Vision, quality and five missing assists: The positive signs De Ketelaere has shown at Milan

By Oliver Fisher -

Calling Charles De Ketelaere’s first season at AC Milan anything other than disappointing would be dishonest, but the Belgian has shown some bright sparks.

De Ketelaere arrived for a deal worth €35m including bonuses from Club Brugge and was the marquee signing of a summer transfer window that followed a Scudetto win for Milan, so expectations were high.

However, he has found it difficult adapting to a new club, a new city and a new league so far, having amassed zero goals and just one assist in his debut campaign with the Rossoneri, leading to speculation about his future.

The latest from MilanNews suggests that for the time being the hypothesis of a loan spell in 2023-24 has been taken off the table and the idea is to retain De Ketelaere and evaluate him after another preseason at the club.

The hope is that the 22-year-old will be able to carry out adequate athletic preparation from the first day of training camp as opposed to last summer when he joined late, and thus have a second season resurgence like Rafael Leao and Sandro Tonali had.

The YouTube channel ‘Sempre Rossoneri‘ has produced an interesting video relating to De Ketelaere, who as mentioned has only one assist to show in 39 games played across all competitions.

It highlights how there were some positive signs from the playmaker was seen on the pitch. When he had his head up, he was able to release the ball punctuality and precision, both to a man and in behind.

These were the characteristics that prompted Milan to sign him from Brugge after weeks of negotiations and which have only partially been glimpsed in a red and black shirt this season.

The account even claims that De Ketelaere should have five more assists to his name if his team-mates were able to finish the chances that he provided. It is only a consolation, but it does highlight that his qualities are still there despite suffering from pressure.

It starts with a lofted through ball from around 25 yards out central to the penalty area which found the run of Pierre Kalulu, who failed to keep his composure in space and didn’t hit the target.

Then, an excellent long-range switch of the flanks found Theo Hernandez who surged into the box and got around the goalkeeper, but missed from a tight angle.

CDK is also very good at reading the movement of his team-mates in advance, as seen in the through ball he played to Sandro Tonali against Atalanta which should have resulted in a goal, but Juan Musso thwarted the midfielder.

De Ketelaere’s best quality is certainly that of knowing how to accurately play a the through ball for his team-mates, as seen in the pass provided to Messias during the Serie A game against Napoli.

The playmaker’s pass did not force the Brazilian to slow down at all and instead found him in stride as he had got goalside of his market, forcing Meret into a low save down to his right when he perhaps should have scoreed.

Most Rossoneri fans will remember the almost 30-metre through ball that sent Giroud away on the break in the opening match against Udinese this season, yet the Frenchman never committed to any option and his shot was blocked after he cut back.

De Ketelaere’s season remains disappointing and perhaps it would have been even if all the passes listed above had become assists, but it is also indisputable to underline how the technical qualities of the player are very high.

This year the pressure hasn’t worked in his favour but, as happened with Leao and Tonali, next season could really be the turning point.

Tags AC Milan Charles De Ketelaere


  1. Give the man at least the next pre-season to show his real qualities. It’s the only rational thing to do – finantially speaking, also, cause his value has obviously lowered compared to the last transfer window.

  2. CDK needs to do one thing and that’s it. He needs to hire Zlatan and Gattuso to hang out with him for weeks on end so he can develop a man’s mindset and not this weak crumbling persona he has. I don’t care if he’s a shy guy, that’s fine, but there’s no time for that when you step on the pitch. Man up or leave. I’d say he has lower than 0 grinta… might even have negative grinta.

  3. Who wants to pay 30 / 35M for CDK now? The signed with us for 5 years, let’s give him more time to flourish properly and finally hit the stride, just like Leão or Tonalli. And if he really was to become a total flop… well, then we’ll really need to take this bitter pill in full and sell the guy for the best friggin’ offer we can grab…

  4. Zoro Caloro may have a crucial point here. Psychologically speaking the boy is certainly in shambles these days…

  5. There is no space for elegance in Pioli’s system and hence elegant players won’t get a chance to play their name. CDK is a player who likes to do quick creative passes to players in space or on the run. 1-2-1 passing player with vision for other teammates move. But Pioli’s system is all about individuals keeping the ball for long, trying to dribble too much to get past defenders, or making a solo run towards goal, also using strength over creativity.
    As long as we play this boring style of the game, CDK, ADLI etc got no hope. They need a creative environment with 9 other players with them making good runs and anticipations on/off the ball.

    1. Honestly, I don’t understand why Pioli force him to play AM without a proper preseason. His best season so far (last season at Brugge), his heatmap shows that he play on both flanks, not on the middle. He should have been used as RW.

    2. Totally agree with what you said!

      I doubt CDK’s would ever get his shining due to Pioli’s game plan: let Leao run, let long ball hit Giroud. that’s it!

  6. i will never stop thinking that he is a talented player, but I think that Pioli will need to try and help him by having him in a similar role like the one he had at Brugge: ST on a 4-3-3, RCAM on a 4-1-4-1 and RST on a 3-5-2 next to Leão

    1. In most of these 31 games, CDK only got to play between 10 to 20 minutes at the end of the game.

      That makes total different IF CDK got to start to play from the beginning. It’s a shame Pioli put a loanee Diaz ahead of our own palyer.

  7. Like others said, he doesn’t fit Pioli’s “system”. That’s because Pioli doesn’t have an attacking system at all, as proven by many embarrassing results against compact teams. He relies on Leao/Theo/Giroud making a genius move and that’s it. CDK needs teammates who make penetrating runs all the time so he can pass to them. Since that’s unlikely to happen under Pioli, he will either continue to rot on the bench or will be sold since they said he would not be loaned out.

    1. “Like others said, he doesn’t fit Pioli’s “system”. That’s because Pioli doesn’t have an attacking system at all, as proven by many embarrassing results against compact teams. ”


    2. Exactly. That’s why I think we need to get rid of Pioli. In terms of wins-draws-losses we are a 5th place team. If it wasn’t for Juventus shooting itself in the foot that’s what we’d be in fact. The reason for that is Pioli’s inability to break down teams sitting deep. I hope Pioli has a short leash next season. We can’t afford to be on the outside of the top 4 looking in by Christmas.

  8. Different topic: Roma lost the final, likelihood of il Faraone joining us is greater now (due to us offering UCL)?

  9. This is a very scandalous piece. How dare you make the implication that his horrible showing this season is partially due to his teammates not having that extra bit of quality in those necessary moments? Where exactly were these “bright sparks” & “positive signs” that you mentioned? We saw NOTHING!! LOL

    Seriously though, nice read and it not only highlights some of the players’ unquestionable qualities but also how small the margins are between failure and success.

    1. Yes, I found this kind of thing nonsense, to put it mildly. You can basically do this kind of article for all other players and they’d all seem to be very good whether they truly deliver or not. Just like player’s highlight at YouTube which solely shows the good side.

      It’s just a justification over his extremely poor showing. Moreover what his team mates have done in trying to help him. Just like Leao did who tried to so hard to make him score a goal.

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