\On face value, Rade Krunic and Ismael Bennacer from relegated Empoli are not the most glamorous signings, especially when compared with the likes of Juventus who picked up Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on free transfers for their midfield, as well as Dutch starlet Matthijs de Ligt in defence. However, these are not only underrated bargains, but also indicative of a new era at the club.
Starting with Bennacer, who the club are preparing to sign for a fee of around €18m, Giampaolo is being presented with a gift for his tactical plans at the club. We know that the former Sampdoria boss likes to employ a 4-3-1-2 formation, with a three-man midfield consisting of a regista who sits slightly deeper than his two partners, who are closer to filling the roles of a mezz’ala, striding forward into the wide spaces which wingers would occupy in other formations.
Bennacer holds all the relevant attributes to be a successful regista for Giampaolo. In fact, the Algerian international is highly reminiscent of former Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira, who Milan’s new Coach worked closely with at Marassi and helped the Uruguayan achieve a huge move to the Premier League to join Arsenal.
In his last season with Sampdoria, Torreira demonstrated many similar statistics to those of Bennacer. The two have a similar ability when it comes to passing, as well as sharing a near-identical percentage of defensive duels won per 90 minutes, and contributed greatly to the transitional phase too, a classic responsibility of a regista. He reportedly turned down bigger offers and better personal terms elsewhere, quite a coup considering his key role in helping Algeria reach the Africa Cup of Nations Final.
Therefore, not only is Bennacer a talented young player who can add a lot to the Rossoneri midfield, but he is also a smart signing – showing an improvement in the scouting at the club, who just a few years ago were spending large amounts of money on individual talents without much consideration as to how they would fit in their manager’s tactical system. This suggests that now Milan are focusing more on the long-term, with Giampaolo being the man chosen to take the club into a new era.
Krunic, meanwhile, may not immediately break into the first team, but will be a valuable rotational option to play in either the LCM or RCM position, although it’s more likely to be on the left side, as he is more familiar with that position. Krunic is a talented dribbler of the ball and has strong passing statistics too, but will provide Giampaolo with an important player to rely on in case of injuries or fatigue.
Milan lost momentum towards the end of last season, as players grew tired and the club faced a string of injuries and fitness issues that can, in part, be blamed for their failure to qualify for the Champions League. However, the club are clearly attempting to resolve this, by providing their new Coach with more depth to the side, allowing him to rotate players and trial his ideas in the first half of the season, without a detrimental effect on the run-in at the tail end of the campaign.