With Serie A Femminile becoming a professional league next season, teams like AC Milan were given more freedom to sign higher quality players. With the restrictions on amateur athletes in the league lifted, Milan could afford to make a big, splash signing. The team needed to make a statement and they did so by signing Swedish forward Kosovare Asllani.
Asllani is a storied player who has won several domestic trophies and two silver medals at the Olympics. She is also no stranger to helping launch a team into brand new territory. She did so with her former team, Real Madrid, and will now do so with Milan.
Recently, SempreMilan spoke to Om Arvind about Asllani. Arvind is a Madridista who writes about the team for Managing Madrid, where he is a Managing Editor. In particular, he is the Head of Content for the site and focuses on Real Madrid Femenino, where Kosse used to play. He is also the co-host of the Las Blancas Podcast, which focuses on the women’s team.
Furthermore, Arvind is also a contributor at Analytics FC and American Soccer Analysis. Here’s what he had to say about the vaunted forward and the newest star for Milan…
Asllani was the first Galáctica for Real Madrid while they were still CD Tacón. How vital was she to getting the project off the ground and how did she play for the team?
“Asllani was very important in the initial going. She attracted immediate attention to and cultivated a sense of identity for a branding process that was confusing at best, given that the women’s team was still called CD Tacón in 2019/20 despite having been purchased by Real Madrid and despite using the club’s facilities and financing (to make matters worse, Tacón played in the Madrid kit vs. Barcelona in the league opener before changing back to their Tacón outfit for the rest of the season).
“Even if you didn’t know what the heck Tacón was or what was going on with the process, you knew that all of this was part of Real Madrid because Asllani was there. And that made the casual interested in watching.
“Her quality on the pitch was also important, although she was not the most crucial player for Madrid in that hybrid season (that was Sofia Jakobsson). In fact, Asllani struggled quite a bit, scoring only 5 times in 17 appearances in Primera Iberdrola in 19/20.
“I think there was a misguided expectation that Asllani would come in and carry the team, but she’s a more subtle player who impacts things through her movement and technique rather than through individual, Hollywood actions. I think it’s telling that her best campaign was the following one, when the team upgraded the squad massively and Asllani was able to make a good team better.”
What are her strengths and weaknesses as a player and what can the Milan fans expect from her?
“Asllani is one of the elite needle players in the world at her best. She lives between the lines and is an expert at finding and exploiting space. Her touch is neat and her awareness is strong, so she’s always ready to spin away on the half-turn and release a pass.
“This is why it was tough for her in that Tacón year – she needed teammates capable of finding her inside blocks. Asllani will drop to the ball when needed, but that’s not where she’s most dangerous.
“Asllani is also not optimised as a lone striker, but she is capable of pulling it off like she did in 20/21, when Madrid played in a 4-3-3. This is because Asllani is a strong box mover, utilising the vision and movement that makes her a threat between the lines to become a menace in the penalty area.
“Her adaptability is what makes her so unique for a star player. Even in unideal lineups, she can find a way to make an impact, as she adjusts her positioning around others’ tendencies and tries to maintain tactical balance. Additionally, Asllani’s focus on the wellbeing of the team causes her to contribute handily as a presser, although this was mainly seen with Sweden.
“For such a technical player, the weighting of Asllani’s passes can be off at times and this limits her ceiling as a creator slightly. Her finishing was also closer to average than great at Madrid; however, that is a quality that is highly susceptible to variance.”
How do you think that Asllani will fare at Milan and how do you think she can enhance the team’s overall profile?
“Based on what I’ve heard about Milan, it does seem like there’s potential for her to endure a frustrating situation there. The coach had issues with creative forwards and my understanding is that Milan like to play a fairly direct style.
“That sounds like a recipe for Asllani being a passenger in games. Remember, she needs teammates to find her between the lines. However, it’s possible that Kosse’s presence and quality will demand a shift in strategy from Milan or will enable them to execute more sequences on the ground. The Swede will certainly make herself available with her movement.
“It’ll be interesting to see if the Rossonere go with more 3-5-2 looks, which would enable Asllani to play directly behind the striker, as opposed to a 3-4-3, which leaves her out of her ideal role. Ultimately, the success of this marriage will come down to how well Maurizio Ganz understands her profile and how that influences the way he deploys her within his tactical framework.
“Even if it doesn’t work out football-wise, I think Asllani will still be huge for Milan. She’ll attract more eyes due to her status and will raise the internal standards within the team.”
The Madridistas seem to have loved Asllani. A lot of them still use pictures of her as their icons on Twitter. What is it about her that makes the fans love her so much?
“There are a lot of things: she’s photogenic, charismatic, and outspoken, but, most importantly, she’s a Madridista. Asllani decided to come to Spain when Real Madrid Femenino weren’t even called Real Madrid Femenino.
“She knew that she’d sacrifice at least two years of Champions League football and that it would take some time for the quality of the squad to match her own. At the end of 20/21, she renewed in spite of receiving a salary lower than what she desired. Add in her world-class reputation and it’s easy to see why she became the most popular player in the side.”
Kosse recently revealed that the environment at Real Madrid is not ‘ideal’ and she lamented the lack of professionalism and how she was forced to play while injured at the team, among other things. What impact do you think her words have had and do you think things will change for the better for the women’s team?
“I think Kosse’s words will act as a wake-up call for many casual followers, letting them know that all is not right with the handling of the women’s section. From a PR perspective, this is a very bad look for Madrid and you’d think that would motivate the hierarchy to do something.
“Indeed, there may be some behind-the-scenes chats about this, but I am skeptical that we will see drastic improvements in terms of the larger picture. There have been a whole host of issues for a very long time now; those that have been addressed were done so at a snail-like pace, while many haven’t been addressed at all.
“Ultimately, Florentino Pérez has to care about Real Madrid Femenino for them to reach the heights the fans and players aspire to, but I’m not convinced he does.”
Spain’s La Liga Iberdrola and Italy’s Serie A Femminile will become professional leagues at around the same time. How do you think women’s football will benefit from this?
“From Spain’s perspective, it will limit the influence of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), who currently run Primera Iberdrola and have managed it like clowns, only demonstrating some interest and effort when it comes to lining their own pockets.
“The league is in the process of forming its own governing body, which will make it akin to a “La Liga”-style division like we see with the men (the RFEF currently head the domestic cup competitions in men’s football and will still do that for the women).
“Notably, this will finally allow the league to negotiate TV rights as one entity. Previously, clubs contracted TV deals independently or had the RFEF act as a broker, which was a disaster. The hope is that we will be able to watch every single match in 2022/23 thanks to having proper league infrastructure.
“I don’t know if Serie A Femminile had these exact same struggles, but becoming a professional league offers legitimacy from a broader perspective. It provides the players dignity and clarifies their position within the sport. It is a crucial step that should’ve happened years ago.”
Kosse is currently at the Euros with Sweden. She’s there with Sofia Jakobsson, who plays for my hometown team, the San Diego Wave, and who also played at Real Madrid. How far do you think Sweden can go in the tournament?
“Sweden can go all the way. They have the experience, quality, and tactical sophistication that few others possess.”
Similarly, a few of Asllani’s Milan teammates will be playing for Italy at the Euros. Do you think the Azzurre will fare well at the tournament?
“I don’t think Italy will win it all, but they have the ability to squeeze through a tricky group and make a run in the knockouts. They strike me as a team that is capable of generating useful turnovers vs. ball-dominant teams and converting clinically on the break. Plus, I will always believe in a side that has Barbara Bonsansea leading the attack.”
We thank Om for taking the time out to talk to us. If you’re so inclined, please follow them on Twitter @OmVAsports. And if you’re willing, please subscribe to him on his Substack, where he writes brilliant tactical analyses.