Once Milan secured the signing of promising young Ivorian Franck Kessie from Atalanta, supporters knew they had acquired a top player, and one whose possible impact could not be underestimated.
A modern day, box-to-box midfielder, the 20-year-old instantly adds muscle and bravery to the middle of the park. Offensively, his marauding runs to into pockets of space add numbers to the attack, and the ability to create chances do not even begin to explain the depth to his game. His work on the back end to disrupt play and immediately spark attacks is crucial for the approach Vincenzo Montella wants to implement.
To date, the new look Milan has welcomed nearly a dozen new names to the fold, notably including Lucas Biglia and Leonardo Bonucci. Kessie might not have been the most famous player to arrive at Milanello this summer, but he may well be the most effective. Kessie adds a dimension to the midfield that arguably hasn’t existed since the days of Rino Gattuso bossing his every opponent.
On the other hand, there is a strong case to be made for Biglia having the biggest impact on a side hoping to finish in the top four come May. Since Andrea Pirlo departed San Siro for Juventus on a free transfer in 2011, Milan’s midfield has desperately missed that regista to tie the build-up together and freely dictate play at the base.
Captain Riccardo Montolivo has been error-prone in this role for several years now, susceptible to wayward passes and careless play in possession. As time passed, and initial mixed thoughts on the former Lazio captain swung in full support of the Argentine to replace Montolivo, the fanbase quickly warmed up the idea of the 31-year-old Argentine pulling the strings.
Montella showed early in pre-season that he is ready to give Kessie the freedom to be expressive and bully his way all over the pitch. Regardless of whether Montella fields a standard 4-3-3 or switches to the 4-2-3-1, Kessie’s dynamism means he will be handling the dirty work so that Biglia and Bonucci can play to their strengths.
It’s hard to imagine the addition of Bonucci - arguably the world’s best ball-playing defender – as anything but the undisputed and most important signing. However, from what we’ve seen thus far from Kessie, his tireless tracking back will add coverage for both Bonucci and his central partner.
Additionally, the Ivory Coast international’s confidence carrying the ball and deep runs from midfield into the attacking third open up a clear passing option for Bonucci in the vertical build-up. It’s because of Kessie that both Biglia and Bonucci will have these opportunities to shine.
Subjective as it may seem so early in the season, when it’s all said and done, Kessie’s impact will be felt, perhaps cementing him as the key signing of the new Milan regime.