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Tuesday November 12 2019
The worst €200m ever spent

Just two signings from Milan's summer transfer splurge of 2017 started against Juventus. For Emmet Gates, it perfectly encapsulated the sheer recklessness of the Yonghong Li era...

Take a look at Milan’s starting XI in their 1-0 defeat to Juventus on Sunday, what do you notice? If you don’t have the time, or patience, to figure it out, it’s this: Hakan Calhanoglu and Andrea Conti were the only starters that were bought from Yonghong Li’s hedonistic summer spending spree of 2017. The sole survivors.

As they currently languish in the bottom half of Sere A, those heady days of July and August 2017 seem nothing but a distant memory to Rossoneri fans now, when Mr. Li’s mysterious Chinese money bankrolled a spending spree never before seen by an Italian side. Yes, there had been big spending before - Massimo Moratti and Sergio Cragnotti in the 1990s, even their own Silvio Berlusconi before that, for example - but this was an entirely different beast.

It felt like every single day in that two-month window, Milan were buying a new player. The first signing was Mateo Musacchio for €18m, then Franck Kessie (€28m) and Ricardo Rodriguez (€15m) arrived a week later. Andre Silva (€38m), Calhanoglu (€20m), Andrea Conti (€24m), Leonardo Bonucci (€42m), Fabio Borini (€5m), Lucas Biglia (€17m) and Nikola Kalinic (€25m) all came via Malpensa airport, ready to be part of the Diavolo’s new Chinese revolution.

Fast forward two years, and what has become of Milan’s €200m+ outlay? Silva, who was 22 when signed, had the biggest potential of all the new signings, and had been ordained by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo himself as his eventual heir in the Portuguese national side. He lasted a single season, struggling to adapt to Serie A as he scored just two goals, and left on loan, first to Sevilla and later to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Whilst it’s perhaps unfair to judge Silva that harshly given his age, the same cannot be said for the biggest signing, Bonucci, who arrived as a serial Scudetto winner with Juve and had just played in the Champions League Final. 

Bonucci was a train wreck in his single season in red and black. His defensive frailties were badly exposed without Giorgio Chiellini to cover him, and indeed it was the actual signing of Bonucci that railroaded the strategic thinking of directors Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli.

Fassone and Mirabelli have since said that the signing of Bonucci wasn’t planned, and in fact they had set money aside to buy an experienced striker, with Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the first target. Yet the possibility emerged to sign Bonucci, who’d fallen out with Max Allegri before a Champions League game against Porto the previous season and their relationship never recovered, and so Fassone and Mirabelli felt signing Bonucci - a genuinely world-class player on paper - was an opportunity not to be missed.

This is the fork-in-the-road moment. How different would Milan’s current fortunes be had they went for Aubameyang and passed up Bonucci? Milan’s top scorer in 2017-18 was Patrick Cutrone with 10 goals, 18 in all competitions. Milan scored the fewest amount of goals from any side in the top seven, and it isn’t in the realm of fantasy to suggest that the signing of the current Arsenal striker could’ve propelled the Rossoneri back into the top four.

Kessie, Calhanoglu, Musacchio and Rodriguez have all flitted between decent and poor. Kessie, a mainstay under Rino Gattuso, clocked up more minutes than any other Milan player last season but overall has scarcely resembled the player who was so good for Atalanta. Andrea Conti has been dreadfully unfortunate, suffering two serious knee injuries, and pretty much missed the entire Li era. 

Nikola Kalinic lasted a single season, scoring only three League goals, and was sent on loan to Atletico Madrid. Biglia and Borini have added next to nothing, with the former now firmly replaced by Ismael Bennacer as the midfield fulcrum since Stefano Pioli took charge. Rodriguez has also been dropped for Theo Fernandez. Calhanoglu is the last of the Mohicans, the last emblem of the chaotic and cryptic Li reign.

When all aspects are combined; the financial outlay on fees and wages, player performances and their inability to move players on, there is a very good case that Milan’s 2017 summer transfer business is the worst ever conducted by a club in Europe’s five biggest Leagues. Not a single signing has been an outright success.

The club recently posted record losses of €146m and, with Champions League football about as likely as a Yonghong Li return, that summer of 2017 - when expectations ran wild, when 65,000 fans turned up to see Milan play Universitatea Craiova in a Europa League qualifying match in early August, and when anything seemed plausible - will hang over the red side of San Siro for a long time.

Have your say...
@Me, Ok, so they're starters. The article is about quality, not about whether they start or not. Rodriguez better than Theo? LOL. He reminds me of a giraffe when he dribbles. Mussacchio is not great. He's more like another Paletta or Acerbi. He always seems on the verge of either letting his man by clear on goal or a red card. Duarte is better and his versatility has impressed me. Kessie is OK, but no SMS or even Barella. Bennacer is patently better than Biglia.
on the 15th November, 2019 at 4:25pm
Club with failed leadership is the result of Milan now.

When the Berlusconi was at the helm, the expectation of EVERY Milan player is WORLD CLASS. Shape up or ship out.

Name a world class Manager since Max Allegri left milan.
on the 15th November, 2019 at 3:45am
this article is completely wrong these players were a means to a end and the likes of rodriguez, kessie, musa, hakan have been regulars they were a improvement upon the players at the club. I didn't agree with kalinic or biglia signings at the time i didn't see the quality that they would bring especially considering the players milan had. Conti has had injury problems silva is utterly undermined. As for bonucci he was decent but too expensive and too old.
on the 14th November, 2019 at 8:29pm
This is a genuinely terrible article. Mussachio has been the starter every game this season, was the starter last season, and only missed with suspension.

Rodriguez has been the starter and has been a good player, but they've decided to push Hernandez recently (Rodriguez is still better than he is). Even Biglia plays a lot.

Kessie is the starter. LoL. Are you a writer or one of these people who post things like Rubentus?

Awful awful article.
on the 14th November, 2019 at 4:24pm
Okay its official now that inside and outside of footballing world "haters" "racist" and "capitalism" di exist. Hate can not be in inflected without direct clash of opinions which is not the case here with this pinturoccio fella. Why he was inflected by my comments? He is downward members of capitalism and a serial hater and pure follower of negativism and moreover can be a possible racist!! Who knows?? Aggressiveness is can not be allowed in suave society, my pardon to all of you....
on the 14th November, 2019 at 10:38am
Inter's midfield absolutely sucks and you can thank Erick Thohir for that because he fired the most instrumental person in making Milan's midfield any good the alst decade - Marco Branca! How else can you get Pirlo for 18mill, seedorf for the price of Francesco Coco and Muntari! Now Branca is gone and the quality of midfield sucks...is it a coincidence ? I think not.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 9:11pm
"Well done Mirabelli". Even as an INTER fan, it is sad to see home-grown talent such as Cutrone leave for peanuts. Several mistakes have been done at Milan, however Piatek is a good signing, top striker - he only needs service.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 8:49pm
@Pinturicchio
I think I speak for everyone in this thread when I say we're all exhausted by your consistent and predictable vitriol under so many FI blogs.
Throwing around big words is not fooling anybody... it's only revealing your deep insecurity which requires you to act as if you are intellectually superior to everyone else.

Try being kinder. It's good for you.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 7:00pm
It's sad to see homegrown players like Calabria struggling so much. Calabria is obviously missing Gattuso, who he was impressive under. The sale of Cutrone hasn't helped him either as they had a close relationship.

Like Maldini's Heir said, I won't be surprised to Calabria pushed out at the end of the season. We'll lose yet another Milanista who is yet again victimized by the mismanagement coming from above.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:47pm
I’m not qualified to pass judgement whether this was the worst €200mil ever spent or not, but to me, a Milan fan since I watched Gullit and Van Basten pop two each in the old onion-bag against Steaua, it sure feels like it.
This proves the point again that simply throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve anything if it’s not spent wisely – I know, it’s a lot easier said than done in this complicated and continuously changing football theater and especially being
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:44pm
@Evan G. (2)
You’re probably right that they (Elliott) don’t care about players, team spirit, etc. on a personal and/or emotional level, but to sell the club at a profit, which I’m sure is their goal, you have to address those factors for results.
They have no choice because Milan’s price tag dropped considerably.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:41pm
@Evan G.
“Why doesn’t this article make any mention of its current mismanagement?”
Because it is about the 2017 €200m spending, like the title says.

“Elliott took over the club, using dubious tactics”
No they didn’t. When you default on your loan you should expect the repo man at the door and not the pizza delivery guy.

“Elliott’s record speaks for itself.”
Not sure what you mean here in the Milan context, I’m not aware of their involvement with any other sport club.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:41pm
@Pinturicchio 2/2... and that ever present stupid rant about user names. Ya, right! like "Pinturicchio" is your real name or a valid identifier to present whatever you really are! What is the difference between a fake name or no name? Whenever you put your real first and last name, I'll get mine too! ...and Oh! I'm really scared of you, so I need to hide my USERNAME! Ahhh... Will you ever grow up?
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:01pm
@Pinturicchio 1/2... love your pissed off attitude when you feel so desperate to sent your comments 3 times! Gimme more bud, you made my day! Neither you or @Gee (nothing against this fella) are a reference point to prove anything! You, mysef and anybody else can be wrong but the fact that you think everybody is wrong expect YOU is something! Quality of FI is reduced, agree, but they can NOT be wrong in EVERY article! Some are personal opinions which can differ from yours...
on the 13th November, 2019 at 6:00pm
@Maldini's Heir. I agree with your assessment about abandoning our youth players, but this was going on even during Berlusconi. Some examples: Astori, Aubameyang, Antonelli (who eventually came back for a fee). There are many others. Now we're talking about Cutrone, Locatelli and Bryan Cristante. Even Petagna would be useful now. It seems that if there is anything in Milan's DNA it's getting rid of their homegrown talent and spending money on players who are not any better.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 2:18pm
Can we please have an article in honour of Montolivo? What an absolute tragedy. And shame on Gattuso for not treating him better. Montolivo really did nothing wrong at Milan professionally. He didn't put in the best performances but nobody has. Nobody in the past 6 seasons has put in a consistently good performance. I have no doubt that if Milan had simply saved 17m for Biglia and kept Locatelli and Montolivo and glven them a property manager we'd have been better off.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:31pm
Everyone in the comment that doesn’t include me is a retarded piece of shit, not as much as the nonce who wrote this awful article tho
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:08pm
Hey @Anonymouse-pathetic-rodent: if you can't read, stay away from commenting.. Even @Gee commented how this article is ridiculous. The overall quality of blogs on FI has dropped massively, both in terms of variety and content.

Then again, I shouldn't expect much from a rodent who scurries away at first sign of trouble and hides under a pseudonym.

@spirit_willy I didn't know you were in kindergarten, what with "poop brain" insults. Try again, after you've asked your Mommy to potty-train you.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 5:25am
Hey @Anonymouse-pathetic-rodent: if you can't read, stay away from commenting.. Even @Gee commented how this article is ridiculous. The overall quality of blogs on FI has dropped massively, both in terms of variety and content.

Then again, I shouldn't expect much from a rodent who scurries away at first sign of trouble and hides under a pseudonym.

@spirit_willy I didn't know you were in kindergarten, what with "poop brain" insults. Try again, after you've asked your Mommy to potty-train you.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 5:24am
Hey @Anonymouse-pathetic-rodent: if you can't read, stay away from commenting.. Even @Gee commented how this article is ridiculous. The overall quality of blogs on FI has dropped massively, both in terms of variety and content.

Then again, I shouldn't expect much from a rodent who scurries away at first sign of trouble and hides under a pseudonym.

@spirit_willy I didn't know you were in kindergarten, what with "poop brain" insults. Try again, after you've asked your Mommy to potty-train you.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 5:24am
doesn't work. And of course as others have said all of these players are useless without a proper manager. And Milan have not had one for past 6 seasons. And in those 6 seasons Milan have failed to qualify for the Champions League.

In other news I note Mirabelli claims that Raiola had made over €100m from Milan. If people want to know why there are so many transfers in Serie A, maybe start there.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:52am
It's hard to know why exactly Maldini and Boban forced Cutrone out of the club but they seem to be in disagreement with Elliott and Gazidis about what approach Milan should be taking. Remarkably it's the former two who seem to think Milan need SUPER WORLD CLASS fairytale players and the latter who favour a slower process built around the dwindling number of youth players (I have no doubt Calabria will be gone by the end of this season). The summer of 2017 shows that such an approach usually
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:45am
While it's not healthy to live in the past, we should at least use it to learn from our mistakes. In this respect, the summer of 2017 is a cautionary tale. Remarkably the mistakes of not been learned. Week in/week out we see articles and comments from fans calling for massive overhauls of the Milan squad and the obsession with AVERAGE v WORLD CLASS players. Even more bizarre is that club management seem to still use this logic.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:31am
I'm not sure what the point of this article is. Milan fans (myself included) love nothing more than living in the past and increasingly going back over old errors. For me it's usually driven by a sense of "what might have been" and loss over yet another favourite player being sold. In recent years the sales of Locatelli (and his tears when he scored against Sassuolo) and Cutrone and his passion, have really hit hard. Frankly, when I watch games now I'm fairly disinterested.
on the 13th November, 2019 at 12:18am
HEY AC MILAN
SCRAP THOSE 7 TITLE UCL EMBLEM
YOU'RE EMBARRASSING YOURSELF
on the 12th November, 2019 at 11:32pm
This wasn't Milan's only problem but certainly the biggest.The loss of Delofeu,Pasalic,Kucka were devastating.Abandoning a left winger and changing formation for Bonucci.Hakan,Biglia,Kalinic,Biglia,Silva were at best unnecessary considering they weren't free and the guys we have.Kessie was a good idea as a backup to Kucka but not a starter.RR and Conti haven't worked out but I have no problem with their signings.
on the 12th November, 2019 at 10:08pm
Spirit_willy is SPOT ON.
Why is Pinturicchio hating?
I too immediately thought of Juve & ESPECIALLY United.

& of course Inter...
(Though Milan's one spending season is probably worse of the bunch.)


Anonymous attacking Dtooth
--Read the second to last paragraph.
Author talks and compares Milan to
EVERY

SINGLE

CLUB

IN

EUROPE'S
FIVE
BIGGEST
LEAGUES!

So, no...
It's not about Milan & Milan only.

PS:
Pinturicchio is 100% right about coaches.
on the 12th November, 2019 at 9:11pm
Spirit_willy is SPOT ON.
Why is Pinturicchio hating?
I too immediately thought of Juve & ESPECIALLY United.

& of course Inter...
(Though Milan's one spending season is probably worse of the bunch.)


Anonymous attacking Dtooth
--Read the second to last paragraph.
Author talks and compares Milan to
EVERY

SINGLE

CLUB

IN

EUROPE'S
FIVE
BIGGEST
LEAGUES!

So, no...
It's not about Milan & Milan only.

PS:
Pinturicchio is 100% right about coaches.
on the 12th November, 2019 at 9:11pm
I'm beginning to see the light vis-a-vis managers. Given the way this season is going summer of '20 will be year zero, again. Find a good manager that has a set systen, ideally 4-3-3 or better 4-2-3-1, and get the missing players for those sytems. This means two quality (real) wingers. Let Paqueta play in the hole. Bennacer and Krunic/Kessie in the middle and deeper. Get rid of Suso, Hakan, and all the dead wood. Maybe get a top RB. Let Leao play CF. Then let it ride for a couple of years.
on the 12th November, 2019 at 9:04pm
(Cont'd 2) Conti, two years of injuries aside, doesn't seem to be good enough. At least not in a back 4 system. Maybe if it was a 3-5-2 like he played in at Atalanta. But geez, does a quality player need a system? It's more like systems need quality players. Rodriguez is ok, but Theo is better. Much better. Neither is the next Maldini. In the end it was a terrible summer spend. Milan is still suffering from it, and given the course of this season I imagine next summer will be a complete reset:-(
on the 12th November, 2019 at 8:59pm

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