The 2020-21 season finally came to a close on Sunday night as AC Milan secured a return to the Champions League, so the time for reflections and assessments has come.
The Rossoneri’s 2-0 victory in Bergamo against Atalanta last weekend to achieve a second-placed finish was a fitting way to conclude a positive campaign overall, even though there were plenty of ups and downs, particularly in the year 2021.
Below, the SempreMilan staff have crowned their winners for each category in the 2020-21 awards…
Player of the season
Oli: I have the advantage of going first, and I take no shame in picking the obvious answer: Franck Kessie. The President was ever-present and omnipotent, helping Milan dominate games thanks to his eclectic mix of physical dominance but also his ability to change the speed of games. The first name on the team sheet without question – now let’s get the renewal sorted.
Isak: Simon Kjaer. The Dane has been a rock throughout the season and his experience has helped the team a lot. He’s up there with Franck Kessie for sure, in my opinion.
Anthony: Kessie. He stepped up every time of asking, best player on the pitch all season.
Madison: Kessie, with our the Presidente in midfield we would not have gotten as far as we didn’t. Give this man the armband.
Gianmario: Toss up between two players for me as Kessie and Calabria have both been brilliant, the former probably edging as he’s had to carry the team at points this season and has played nearly every minute which is quite brilliant in a season like this one. Also his goal contributions penalties or not have been so important for us.
Rohit: It was a bit of a juggle between Kjær and Kessie but I think any player other than Kessie is a cardinal sin. His stamina, his physique and his omnipresence was a driving force in Milan’s second-placed finish.
Ivan: Has to be Kessie. The Ivorian has been a constant in the midfield hardly missing game in a season where he really excelled and was a true leader for his side.
Ahmed: Kessie, the biggest single season improvement of a player I can remember seeing, leader on and off the pitch, most reliable 8/10 in the squad.
Fred: Kessie. In a season filled with injuries and absentees, it is only natural for the most consistent and most available player to be the most important. Kessie has also improved significantly this season both as a midfielder but also as a leader within the squad.
Maxi: Frank Kessié. Not only a stand-out performer in almost every game he’s featured in and been key to balance defense and offense, but a leader both vocally and by example.
Nikita: Kessie – always reliable, always decisive, absolutely consistent.
Goal of the season
Oli: There has been a few fantastic strikes from Milan this season, so this is genuinely a hard choice. For a combination of sheer wow factor and the significance, I’ll go with Rebic’s goal against Juventus to make it 2-0 at the Allianz Stadium. A mesmerising strike that sailed into the top corner and virtually sealed a colossal three points.
Isak: Davide Calabria against Juventus. It was a lovely goal from start to finish and the right-back got a perfect connection with the ball. It’s always nice when it ends up in the top corner.
Anthony: Leao vs. Benevento. He took the ball out wide nearly at the corner flag, did a 360° turn into his shot, something you’d expect to see in Fifa and it lobbed Montipo for a wild curling outside of the box shot from a strange angle
Madison: Krunic vs. Hellas Verona. It came when the team need a pick me up, and they needed to see it can come from anyone.
Gianmario: There’s a few that spring to mind but Ibra against Inter at the start of the season. A beautiful team goal scored on the counter. Special mention to Kessie’s first penalty against Atalanta it got us the Champions League.
Rohit: A lot of candidates for this. Ibra’s header vs. Napoli, Leão’s finish vs. Benevento, Dalot vs. Celtic but personally I love a well worked goal and I feel that Rebic’s goal vs Parma in our 3-1 win was the goal of the season. A passing move strung together with a tinge of individual brilliance from Ibra for the assist and a cool finish from Rebic.
Ivan: Quite a few options here after a season will almost 100 goals, but I’m going for Rebic against Juventus. It sort of sealed the win and was a turning point to finish the season strong.
Ahmed: Rebic vs. Juve, came at such a crucial period of the game and just an unbelievable strike.
Fred: Rebic against Juventus. It is not necessarily the best goal scored this season – Brahim Diaz’s goal in the same game is just as good if not better, Zlatan’s header against Napoli would also be a good shout – but this goal is one of the most crucial goals scored this season as it killed any hopes of a come back for Juventus. That game overall was a turning point in our season and gave the team the boost it needed to finish the season on a high note and Rebic’ goal is just the cherry on top.
Maxi: Rebic against Juventus in Torino. Aesthetically a contender itself, but the importance of the goal, that it killed the game against Juventus, just gives it so much more.
Nikita: Rebic vs Juve – an absolute rocket into the right corner in the most important match of the season.
Assist of the season
Oli: There have also been some fantastic instances of build-up play by Stefano Pioli’s side this season, and with that in mind my pick is Rafael Leao’s assist for Ibrahimovic to make it 2-0 against Inter. A flowing but also brutal counter-attack ended with the Portuguese striker flying past his marker and playing a gorgeous curling ball around the Inter defence where the Swede was waiting to tap home.
Isak: Rafael Leao against Roma. It was a perfectly weighted pass for Zlatan Ibrahimovic that caught both the defenders and the goalkeeper off guard, which is very hard to do.
Anthony: Leao to Zlatan for the first goal against Roma. It only took two minutes for the opening goal in what would end 3-3 but Leao made an inside cut while Zlatan was bull rushing down the centre, Rafa chipped the ball effortlessly over the defenders to find Zlatan inches in front of Mirante to get the slightest of touches on the ball and send the keeper the wrong direction.
Madison: The entire play for the Leao goal against Sassuolo after six seconds.
Gianmario: Linked to the goal of the season, Leao’s assist for Ibra against Inter really shows his quality. Calabria assist for Ibra was also fantastic.
Rohit: Contenders for me were Leão’s assist vs. Inter for Zlatan, His assist for Saelemaekers vs. Roma or Dalot’s assist for Leao against Sparta. For the importance of the Goal and how he beat D’Ambrosio and drew De Vrij to put Ibra on a 1v1 vs. Kolarov, I think Leao gets my best assist of the season.
Ivan: A bit random, but I’ll go for Theo’s cross to Ibrahimovic against Napoli when he bullied Koulibaily.
Ahmed: Leao to Zlatan vs. Inter, unbelievable skill from Leao to beat a man and a great cross plus the moment to win our first derby in forever.
Fred: Leao’s cross to Zlatan against Inter. This was our first derby win in a while with Zlatan concluding his brace and Leao’s movement to eliminate D’Ambrosio before serving Zlatan the ball on a silver platter was a thing of beauty.
Maxi: Rafael Leão to Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Roma. A lovely through-ball with precision which showed tremendous vision.
Nikita: Leao to Saelemaekers against Roma was fantastic. Lovely piece of skill and great assist into the box.
Moment of the season
Oli: In anticipation of what may follow, I’ll go with something a bit different: the penalty shoot-out against Rio Ave. An awful game by Milan from a performance point of view ended in the most dramatic way with a ridiculously long penalty shootout, but the psychological boost of winning a game like that – especially when looking at the run that followed – cannot be understated.
Isak: I think it has to be the win against Juventus at Allianz Stadium. We were all blown away by the result and Milan finally broke the decade-long negative spell. It was really nice to see.
Anthony: Leaving Turin with 10 unanswered goals. Three against Juventus and seven against Torino. I have never experienced emotion like I did that week.
Madison: Sending Gian bud $50 as per the terms of our bet on whether a top four finish would arrive. Sending money never felt so good, PIOLI IS ON FIRE!
Gianmario: Has to be beating Atalanta 2-0 away from home nobody really gave the team a chance (except me) and we went there did the business in such a professional manner, qualified for the Champions League and I think it’s going to give this squad a lot of belief for next season.
Rohit: Recency bias, but I think Tomori’s goal against Juventus which gave Milan hopes of Champions League qualification again was a big moment. I think Theo’s winner vs. Lazio was also a big moment in the season.
Ivan: Has to be the 3-0 with away at the Allianz Arena. An amazing game for the team’s mentality and towards top four.
Ahmed: Kessie’s second penalty vs. Atalanta, just the perfect finish to an amazing season, finishing second felt so deserved.
Fred: The Atalanta game. This was a game most Milan already gave up on after the team failed to beat Cagliari to secure a Champions League spot. Not many expected the team to go to Bergamo and challenge Atalanta. That’s why this win was special, especially when we consider the fact that Milan lost 5-0 over a year ago against the same team, getting second place and qualifying for the Champions League after getting some revenge was a sweet reward.
Maxi: Securing Champions League. I’d love to say something more creative, but that was the moment we’ve waited for since 2014. So much relief off of our shoulders and a massive bonus that we beat Atalanta in their own back yard and secured second place as well.
Nikita: Juve-Milan – huge win in a huge game.
Most improved player
Oli: Davide Calabria. He had a rocky 2019-20 campaign due to a combination of injuries, suspensions and general poor performances, but the rebound has been sensational. Now arguably the best Italian right-back in Serie A and a mainstay of Pioli’s back four. Solid at the back and dependable going forward.
Isak: Rade Krunic. His first year with the club wasn’t that impressive but aside from a few poor performances this season, he asserted himself as a useful squad player and improved a lot. Especially in the second half of the season.
Anthony: Calabria. He was never awful but rarely consistent. As the season progressed he showed that he has what it takes and was putting in solid efforts week in week out.
Madison: Calabria. The kid is great, if him or Kessie don’t get the armband we will have issues.
Gianmario: The one the only Belgian King of Milan: Alexis Saelemaekers. Many were calling for Milan not to buy him outright and that he wasn’t good enough. He’s come on leaps and bounds this season and cemented the right wing spot. He needs to work on attacking sides of his game but his overall contribution for the team is brilliant and his style of play suits Pioli system. Alexis is only going to get better.
Maxi: Alexis Salaemaekers. Thought he had shown glimpses of great quality before the season, but successively throughout this season he really grew as a player. In the final months he was one of the most consistent performers and impressed me a lot. More to come next season for him!
Rohit: Calabria. I was sceptical about Calabria at the start of the season but he’s proved me wrong and has grown as a player and improved on his position and tactical discipline.
Ivan: Kessie. He had a very good second half of last season, but this season he has been something special. A dominant force in the midfield, great physicality and composure. He got the better of most of the midfielders he faced including against Manchester United in the Europa League where he was probably the only starter available, but still made it look easy.
Ahmed: Kessie, went from a top 10 midfielder in the league to the clear No.1 to me.
Fred: Calabria. Despite nearly being ruined by injuries last season, he managed to bounce back in a big way. He was not just an improved player, he was one of the main protagonists this season for the rossoneri.
Maxi: Alexis Saelemaekers. Thought he had shown glimpses of great quality before the season, but successively throughout this season he really grew as a player. In the final month’s he was one of the most consistent performers and impressed me a lot. More to come next season for him!
Nikita: Saelemaekers – became such a useful player, tactically incredibly intelligent, but still needs to improve somewhat in the final third.
Signing of the season
Oli: Fikayo Tomori. He only came in during the January transfer window, but the impact of the Englishman simply cannot be overstated as he helped shore up a rocky back line and offered something completely different to the other centre-backs with his pace and aggression. Helping to keep five clean sheets to end the season, €28m seems a bargain – sign him up!
Isak: Fikayo Tomori. Several of the summer signings did well too but this man was in a league of his own. Had an impact instantly and was very important from the moment he arrived.
Anthony: Tomori. You could argue signing him was the moment of the season as well, simply because Romagnoli was in decline, all other centre-backs were injured, our winning streak had recently ended, and things were turning for the worse. We were about to begin our descent from first to second all the way down to fifth. Without Tomori we very likely could have stayed in fifth and not bounced back to finish second.
Madison: Tomori, if we didn’t bring him in we would have finished 5th no doubt.
Gianmario: Fikayo Tomori. To come in to a new league half way through a season having not played the first half and bench the club captain is brilliant. He’s been a breath of fresh air to the defence and has got better as the seasons gone on forming a great partnership with the Danish wall.
Rohit: Tomori. Yes he was only here for a six months but after losing out on Simakan, Tomori displaced our club captain from the starting XI and was instrumental in keeping clean sheets against Juve and Atalanta. Ever since Kjær and Tomori became a centre-back pairing, Milan’s best performing area was Center defense
Ivan: An easy pick for me – Tomori. Settled in immediately and took Romagnoli’s place fairly quick. Great ending to the season with five clean sheets in a row and Tomori looks set to be a pillar for this side.
Ahmed: Tomori for the immediate impact and the fact that we really did end up needing him the entire way with Kjaer and Romagnoli both getting hurt.
Fred: Tomori. The English is the defender Milan did not know they needed. His impact is undeniable, he made a few mistakes in the process but overall he stabilised Milan’s defense and brought some much needed pace and aggressiveness. Today, he has cemented his place in the starting XI and it is safe to say he totally deserves it.
Maxi: Pierre Kalulu. Hasn’t featured a lot, but when he’s played, he’s looked really solid. I don’t base this award solely on quality on the pitch, but I’ve also factored in that he came very cheap and looks to have really high potential. Yet another gem found by Maldini, Massara and Moncada.
Nikita: Tomori – came into a new league and immediately helped secure CL qualification with stellar performances.