Milan Next No. 9: Ranking the Top Candidates to Replace Olivier Giroud

Milan fans are waiting for the summer with bated breath as the club embarks on the most comprehensive overhaul since the end of the Silvio Berlusconi era in 2017. After five years in charge, title-winning manager Stefano Pioli waved goodbye to San Siro on the final day of the 2023/24 season.

Salernitana spoiled his farewell party as the Serie A whipping boys held Milan to a 3-3 draw in their last top-flight outing. However, Olivier Giroud rode off into the sunset, scoring a stunning half-volley in his final game for the Rossoneri ahead of his switch to Los Angeles FC.

Despite joining Milan toward the end of his playing career, the Frenchman has left a lasting impression at San Siro. His contribution to the 2021/22 Scudetto was immense. But Giroud’s career in Serie A was far more than just the title.

He was the first worthy owner of a coveted No. 9 jersey since Filippo Inzaghi’s retirement over a decade ago. Giroud’s predecessor mostly failed to shoulder its burden. Though the veteran broke the jinx, he was always a short-term solution.

Now’s the time for Milan to look into the future. Paulo Fonseca will probably hold the steering wheel. But the question is – who will be the team’s engine in the front third? Replacing a player of Giroud’s quality and stature is no small undertaking.

It will require due diligence and probably a significant financial sacrifice. The good thing is Milan are willing to open their war chest to sign a world-class goal-getter.

However, the catch is to find a suitable profile – someone capable of packing a punch and handling the pressure of the famous No. 9 shirt. The club’s final decision will probably arrive after the 2024 European Championship.

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of Milan targets. Let’s quickly examine each.

Dream: Joshua Zirkzee – Bologna

Half of Europe has fallen in love with Joshua Zirkzee. His charms have not left Milan indifferent. The 23-year-old has been the architect of Bologna’s historic Serie A season. With 11 goals and five assists, his role in the club’s Champions League finish has been pivotal.

And Milan would gladly take him to San Siro for ‘only’ €40 million. Zirkzee’s release clause comes into force on July 1, with his representative, Kia Joorabchian, anticipating a bidding war for his client’s signature.

He has made plans accordingly, spotting an opportunity for a hefty income from Zirkzee’s inevitable high-profile move. Joorabchian reportedly asks for a monstrous €10/15m commission.

While Milan would have no issue meeting Zirkzee’s release clause, they’re unwilling to let the famous agent bully them. As a result, they could scratch the Dutchman’s name from the list.

That’s unless Joorabchian comes to his senses.

Probability: 5/10

Dark Horse: Benjamin Sesko – RB Leipzig

It’s now a near-certainty that Benjamin Sesko will ply his trade away from RB Leipzig next season. The 21-year-old is one of the most sought-after young forwards in Europe. And the best part is he would be available for around €50m.

In times of hyperinflation and insane price tags, snapping a player of Sesko’s talent at this rate would be a steal. But Milan are not the only club to have noted his potential. Several clubs in the Premier League have added the Slovenia international to their shortlists.

Arsenal and Manchester United are at the head of the queue. If Milan’s interest is genuine, perhaps accelerating talks to bring Sesko to Serie A could be wise. With Euro 2024 on the horizon, there’s a legitimate belief the youngster’s price could skyrocket if he impresses.

Leipzig would be open to cashing in on their prized asset for the right price. But if Sesko does make a standout appearance in Germany and his stock hits the roof, Milan could hardly compete with financially superior English clubs.

Time is a sensitive mission here.

Probability: 3/10

Likeliest Option: Jonathan David – Lille

Milan made a last-ditch attempt to lure Jonathan David away from Lille in the twilight of last summer’s transfer window. Their effort came a cropper, but it might have only postponed the unavoidable. The Canada international’s fate intertwines with the Rossoneri again.

With Fonseca set to take over, it’s only natural to assume he’ll try to bring some of his former associates to San Siro. And David is the one he’s intimately familiar with after the pair spent two years together in Ligue 1. And successfully so, especially from the center-forward’s perspective.

Fonseca’s style of play turned the ex-Gent goalscorer into a formidable force. After racking up 24 league goals in 2022/23, David added 19 more to his tally in 2023/24. However, his time at Lille is about to expire, with the club ready to listen to offers for their headline performer.

David’s contract runs out in 2025, making this summer the last opportunity for the French side to strengthen their bank accounts with his sale. What better place for the 24-year-old to continue his development than Milan with Fonseca?

Available in a cut-price deal, David seems like the most realistic candidate to fill Giroud’s shoes.

Probability: 8/10

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