As the 2020-21 Serie A season enters its second half, AC Milan have every reason to look ahead with plenty of optimism and hopes for a first Scudetto in 10 years are high.
The team has settled into a nice rhythm and have proved very difficult to beat, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic providing his presence on the pitch and in the dressing room, the Rossoneri are undoubtedly legitimate title challengers for the first time since 2012.
Yet, with the January transfer window Milan are keen to boost their ranks further and a central defender is at the top of the club’s priorities.
Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan was reportedly the top target but with the French youngster requiring surgery and facing two months on the sidelines, attention has turned back to Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori.
Recent comments from Paolo Maldini suggest a deal for the England international is close, but he also struck a cautious tone. The deal is expected to be a loan until the end of the season with the option to make it permanent for €25m.
“It’s very close, we’re in between confirming his signing and not signing him at all, it could all break down with just one detail,” Milan’s technical director said. “We saw in him the quality to throw him into the mix with our current defenders, so that’s why we want him.”
Why are Chelsea letting Tomori leave?
Milan were understood to be interested in Tomori last summer, but Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was reluctant to see the 23-year-old leave because Antonio Rudiger looked set to leave the club. However, the German defender remained and competition for places in the heart of the Chelsea defence has seen Tomori’s game time severely limited.
Indeed, Chelsea experienced the busiest and most expensive transfer window of any football club in the world last summer, signing seven new players for a total cost of nearly €250m – to put that into context, only a very few of the world’s highest lottery jackpots beat that amount!
𝙁𝙞𝙠𝙖𝙮𝙤 𝙏𝙤𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙞 • Welcome to #ACMilan
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) January 25, 2021
However, for the Blues and Lampard, it doesn’t appear like they have won the lottery. The team is struggling and few of the new players have fully settled into the side. The one exception has been Thiago Silva, who has slotted seamlessly into central defence and his partnership with Kurt Zouma is the one area of the team that looks settled.
For Tomori, that has meant a further drop down the pecking order and it was inevitable that he would seek a move that would aid his development. As one of the brightest young talents in Europe, Chelsea’s loss looks set to be AC Milan’s gain.
Why are Milan interested in Tomori?
Tomori has obviously been extensively scouted by Milan and the club seem convinced that the player has the attributes and attitude to be a success for the team. And when Maldini – one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game – recognizes the “quality” in a player, there a few bigger endorsements.
To understand Milan’s interest in Tomori, it’s worth looking at both the needs of the squad and the abilities of the player.
In terms of adding to the current options, Tomori will provide competition to the first choice centre-back pairing of captain Alessio Romagnoli and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer. Meanwhile, youngster Matteo Gabbia has struggled with injury so far this season and Mateo Musacchio is no longer part of Stefano Pioli’s plans.
At 23, Tomori would represent a player for the present and the future, and if he makes a permanent move for €25m, it would be money well spent: either he establishes himself and the investment proves worthwhile, or he becomes a roaring success and Milan make a large profit. That is the benefit of the initial loan deal – Milan will have a chance over half of a season to decide whether Tomori is indeed the player they predict him to be.
As for his attributes as a player, Tomori is a supreme athlete with plenty of pace and is shaped very much in the mold of a modern day centre-back in that he is comfortable and capable with the ball at his feet. Indeed, his spectacular goal against Wolves was voted Chelsea’s goal of last season. He also possesses a very professional attitude to football and is known to be dedicated and hard-working in training.
There are of course areas to improve. Although strong and aggressive in the tackle, Tomori was found to be a touch lightweight against physical forwards and he was caught out positionally at times from set pieces. However, these are facets of his game that can be worked on with increased game time and experience.
Tomori is far from the finished product but that makes his potential move to Milan even more exciting. And unlike at Chelsea, a switch to the San Siro could make Tomori a league title winner this season.
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