Unreachable dream to ‘buying in the dip’: Milan’s Jonathan David dilemma

By Oliver Fisher -

Jonathan David was one of the hottest names during the most recent summer transfer window. The Canadian, scorer of 24 goals last season with Lille, was in the sights of many top European clubs – including Milan – who had identified him as the ideal reinforcement for their attack.

However, the 23-year-old decided to stay in France, rejecting the offers and contract renewal proposed to him by his club, to whom he is linked until 2025. A few months on and the links between Milan and David have not gone away, but his goalscoring touch has for the time being.

David has certainly had more experiences than most others at his age. Born in Brooklyn, United States, he moved to his parents’ country of Haiti when he was still a baby and then immigrated to Ottawa – the capital of Canada – at the age of six.

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The forward played for several local youth clubs before moving to Belgium in 2018, where he made his senior debut at Gent and established himself as a hot property. Two years on he went to Lille, with whom he has won the Ligue 1 title and one Trophée des Champions.

After 13 and 15-goal season in the league, last year was his best return yet as he netted 24 times (adding four assists) to make the top clubs around Europe take note.

A disappointing follow-up

When young players emerge and find themselves in the crosshairs of big clubs they are faced with a dilemma: stay and continue to develop in a comfortable environment then move on when mature, or take the leap now to avoid the risk of stagnating.

This applied to David, and he might just be reflecting on his decision to remain in France given that he has two goals in 12 games in Ligue 1 so far in 2023-24, which is way behind where many expected him to be despite the fact Les Dogues are in fourth place.

His performances have been criticised by the media and fans, who accused him of lacking motivation and perhaps of not pushing the club to cash in on his sale last summer.

Even his coach, Jocelyn Gourvennec, admitted that he was worried about his form: “He is not at his best, he needs to regain confidence and serenity. He had a hand injury in January, but that’s not an excuse. He must work harder and do better.”

David, for his part, tried to defend himself from criticism, claiming that he is still happy at Lille and that he wants to help the team move up the table, but at the moment moving from words to deeds seems very complicated for him.

A declining value

Such a tough start to the season obviously has an impact on his market value. La Gazzetta dello Sport for example reported that his price tag has gone down from €60m to €40m in just a few months.

If the Canadian striker does not return to scoring consistently, next summer – also thanks to the fact his contract is expiring in 2025 – that figure could drop even more to around €25-30m.

This is good news for clubs still interested in David and who believe that he has the potential to put this rough patch behind him. Among these suitors are Milan, who currently continue to judge the Canadian striker as a potential bargain.

Yet the contours of a bet are all there: David has in fact played only one great season in his career, achieving rather normal figures in the others (13-15 goals).

Geoffrey Moncada and Antonio D’Ottavio – who have often followed the attacker in the past – continue to have faith but the risk that the striker’s explosion last season was a flash in the pan is real.

A gamble or an opportunity?

Looking back though, we must remember that Milan are no stranger to investing in promising players who have fallen into oblivion. Three of them came from Chelsea in Fikayo Tomori, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic.

At the moment it is too early to understand whether the gamble on the latter two has paid off, but the signs are good it remains a strategy that the management consider right for their project. They prefer to ‘buy in the dip’ and procure undervalued talent, rather than pay over the odds for those who have exploded.

Precisely for this reason, the almost paradoxical situation is being created whereby David is doing so badly that he might well end up being right for Milan. His potential is known, while the lack of goals could well bring his price down and put off richer suitors from the Premier League.

Spreading bets

Although Milan continues to carefully follow David’s future, Moncada’s wish list does not stop at just the Canadian striker which is logical given the need to get this particular signing right.

Akor Adams is having a much better season in France so far with seven goals in 11 appearances for Montpellier while Serhou Guirassy – ​​the second-top scorer in the Bundesliga – has a very tempting €17m release clause.

Tags AC Milan Jonathan David


  1. David actual value and quality is on the same level as that of Okafor.
    The 12-13 million Milan paid for Okafor is just about the right price for David.
    His last season numbers of 24 goals are inflated because of 10 penalty goals he scored.
    If the guy is good someone would have shelled out the money to buy him by now. Leipzig spent 50 mil on Openda and City spent 60 on Doku. 2 players from the same league with lesser numbers than David but they passed on buying him.
    He isn’t worth the money nor he is a n9 Milan needs right now.
    More importantly, until Milan decides who their next coach is going to be and what system and style he will want the team to play, they should not go out and make big investments before then.
    If you’re going to keep Pioli for the rest of the season, just go in January and get someone on loan. Unless, by January you have identified your next coach and behind the scenes you are already planning the next season squad with that new coach.

    1. Agree with this.

      David has played 3 full seasons in France, this is his fourth.

      He played 112 games of Ligue 1 prior to the commencement of this season.

      His form line is as follows:

      In 20/21, which covers his 21st year, he scored 13 goals with 3 assists from 37 appearances, amounting to a total 2,368 league minutes (an average of 71 minutes per appearance).

      In 21/22, which covers his 22nd year, he scored 15 goals with no assists from 38 appearances, amounting to a total of 2,810 league minutes (an average of 74 minutes per appearance).

      In 22/23, which covers his 23rd year, he scored 24 goals (including 10 penalties) with 4 assists from 37 appearances, amounting to a total 3,179 league minutes (an average of 85 minutes per appearance).

      in 23/24, which covers his 24th year, he has scored 2 goals with 1 assist from 12 appearances, amounting to 911 league minutes (an average of 76 minutes per appearance).

      Take out the 10 penalties, which is entirely consistent with the XG in the above graphic, and it tells the story of little more than a solid Ligue 1 striker.

      At best, David is the second striker we bring off the bench, to play along side the #9, or to otherwise change the dynamic of the forward mix to add speed.

      You do not spend more than Okafor money on the level of player Daivid is. You do not spend that money at all when it needs to be tipped into the fee for #9 we need to sign and we already have Okafor, Chuku, Colombo and Traore (who is rapid and clearly capable of causing damage from a wing if that is what it take to free Okafor to play as a 9 when we need it) who act as the depth on the wings and up front (for next season of course).

      As an aside, could you imagine what the Italian team would look like if we could get talented young player opportunities David has received to play so many minutes so consistently? It’s no wonder development has stagnated to this extent. Players struggle to get 2,000 Serie A minutes until 23/24.

      1. Oh thanks for this. I was going to provide the stats too but you beat me to it. I’ll have to add some additional context and comparison. These figures from 20-21 onwards are better than Kolo Muani and mostly any other striker below 25 years of age. It’s interesting he’s one of the better young strikers in that league, And in Ligue 1 the top goal scorers are above 25 years old for the most part which probably means he has loads of time to get to his prime or higher tallies. That being said, it’s always a toss up performing in a different league and one that is more tactical and difficult to score

    2. I’ve only seen him play in the wc and he didn’t seem particularly special, I agree 15-20M seems like a good deal anything more and it’s an overpay.

      1. no, he is isn’t in the 20 range. Only scored in France and choked for Canada every single game. He is not a player with the abo to create for others when he doesn’t score or help out elsewhere on the pitch eitherm His distribution is limited at best. Won’t cut it in Serie A.

        Not a hungry player that rises to the occasion and performs when it counts most. He lacks the drive and competitiveness needed to improve enough to be of any use for us. He will be lucky to score 7 to 9 goals as a starter in Italy.

  2. He will not fit our style, he will be left high and dry, our game plan will not feed him enough. We want someone who create chances for himself or convert a half-a-chance to a scoring opportunity.

  3. At least Origi and Jovic cost a minimal amount (salary not included), if we spend 30m on David and he turns out to be a dud…

  4. As usual with milan – wanting every single player who might be available, thinking aloud about it for 6 months and then someone else will sign that player from right under our nose!!!!

    Will never forgive furlani and moncada for the way they messed the thuram transfer whe he was supposed to be in our hands and inter made a fool of us!!!!!

    1. They didn’t mess up the Thuram transfer.

      Inter had been in Thuram’s ear for 6 to 12 months longer than we had been.

      Inter needed to free finances before they could commit to sign him. He spoke to us because it made sense to as he had already decided to come to Milan. Why not come to AC if the move to Inter fell through?

      Short of offering money that would never have been offered, which we couldn’t afford, and which would have been irresponsible for a player who, with respect, is in the category of solid to quality (certainly not world class), Thuram was never coming to Milan if Inter could sign him.

      We were his Plan B.

      It’s like CDK who was turning down better money for him and his club to sign for Milan. Or even a reverse of the Botman situation where we had him until Newcastle trumped us with massive money we couldn’t spend.

      1. We couldn’t afford 1m-1.5m more for 5 years which is 7.5m but we could afford okafor for 15m. If they acted quickly gave him a slight increase he would be in red and black right now. He has 11 goal contributions already and top strikers are in low supply

        1. No the numbers you’re stating are after tax income they player receives. The 7.5 of 5 years is more like 15/20. Sure Milan could have paid that but that would have limited the number of additional signings that could have been brought in…

          Thuram would have been an up grade but he’s not significantly better than players like Taremi and they are more affordable

        2. It’s not just about matching the offer from Inter.

          What’s the number it then takes to genuinely turn Thuram’s head? Is it just 1m a year over 5 year? Is it 2m or more?

          That’s why I mentioned CDK. He was offered considerably more money to play elsewhere but turned it down.

          Is 5m for Thuram life changing? It probably isn’t, not if his main priority is his career and we’re talking about the difference between 30m and 35m.

      2. Nah bro. I have to disagree here. Thuram was for all intents and purposes our signing until Inter came in and offered more. It happens and it has happened in the past between the two clubs. We waited and we hagglef, once more, on a couple of million more on wages and ended up having to spend for a player as well as pay a wAge (just like we haggled on Kessie and Chalha). This part is frustrating because we could have saved the money just by offering more on the wage side..

        1. I recall reading an article in which Thuram explained the situation.

          Perhaps I have overstated the situation but I am pretty confident that the contact between Thuram and Inter stretches back a long time.

          It wasn’t the case the Inter just barged in with a biger offer.

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