Is Milan’s transfer business enough? Pioli demands more Champions League quality

By Oliver Fisher -

Milan haven’t been the busiest team in the transfer market this season but have made some significant moves this summer. Stefano Pioli is attempting to create a squad worthy of competing on two fronts. The big question is have they done enough – and if not, what more needs to be done?

Pioli will be looking to successfully defend the league title in the wake of significant incoming reinforcements to rivals Inter, Juventus and possibly Roma. Milan’s return to the Champions League for the first time in almost a decade also heralds the need for improvement in a number of areas. 

Divock Origi arriving from Liverpool on a free transfer remains the biggest bit of incoming business the club have completed so far ahead of the feted expectation of 21-year attacking midfielder Charles De Ketelaere. 

Securing Ibrahimovic’s signature for another season will be welcome news to many, although it has to be said the Swedish striker will likely play a piecemeal on-pitch role. Though his presence in the dressing room is a must for Pioli going forward. 

The outright attacking line is without a doubt one of the stronger points of the squad, even though star winger Rafael Leao’s future at the San Siro remains in doubt.

Milan currently boast experience up front with Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud, although their years are a concern. How far Origi can play an enhanced role remains a gamble. The Belgian forward scored vital goals from the bench for Liverpool but is not accustomed to being the go-to attacking outlet. As Pioli’s most high-profile signing so far you would have to think he is being touted for a bigger role than on Merseyside. 

Attacking additions have led to a number of the best betting sites shortening odds on Milan’s chances at securing the Scudetto. However, they still remain third favourites to take the title behind Juventus and Inter. Odds on Milan’s Champions League expectations are more difficult to put into context before the group stage draw takes place on 25 August. 

One of the factors propelling that viewpoint with the bookmakers is the imbalance in the amount of quality replacements for players that have been allowed to exit. Milan have allowed winger Jens Petter Hauge to make his loan move to Eintracht Frankfurt permanent. Meanwhile Castilejo has been moved onto Valencia. Both, it must be said, have been out of Pioli’s plans for some time. 

Though the glaring gap is in central midfield, formerly occupied by Barcelona-bound Franck Kessie. Although the Ivorian split opinion in the earlier years of his tenure at Milan, Kessie has undoubtedly been the engine room of the side in the last two seasons. 

Kessie’s move to Barcelona was built on the back of his performances that pushed Milan towards last season’s Scudetto, and he will not be easily replaced. But replaced he must be, and with over half of the window already passed by, it remains to be seen exactly what will be done to fill this gaping hole in the centre circle.

One player heavily linked with a move to the Rossoneri is Portuguese international Renato Sanches. A central midfielder currently on the books at Lille, Sanches has been lauded for box-to-box maneuvering as well as his attacking abilities. 

Since his ill-fated move to Bayern Munich from Benfica back in 2016, Sanches has shown significant glimpses of the promise that was initially lavished on him as Portugal’s new wonderkid. 

Sanches would be the perfect fit for Pioli’s team. He can operate in central midfield, more forward in central attacking positions, as well as on the right. A wobbly right side was a significant cause for concern last season. It has only partially been plastered by the arrival of winger Junior Messias and right-sided full back Alessandro Florenzi from Roma. 

PSG’s returning interest for Sanches has cooled any suggestions the Portuguese will be making a move to Serie A this season, although this largely depends on the transfer domino effect. It is worrisome that Milan’s preferred choice could be usurped with such ease, but such is the attraction of inflated wages at Qatar-backed PSG.

Turn attentions then to a proven Serie A operator. Milan have persistently been linked to Roma midfielder Jordan Veretout since he arrived on Italian shores for a stint with Fiorentina. The Frenchman has made over 150 appearances in Serie A and would be an adequate replacement for Kessie. Veretout is not likely though to be a permanent or preferred solution.

Although Milan have been heavily linked with English centre back Tanganga, filling the central midfield role has to be the priority. The transfer window will be a failure if an adequate and experienced operator can not be sourced. 

So far Milan’s transfer business has been nowhere near satisfaction, but then there is time left on the clock. A solid central midfielder will be the linchpin to getting Milan’s attack off the mark at home and in Europe this season. 

Tags AC Milan


  1. “Milan’s return to the Champions League for the first time in almost a decade”.

    We were in the Champions League LAST SEASON.

  2. I don’t agree with Kessie compliments in this article. The guy is the perfect definition of hit and miss, and will be replaced without a problem. If the one leaving would be Tonali would be a different story. Kessie does not create plays or it is a rock in marking. He had an average season (and I am being generous here) and he is as unreliable as any other guy. Let’s see how he fares at Barcelona where he may need to do the dirty work alone…

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