Who Should Stay and Who Should Go as Milan Retool?

Milan owner Gerry Cardinale has promised sweeping changes to allow Milan to compete for the Scudetto. It’s easy to imagine Stefano Pioli will be the first to go, especially should they persuade a big-ticket coach to replace him, for instance, Antonio Conte or Thiago Motta. He’s not necessarily long on the tooth, but he’s been there for five seasons. The criticism and reservations about him emerge after every faux pas. It’ll be interesting to see whether they’d pull the trigger even if they won the Europa League.

Rumor has it that they intend to tweak the squad significantly, perhaps even moving on from players their current front office brought in last summer. But they should avoid being hasty. What happened with Charles De Ketelaere should be fresh in their mind, even though the hindsight is 20/20.

Will There Be Another Tonali?

The looming question is whether Milan will pull off the same things they did with Sandro Tonali last summer, surprisingly selling a linchpin for a boatload of money to foot multiple acquisitions and keep the balance sheet in order. It can’t be ruled out since it already happened once out of the blue.

The top candidates would be Mike Maignan, Theo Hernandez, and Rafael Leao. The Portuguese winger would arguably be the most logical but is also the least likely. He extended his contract fairly recently after a long sage. Technically speaking, he’d be the easiest to replace. They could easily find somebody more consistent and prolific, although less flashy, for half the sum his sale would fetch.

The goalie hasn’t always been superb this campaign but remains among the best in the world. If his extension talks are as thorny as whispered, then perhaps he’ll be the choice. It would be a massive ‘plusvalenza’ since he was signed for a low sum. He surely wouldn’t lack suitors. Instead, the bond between the star fullback and the club seems solid enough to quash those concerns. However, that was even more the case for Tonali.

Injuries have caused them to lose some luster, but they have three elite center-backs. Perhaps one of them could be an option for this purpose. If the brass does it, the decision won’t be entirely theirs, but it’ll be dictated by the offers that may or may not come.

The Best Way to Go

Milan need reinforcements to bring their squad closer to Inter but not necessarily an overhaul. They shouldn’t underestimate the power of continuity and youngsters, especially the foreign ones, progressively improving on their own as they mature and get increasingly accustomed to Serie A. They have a glaring example in Yacine Adli.

Noah Okafor and especially Samuel Chukwueze haven’t lived up to expectations, although the former has carved a nice role for himself as a super sub. Christian Pulisic fitting like a glove hurt them both severely, and maybe they thought the Swiss attacker was more of a striker than a winger. The Nigerian has indeed been a disappointment, but the talent is there, as he more than proved at Villarreal. They shouldn’t give up on him yet. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine they’d recoup what they invested if not using a convoluted formula like for De Ketelaere.

That’s also the case for Yunus Musah, who’s younger and less experienced. It feels like they never found the right position for him, especially once their scheme started looking more like a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3 more regularly.

As for their other key newcomers, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been magnificent. They need a better backup because Tommaso Pobega might have similar traits but is injury-prone. Tijjani Reijnders has had a little dip in form as of late but has been a steady workhorse for most of the season. Instead, whether Luka Jovic stays or leaves might hinge on Olivier Giroud.

The Milan Veterans

Simon Kjaer is on an expiring contract and most likely on his way out. They might not need to replace him. They would have been in great shape in the back if it hadn’t been for an injury wasteland that deprived them of Fikayo Tomori, Malick Thiaw, and Pierre Kalulu at the same time. Matteo Gabbia has been passable, so they have four men there. Plus some interesting youngsters, primarily Jan-Carlo Simic and Alex Jimenez, who might stay put and gain meaningful experience if Milan establish a second team.

Davide Calabria and Alessandro Florenzi will likely both stay put. However, it shouldn’t be taboo to consider upgrading at right back, making them both deputies since they can star on the left too. It’d take a pretty penny, though. They should go for it since they shouldn’t be too busy in other roles. Otherwise, they should finally end their search for a left-back. It would help in the middle as well since Hernandez turned out to be viable there.

The Likely Additions

Ismael Bennacer has had a frustrating season due to a previous major knee injury and AFCON. Still, his recent showings demonstrate that he’s still pretty essential and their best maestro, even though he doesn’t necessarily play as a deep-lying playmaker. Adli might get there at some point, but they don’t have another player who dictates the pace and controls the proceeding as well as he does. The midfield should be bolstered with one or two more pieces without anybody leaving.

As for the attack, Milan seem intent on adding a young and touted center-forward, and rightly so. They’ll have to empty their coffers for the right one, but it’ll most likely happen. At that point, it wouldn’t make sense to keep both Giroud and Jovic and have three men for one job. The Frenchman may be old, but he’d be a luxury as a second fiddle/mentor. The Rossoneri will probably let him decide his future on his own and then act accordingly with the Serb. He has done enough to earn his confirmation but might fall victim to the chain of events.

It’s entirely possible a new coach would opt for a different tactic, although it’s hard to imagine they’ll have a seismic shift and turn to a three-man defense, which would throw a massive wrench in their plans.

Follow us on Google News for more updates on Serie A and Italian football