Milan Cool Interest in Aurier: Is Right-Back a Problem For Pioli?

Tottenham Hotspur’s Serge Aurier looked to be the no.1 target for Milan last month, but as interest cools in the Ivorian, should Stefano Pioli be happy with what he’s already got?

It’s been a strange year for the Rossoneri. Aside from the obvious global issues that have beset everyone, Milan experienced an unexpected upturn in form in the second half of this season. In fact, Milan fans might even say that the break in football was the best thing to happen to their club last season.

Milan ended the Serie A campaign as the league’s form side; not losing a single game in their remaining 12 league fixtures, winning 9, and scoring a staggering 35 goals. It saw them finish in 6th-place, and Pioli will now be the manager going into next season.

Pioli was long considered an interim figure, to see Milan through to the end of the last campaign where Ralf Rangnick would come into the club. But in a change of events, Pioli is now the man at the helm for the 2020-21 Serie A season, having signed a two-year deal this summer.

Rangnick though was set to oversee a summer of spending at the San Siro. He was reportedly promised upwards of 80 million euros in transfer money, but strangely, Pioli has only spent 7 million on his side so far.

The likes of Alexis Saelemaekers and Simon Kjaer making their loan stays permanent, with both deals said to be in the region of 3 million euros. Then youngster Pierre Kalulu joining from Lyon for little under half-a-million.

Serge Aurier then could well have been the marquee summer signing for Milan. He could still be if Pioli chooses to reignite his side’s interest in the Spurs man, but after some weeks of strong links between the two, it seems like Milan might yet move on in their search for a right-back, or give up on it completely.

The position is something of a problem going into the news season. Milan have a credibly large squad, and that depth was one of the defining factors behind their strong finish to the last campaign. But after the addition of Kalulu, Pioli now has the Frenchman, Andrea Conti, and Davide Calabria at right-back.

Both Conti and Calabria shared the right-back responsibilities last season; Conti would spend the final few games on the sidelines but made 23 Serie A appearances in total, whilst Calabria made 25 in total, scoring one goal as well.

The starting spot was shared fairly evenly between the two. The rest of the squad was relatively nailed on though – Pioli almost knew his strongest 11 from the get-go but that right-back spot was always a contested one, hence their pursuit of Aurier this summer.

As it stands, Conti will likely be Pioli’s first-choice going into the new season. Milan continue to be linked with players and could yet spend some that 80 million that Rangnick was supposedly promised, but other position are seemingly at the forefront of Pioli’s mind at the moment.

Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic seems to be the no.1 target this summer. He’s seen as the ideal, and long-term partner for Alessio Romagnoli at the back. That’s a move that could see the likes of Simon Kjaer provide cover at right-back, or even Kalulu come into the first-team sooner than expected.

Pioli then might well have enough options at right-back, but he’s not a first-choice player. Theo Hernandez proved a solid left-back last season, scoring six goals in the league and showing exactly why the full-back position is so important in the modern game.

The right-hand side isn’t one which necessarily needs bolstering, but instead one without a standout candidate. It’ll be interesting to see who Pioli favors going into the new season, or whether he reignites interest in Aurier, or identifies a potential new target for Milan before next month’s start date.