It was an up and down season for AC Milan in 2019-20, but one player who emerged from it having shown plenty of positive signs is Ismael Bennacer.
As MilanNews notes, Bennacer joined from Empoli last summer having just been named the Player of the Tournament for the African Cup of Nations, but his Milan adventure did not start in the best way.
He struggled under Marco Giampaolo who tended to prefer Lucas Biglia, which meant the Algerian snatched at his opportunities when they came. The pressure of playing at San Siro was also tough to adapt to, but there were no points of reference to cling to in the team and the coach was in obvious trouble with his tactics.
With Stefano Pioli’s arrival things changed. The move to a more stable midfield helped his game on both sides and really showed what a bargain the 21-year-old is.
Bennacer became essential for the team due to the ground he covers, his tenacity in tackles, his effectiveness in duels, as well as his dribbling.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, as every now and then there are inaccurate passes and he must try and solve the problem regarding getting too many bookings, but it will be looked back upon as a year of growth, showing everyone that the €16million spent by Milan last summer was well spent.
The former Arsenal man sums up what it means to be a modern midfielder, capable of using the ball very well but also of snatching it from his opponents.
He can certainly add other interesting tools to his game, especially moving forward. His contribution on the attacking end is still low (one goal and one assist this season) and while it would be wrong to expect playmaker-esque numbers, becoming a true box-to-box player is the next step.
Nonetheless, the stats suggest he is learning on the job. Among the players with 30 or more dribble attempts in Serie A this season, he is the one with the highest success rate (80.4%). Now it’s up to Pioli to find the right balance, but the Algerian has everything to become a complete midfielder.