AC Milan did not manage to get one outright replacement for Hakan Calhanoglu but have instead decided to put the responsibility of replacing him on the shoulders of several players.
La Gazzetta dello Sport writes that a number of targets were linked throughout the window as potential quality options to take the spot vacated by Calhanoglu such as Hakim Ziyech, Nikola Vlasic, Isco, Josip Ilicic, Jesus Corona, Pablo Sarabia and Romain Faivre, before Junior Messias arrived.
Stefano Pioli said: “Don’t worry about looking for the Hakan clone, the management will intervene on the market if we find a playmaker able to help us, regardless of the technical profile.” Messias tends to alternative between a central role and one on the right wing, while Calhanoglu was more centre to left.
However, the skills that Calhanoglu offered and the responsibilities that he had have been redistributed among the players who are here.
Set pieces: Sandro Tonali is their heir to the Turkey international in this category. His pearl of a free-kick against Cagliari and his threatening corner deliveries show him to potentially be an upgrade in this area, too.
Shirt number: The new owner of the No.10 shirt is Brahim Diaz, and the Spaniard is ready to take on this responsibility. Being the “10” of Milan also means having to pick the lock with a few strokes of genius, something that the defences struggle to anticipate, and Brahim fits between the lines perfectly.
There is an inconsistency that infuriated Milan fans but he did show glimpses of being a dangerous shooter from a distance, but Diaz is not so much that and it is an area to work on.
Heat map: Finally, there is the issue of how Calhanoglu will be replaced tactically. The 27-year-old did a lot of different things on the pitch and covered a lot of ground, so Pioli worked on other mechanisms, other combinations and various different approaches to try and replicate the same coverage.
The task of being an “all round” player is up to Rafael Leao as more will be needed from him, as will the pressing and intensity of Ante Rebic, while Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic drop deep to help cover and create too.