Milan star Bennacer lifts lid on Arsenal exit and reveals why PSG, Bayern Munich duo inspire him

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer has given a fascinating insight on what it is like to play as a Regista for the Rossoneri.

The 22-year-old arrived last summer from Empoli, putting pen-to-paper on a five year deal with Milan shortly after being named as the Player of the Tournament in the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

After initially struggling for playing time under Marco Giampaolo – who preferred the veteran Lucas Biglia to direct his midfield – the Algeria international exploded onto the scene.

He has shown himself to be a dynamic, fearless and tenacious midfielder throughout the season and has been regarding as a bargain signing, given the reported fee is around €16m.

“I like everything about this role, because you’re at the heart of everything,” Bennacer told The Athletic.

“It’s my second year playing in Italy as a regista. I’m still working at it. I think I’m improving. I’m definitely learning a lot.I watch a lot of Marco Verratti and Thiago Alcantara too. Thiago’s so, so good.

“I have to give the ball away as little as possible. Zero. To do that, I have to be concentrated whenever I get the ball. I’ve always got to be in the zone. I have to read the game. I need to look first and look early. I do all that already but I have got to get even better at it.

“Even though I’m not playing high up the pitch, I could do to be more decisive.”

Bennacer picked up 14 yellow cards in Serie A this season, with only Roma centre-back Gianluca Mancini picking up more, but that is part and parcel of his role.

Speaking of development, Bennacer also revealed that the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped him a lot too.

“I feel a little bit freer,” he said, referring to the pressure.

“He demands perfection. Always. You can’t make mistakes when Zlatan’s around. He makes you a better player. That’s how we all think about it anyway.

“When he asks for the ball, I don’t pass it to him, otherwise he’ll have more touches than me,” Bennacer jokes.

“I’m kidding. When you’ve got a player like him on the pitch, you look to get him the ball as quickly as possible even if there’s another solution on. We’re on the same wavelength. I get the ball to him so he can then do what he wants. I look for him a lot.

On the pressure he feels, Bennacer adds: “It’s demanding but I like it. I like the crowds, the pressure.”

Finally, the youngster talked about his exit from Arsenal to join Empoli.

“I had three years left on my deal, but I wanted to play and besides, they weren’t against my sale, so I left.”

Tags AC Milan Ismaël Bennacer