jerry and the clowns were already the kings of wait and see.

  2. Please correct the impression that Sven Botman chose to go to Newcastle instead of Milan.
    That lad waited for an agreement to come through until the very last minute and with no concrete movement from Milan, he went ahead with a serious club that really needed him.

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