Assessing Milan’s 2020 Outgoing Transfer Market Session

The term “mercato madness” holds a special meaning in the Italian football landscape. Anyone who follows Serie A will be quite familiar with the term. It’s most commonly associated with all the hype and frenzy that surrounds the transfer market window. It’s almost celebrated as a football festival in Italy.

The “mercato madness” brings a certain level of anticipation amongst fans, regardless of their club affiliations. The mercato has great influence on modern football. It can be a real lifesaver, with clubs having to contend with ridiculously hectic calendars. It represents an opportunity to reflect and strengthen the squad, and Milan are no different in that sense.

An undervalued element of mercato has to do with selling players. In the past, Milan have massively struggled in this particular department. This has largely stemmed from instability and mismanagement at the club in recent years. The club has made some awful decisions on the market, overpaying for average players. Due to unwarranted mega salaries those players were on, it became almost impossible to offload them. The club recorded capital losses in the process, one major reason for the club’s poor financial health in recent times.

Although, things have started to change. The new owners Elliott Management have made it an absolute priority to address this issue. Ivan Gazidis, ex Arsenal chief, has been entrusted with the enormous task of leading Milan in a new direction. Gazidis has been blunt in his message: The club must reduce costs and increase revenue. Hence, a shift in transfer policy.

The club will focus on acquiring young players with future potential who can develop at the club. This will ensure low cost of acquisition, whilst the club can sell them at a later date for profit if they wish to do so. It’s a popular model in Europe, with Monaco, RB Leipzig, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund just a few notable examples. As part of the new policy, the club has to do a better job of selling players at the right time for the right price.

The summer transfer market in 2020 was a promising start in that sense. Led by the duo of Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara, the club was able to sell several fringe players for good money. Milan raised €44m from the sales of Suso and Paquetà. Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura were allowed to leave at the end of their contracts.

Milan must comply with Financial Fair Play. The club must act in a smart manner and find creative ways of raising cash whilst remaining competitive on the field. Under current circumstances, Milan did a marvelous job of doing just that. It was, finally, a decent mercato showing from the Rossoneri in terms of sales.

So, without further ado, let’s review Milan’s outgoing summer mercato.

Giacomo Bonaventura

Transfer Rating — 8 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — End of Contract

The most difficult departure to swallow for the fans. Jack said goodbye to Milan after spending more than half a decade at the club. During this time, he was the perfect embodiment of loyalty and professionalism. The Italy international remained loyal to the club even during difficult times, earning him the respect and admiration of the Rossoneri faithful. He could also be regarded as the club’s most consistent performer in the last few years. He had an expiring contract which wasn’t renewed. It was an informed choice on the part of Milan management. The injuries had clearly started to affect his performances, with his best years clearly behind him. He could’ve made a viable squad player, but it just wasn’t worth it at his current wages and he probably wanted a more prominent role. He signed with Fiorentina in the summer and we sincerely wish him the best with his new adventure.

Lucas Biglia

Transfer Rating — 10 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — End of Contract

The best outcome for all parties involved, to be brutally honest. Biglia was purchased from Lazio back in 2017 under the dreadful Chinese ownership. He was considered an important acquisition after a successful season with Lazio. He was expected to be the linchpin in Milan’s midfield. As we know, things didn’t turn out that way. He had a torrid time at the club constantly battling injuries and inconsistency. This prompted Maldini to buy Ismael Bennacer last summer. Once the Algerian replaced him as a starter in midfield, there was no way back for Biglia. He eventually left this summer upon the expiry of his current deal. A sensible decision from the club, all things considered.

Alessandro Plizzari & Tommaso Pobega

Transfer Rating — 9 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — Loan Deals

The pair have been loaned out to Reggina and Spezia respectively. Plizzari has been with the Rossoneri for a long time. Unfortunately for him, there’s Gigio Donnarumma ahead of him as the undisputed starter. With Ciprian Tatarusanu arriving as a backup, it made sense to loan Plizzari for regular playing time. The same goes for Pobega. With the club signing Sandro Tonali and keeping Rade Krunic, sending Pobega to newly promoted Spezia was the best option. He will gain crucial Serie A experience that will help his development. Two reasonable deals.

Diego Laxalt

Transfer Rating — 7 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — Loan Deal

The Uruguayan departed for Celtic Glasgow during the last days of the window. He wasn’t getting much game time at Milan and has mostly been a peripheral figure since arriving from Genoa. He’s a decent bench option at best. Milan did well to find him a new club after bringing in Diogo Dalot who can play on the left side. Although, it would’ve been better to sell him outright and recover some cash. The reports say Celtic might be interested in making the move permanent when the season ends. It would be the perfect solution for all.

Ricardo Rodriguez

Transfer Rating — 8 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — €3M

The Swiss international was signed from Wolfsburg back in 2017. He came with high expectations as a set piece specialist. He was considered one of the best left backs in the Bundesliga for many seasons. Sadly, things didn’t turn out exactly well for him with the Rossoneri. Although he was a regular under Gennaro Gattuso, his performances weren’t convincing. He looked extremely sloppy in possession and slow in making recovery runs. He rarely delivered good crosses and wasn’t much of an attacking threat. With the emergence of Theo Hernandez, it was inevitable that Rodriguez would be shipped off. Maldini did well to find a buyer in Torino. Milan recorded a minor capital loss, but also saved big on his salary. A decent deal seeing as he didn’t fit in Stefano Pioli’s plans.

André Silva

Transfer Rating — 7 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — €9M

Milan paid a hefty €38m for the Portuguese striker back in 2017. A product of the famous Porto academy, he had attracted the attention of almost all top clubs in Europe following a productive breakout season. Milan secured his services by overcoming some intense competition. The media declared it as a massive coup at the time. It looked like Milan had finally signed the perfect player to wear the prestigious number 9 jersey. However, it didn’t materialize at all. He had a slow start, but also scored some important goals. He fared much better in the Europa League, scoring an impressive hat trick against Austria Wien. But he just couldn’t replicate that form in the league. His loan move with Sevilla didn’t work out either.

However, he did find his goal scoring touch at Frankfurt the following year. He eventually moved to the Bundesliga this summer for a surprising fee. It’s been reported that it has something to do with Ante Rebic joining Milan on a permanent deal as well. A capital loss of €5m, but a reasonable deal since Milan got Rebic in return.

Lucas Paquetà

Transfer Rating — 8 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — €20m Loan + 15% on Future Resale

A masterstroke by Maldini and Massara. Milan paid around €40m to secure his signature from Flamengo back in January 2019. He started in a brilliant manner, wooing the crowd with his flair and Samba skills. He looked pretty comfortable in making the leap from the Brasileirao to the Serie A. As the fans were ready to declare him the next Kaka, Paquetà suddenly fell off the cliff. The performances started to drop by the end of the season. The arrival of Stefano Pioli made things worse as he didn’t fit in the manager’s system.

Pioli preferred Hakan Calhanoglu in the number 10 role, relegating Paquetà to the bench. A massive investment down the drain, it seemed. Not the case. Lyon showed interest in him during the last days of the window. After some negotiations, Maldini found an agreement with the French club for €20M. Milan will also receive 15% on a future resale. Paquetà’s residual value on the books was around the €20M mark, so the club did avoid a loss. A superb deal on Milan’s part.


Transfer Rating — 9 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — €24M

Suso joined Milan from Liverpool back in 2015 for a fee believed to be less than €1M. The Spaniard was often Milan’s most creative player during the last few seasons. The team relied heavily on him to create and score goals on a consistent basis. However, he didn’t deliver on that. He wasn’t a very productive player at all, phasing in and out of games. His goals and assists tally were nowhere near the level needed from a star player. Furthermore, he was mostly a one-trick pony. He would start from the right wing, cut inside onto his left foot and either take a shot or launch a hopeful cross. His right foot was almost non existent. He severely lacked speed to beat his marker and lacked tactical adaptability to play in a different system.

Sevilla loaned him in January with an obligation to make the move permanent in case of Champions League qualification. The clause was triggered in the summer, much to the relief of Milan fans and management. He didn’t fit Pioli’s vision and his absence hasn’t affected the team at all. Milan are fast and dynamic now, something Suso didn’t excel in. The club made a nice profit of around €23M, while he needed a change as well. A win-win scenario for everyone.

José Manuel Reina

Transfer Rating — 9 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — Free Transfer

The veteran goalkeeper was let go to join Lazio in the summer. He was a backup to Donnarumma and didn’t play many games. It didn’t make sense to keep him on ridiculous wages. The club will save €6M gross in wages. Milan did bring in Ciprian Tatarusanu to play second fiddle to Gigio. He’s experienced at the top level and will provide solid cover. Overall, shrewd business from Milan.

Alen Halilovic & Gustavo Gomez

Transfer Rating — 10 / 10

Transfer Fee Received — €7M

Most Milan fans had even forgotten that the pair were still part of the club. Maldini and Massara were finally able to offload them this summer. Gomez was sold for around €7M while Halilovic was let go for free. A huge sigh of relief for all parties concerned.


Overall Transfer Rating — 8 / 10

Total Transfer Fee Received — €63M

Milan’s recent history clearly shows the club’s major failings when it comes to selling. It’s been the club’s Achilles heel during the last decade. A classic case of “underselling assets.” In this case, selling players below their actual valuation on the market. This has affected the club’s capacity to spend as well.

But not anymore, it seems. The club has fared much better in this regard under Elliott Management. Gazidis has made it abundantly clear on several occasions that Milan must adopt a more sustainable model of recruitment. One major part of it involves “smart selling,” an algorithm to determine the player’s fair market valuation.

We’ve already started to see this policy take shape in this summer market. There was a mass exodus of players who weren’t part of the project anymore. The sale of Suso generated a massive capital gain. Silva and Paquetà left before their valuations could depreciate further, hence losses were avoided. By not renewing Jack and Biglia, Milan saved around €6M in wages. A critical step towards budget cuts.

All in all, an important window for the club in terms of sales. Milan offloaded players deemed outside the project, raising money via sales proceeds and savings on player salaries. Perhaps a blueprint for future transfer windows as well.