Fresh off a splendid season in Bergamo for Atalanta, who snuck into fourth place on the final match-day of the 2016-17 season, Franck Kessie was hot property on the market.
At one point last year, the Ivorian was courted by the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but in the end Milan’s ambition and substantial offer convinced him to make the San Siro switch.
Few of the new arrivals matched the hype surrounding Kessie last summer, not only for his profile, but the increasing demand in the modern game for a box-to-box presence with qualities that loom large over the course of a long season.
Immediately, his strength, energy on both ends of the pitch and solidity filled a void the Rossoneri have longed to plug since Gennaro Gattuso and Mark van Bommel roamed the centrocampo several years ago.
While most understood Kessie had much to improve upon in the technical aspects of his game, the sizable €28m investment would still pay dividends in year one of this new project.
Early on in the season and throughout the Europa League group stage qualifying rounds, Kessie’s disruptive qualities were a breath of fresh air in Vincenzo Montella’s starting XI. From the beginning, he was every bit as advertised and on a regular basis, his marauding runs enabled the others in the midfield to keep things simple.
Several victories to begin the 2017-18 campaign garnered plenty of intrigue, but with every buyer of the Rossoneri dream, there was an equally skeptic seller who wasn’t convinced these wins over provincial sides portrayed the true quality of the side.
Along with Leonardo Bonucci, Nikola Kalinic and Hakan Calhanoglu, Kessie was one whose performances came back down to earth, and this effect trickled down the entire squad. Eventually, Montella was shown the door in an attempt to salvage something from this season, and since Gattuso stepped in to take the reins, we’ve seen a complete shift in the level of play.
The World Cup winner had much to prove beyond the ‘grinta’ and passion displayed during his playing days. However, it has been these two traits, among other things, that have allowed the fierce Italian Coach to help several in the side elevate their game and channel the qualities Milan shelled out for.
It goes without saying, Franck Kessie has been the main beneficiary of Gattuso’s tutelage, and his form from September through December pales in comparison to what we see now.
Each weekend, the former central defender can be found busting up play, posing as an unbreakable force and a ball carrier in the final third that is quite difficult to contain.
Impressive displays against Inter in the Coppa Italia over 120 minutes and the doubling of his account in the win over Cagliari accurately depict who he is and the mark he can leave on a game.
Beyond that, Kessie is also shouldering quite the workload for Milan, having tallied the most minutes by an outfield player in the Italian top-flight.
In many ways, this has been a blessing for Milan, who have needed every minute of him this year, but there is concern amongst supporters about whether Kessie can avoid getting burnt out. It’s something Gattuso must certainly have on his mind, especially with his club currently competing on three fronts.
Kessie’s been living up to the early season hype bestowed upon him by elevating his game and acting as the driving force in the midfield for a team that still has plenty to strive for. It’s easy to forget he only turned 21 in December. Imagine when he’ll have experience too.