Words vs. deeds and worrying developments: Why Milan’s state of flux is breeding impatience

By Oliver Fisher -

The decisive part of the summer is not close to being upon us, and yet there is a growing apprehension among sections of the AC Milan fanbase regarding the things they read.

As we have written about several times before, there is no underestimating how big a summer this is for Milan. There is a new head coach who must put his stamp on the squad, a centre-forward must arrive among other signings and there are various other issues to be fixed.

While things are naturally slower because of the European Championship that has been underway for a few days and because June in general tends to be a quieter month, it is worth taking stock of what is worrying supporters at the moment.

Ibra’s pledge

Recently Ibrahimovic gave his first press conference since returning to Milan as a Senior Advisor six months ago, and it was packed full of bold declarations, interesting indications and of course a few laughs which we broke down in detail.

One of the things that stood out when answering a couple of questions about the squad building was the certainty with which he said the key names will remain, before turning to the ambitions when it comes to the summer mercato.

“Theo and Maignan will stay, Leao too. They are among the strongest players in their roles and have a contract with us, they are happy. We don’t need to sell. Thanks to RedBird’s work we can bring in strong players to improve the squad,” he said.

“The next step is to strengthen the team, to be more competitive. We want to win trophies, in Italy and in Europe, because we are Milan. The ambition is to fight for trophies every year. Milan don’t just win, Milan make history. Whoever joins Milan must have that same ambition.

“Whoever is already at Milan and doesn’t think like this will not have space. We’re not satisfied with the last season, we agree with the fans. We must not limit ourselves. I’m optimistic, I’m positive. We have a group of directors who are hungry. We have a plan that we are following, we’re confident in what we do. We have a strategy.

“The club brought in 12 players last year I think it was, we laid the foundation and now the details count to improve the team. We are looking for a striker, then the market is every day. We have a scouting system around the clock.”

There was no cryptic messaging from the Swede: the plan is to make the squad even stronger so it can win on multiple fronts, and the way to do that is to keep the best players while making targeted additions in areas that need addressing. Sounds promising so far.

On hold

According to multiple sources and our own information, negotiations between Milan and Joshua Zirkzee’s agents have entered a stalemate phase because Giorgio Furlani and Kia Joorabchian remain fixed in their positions.

The agent says that €15m in commissions are needed to close the deal in addition to the €40m release clause but Milan will not pay that amount either now or in the future because they have set out a more principled stance.

A couple of threats have emerged too. Firstly there is the fact that Zirkzee will now be involved in the European Championship with Netherlands after becoming an emergency call-up, something that could attract new suitors and hold things up.

Secondly it is being widely reported that Manchester United contacted the Dutchman’s entourage in recent days to obtain information, and they of course have a lot of purchasing power as the signing of Rasmus Hojlund from Atalanta for €70m last year showed.

Milan are in some ways caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they are one step away from signing a highly sought after player who fills a need, but if they pay the commissions they risk upsetting that previously established principle. Then, if they choose to walk away the risk of backlash is high, while they must of course restart that striker search.

While ever there is no news, supporters and the media will naturally presume that means bad news such is the discourse when it comes to Milan, so this state of flux is one that is proving to be difficult to digest.

What about the others?

Another thing that adds to the strangeness of the current moment is the dilemma that the management may feel when it comes to getting the jig saw pieces in place.

Even if the window has not officially opened, there have been several reports claiming that Geoffrey Moncada and co. must first resolve the centre-forward issue before turning to other areas and this means they may miss out on some targets in the meantime.

The 49 goals conceded in 38 Serie A games last season shows a need to fix the defensive department with a centre-back signing, and two names faded away within the space of a few hours.

Over the past few days the Rossoneri have been linked with a move for Rafa Marin who spent last season on loan at Deportivo Alaves from Real Madrid, while Lilian Brassier of Brest is a player that has been mentioned as an option for months now.

According to Fabrizio Romano, Napoli and Real Madrid are ‘almost there’ in talks over a deal that will seen Marin join the former permanently. The 22-year-old has already agreed on terms, while Los Blancos will have a buy back clause with details being clarified.

In another tweet, Romano adds that Olympique Marseille are on the verge of signing Brassier. Talks are underway with Brest while personal terms have been agreed over a five-year deal. The player ‘rejected three other proposals’ – also from Champions League clubs – to join OM.

Of course there will be other names on the list that are being evaluated, and there is also a more than slim possibility that the duo above were never concrete options, but the point stands that focusing too much on getting one piece in place can see others fall off the table entirely.

Renewal doubts

Even though both Theo and Maignan are at the European Championship with France, their futures continue to be speculated about and there is very little to suggest that either of them are close to penning long-term deals.

One of the main things Zlatan said – as stated above – is that the French duo plus Rafael Leao are ‘happy’ and will definitely stay because the club does not need to sell them.

However, on Saturday, the left-back effectively nullified the comments, stating: “Whether I’ll stay at AC Milan or not, we’ll see later.” That whipped fans into a frenzy, with many jumping to the conclusion that he is thinking of a future away from the Rossoneri.

Gianluca Di Marzio spoke live on Sky last night about the situation related to the two Frenchmen, with his comments relayed by MilanNews.

“There are still no developments regarding the renewal of Maignan and Theo at Milan, there are no negotiations yet, also because they are busy at the European Championship,” he said.

“If the requests of the two Frenchmen – it will depend a lot on this – will be higher than the salary ceilings dictated by Milan, it could be complicated to reach an agreement with Maignan.

“The certain thing is that Milan see the French goalkeeper as a leader, both on and off the pitch so the Rossoneri will do everything to please him and make him stay at Milan for a long time.”

Thus, a media narrative has developed whereby Milan are not sure to keep their best players despite a trusted figure saying they will, cannot get a deal over the line for their No.1 target and names that have been linked are going elsewhere.

A dose of realism

A few considerations are needed to round things off in the right way. Firstly, it must be stressed that the summer is in its infancy, and while it is always good to get business done early where possible it is more important to make the right signings rather than rushed ones.

Secondly, it does seem as though the major sources are no longer as bulletproof as they once were when it came to information. In fact, a lot of the operations that Milan have done in recent windows has gone under the radar, suggesting the papers and certain journalists could be off the mark.

Thirdly, the certainties and the platforms to build upon remain, such as the fact that the club are on a very healthy footing financial and have some obvious holes in the squad to plug without a full overhaul needed. That means they can pick and choose the right deals.

Finally, a look around the league shows that very few rivals are doing much at this stage either and most of them have a longer to-do list than Milan. Patience will be needed, just as it will be tested.

Tags AC Milan Joshua Zirkzee Mike Maignan Theo Hernandez

27 Comments

  1. Nice sum up Oliver, thanks.

    Obviously I disagree with the part about Zlatan’s one man show that was just PR 101 bs. Almost everything Zlatan said is just some fallacious rhetoric, saying trivial things like “we want to win trophies”, “Milan make history””we’re not satisfied with last season”, etc. All these things mean nothing, there is absolutely no evidence to that but nobody will contest it because of course everybody agrees. It’s very common practice in politics.

    Zlatan doesn’t seem to be a “trusted figure” anymore, he has been under fire on social media because he’s obviously an employee of Redbird. The very fact that he claimed “Théo is happy” and two days later Théo opens the door to a potential departure evidences that it was just a PR exercise. Jerry speaks to the shareholders in Fortune or Forbes and Zlatan is here to be the new “trusted figure” that will speak to the fans. That’s also fake narrative/self branding to say that “thanks to Redbird’s work we can bring in strong players to improve the squad”. Elliott Management did most of the job to clean the budget, sign commercial deals and enhance the value of the brand. Now let’s see what kind of “strong players” they will get. Top players from Serie A or from strong European teams? For now they just hired a cheap second tier coach and it’s not a good signal.

  2. Difficult to call this one, but it is concerning that the focus is all on JZ when our targets are picked up by other teams. Parallel deals are possible, and yes, the narrative that the right deals need to be done is plausible. But we all know our Achilles heel and how agents and teams bully us out of deals by playing on our limitations (Kia is point in case). So the sooner deals are closed the better…

  3. The Hojlund transfer fee is a big reason why Zirkzee agent is asking for such a high commission.
    If there is no 40 mil release clause negotiated in his contract by the agent, on the open market Zirkzee will go for at least 65 mil. For those that they’ll say that’s too much money for a striker that barely scored over 10 goals, Hojlund didn’t even score 10, he only scored 9 and got sold for 75 mil plus 10 mil in bonuses.
    Raiola negotiated 60 mil release clause in Haaland’s Dortmund contract when he was worth over 100mil. He definitely pocketed at least 20 mil in commission.
    Like I told someone else earlier, the agents does most of the work during transfers. The agent is the reason why other teams know that their is a release clause in the players contract in the first place and the time frame it can be activated. Psg activated a “private clause” to snatch Dembele from Barca. Barca didn’t announce the existence of the clause publicly, but the agent told PSG.
    If Milan believes that Zirkzee is the real deal, pay the commission or move on.

    1. To be fair Rasmus Højlund was bought at an age of being 3 years younger than zirkzee currently is and he had played 6 international matches scoring 6 goals as well.
      Id take Højlund any day compared to Zirkzee even if my view may be a bit colored as a dane he is more what we actually need and the same goes for Sesko.

    2. Milan has moved on, the news has not. He is not the only target. They have said what they will pay, and if he wants to play for Milan, I’m sure they would still take him on, but the news likes this story, so they keep talking about it.

    3. It appears the agent is looking to create a closer relationship with Man U and Arsenal, so will likely give them a big discount from what he was charging Milan. Then he has to convince his client, who wants to play at Milan, that he should sit on the bench behind Højlund…would like to see how that plays out…

    4. Exactly what I’ve been saying. The agent asked for enormous comission becuase he knows that Zirkzee worth beyond 40 mil. Not a rocket science but his TM value is 50 mil. If he has no release clause, his price will easily go to 50-60 mil in transfer window these days.

    5. The Hojlund transfer and the links of that very same team going after another forward, after having spent 70M on one a season ago, simply proves that the 70M was a complete overvalue, as is the 55M for Zirkzee. Scoring 10 goals in Serie A should value a striker at around 30M. Then the 15M commission is a joke.

      We’re wasting time. Forget Zirkzee and spend 40-50M on a striker who has scored at least 20 goals somewhere, even if that was in the Netherlands, Portugal or Belgium. At our budget thay leaves Dovbyk, Giurassy, Sorloth, Pavlidis, Akor Adams, Denkey and Gimenez. Let’s get cracking.

  4. Even though it was a horrible pass backwards from the Scottish player that was one amazing goal by Shaqiri for Switzerland.

  5. This agent sounds like a stand up guy…Going to lower his fee for Man U to build connections, then try to convince his client, who wants to play for Milan, that he should play behind Hojlund at United. What a guy.

  6. Milan does everything under wraps. This whole agent fee story might be a distraction while they bring others in while everyone is focused on Zee. Romano is reporting as much as anyone knows.

    I wonder if they are working to bring other signings in since they openly state that the CF is the first position that will be signed.

    Napoli got their CB. So where does that leave Buingiorno whom we’ve been courting since the winter? Hmmmm…..

    1. yeah, they are definitely working a lot of angles…I think they understand his agent is actually not negotiating in good faith, if they agreed to 15M he would raise it to 20. Hes already offered Man U a discount. Hes trying to create connections. He just has to convince his client to sit on the bench instead of play for Milan…

  7. “…and yet there is a growing apprehension among sections of the AC Milan fanbase regarding the things they read.”

    Yes, the half wringing their hands with their teeth chattering. The other half are waiting to see what happens, (it’s June…) knowing we’ll more than likely be fine in the end – whether we end up with Zirk or not.

    1. Another condescending statement refuting freedom of thought for those who don’t think like you. Football is competition, you don’t win on the market, you don’t win the trophies. Let’s wait until August, 31st like last summer to find our new striker. We’ll be fine.

  8. The price for Zirkzee is $55 million. Who cares how the money is split up once it’s paid. Either he’s worth $55 million or he isn’t that’s the decision to be made.

  9. Who is prepared to bet that zlatan will no longer be around at milan by 31 december 2024? ….. will either give up working with a bunch of clowns or else be kicked away.

  10. Working under the wraps in secrecy might just be ruse after all. If you allow indiscretions to expose your moves and are countered, you either pay up or walk away. Zlatan goofed already, making blanket statements without concrete evidence to back them up. Theo chipped in his words to inform management he will not cower to anyone. When they sign the dotted lines, then we will accept Zlatan”s words, till then they should keep beating around the bush. We may the noises, others sign the players, that seems to be the new trend.

  11. Milan should have taken back De Ketelaere but now is too late. Club does not have money for big signings so why not bring back somebody who is at least not worst than people you looking to buy right now.

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