Friday September 11 2020
Breath of fresh air for Milan

Brahim Diaz and Sandro Tonali bring youth, excitement, hunger, but also the characteristics this Milan sorely needed, writes Vijay Rahaman.

In the space of four days Milan have secured deals for Brahim Diaz from Real Madrid and Brescia’s Sandro Tonali, so Rossoneri fans are salivating at the sight of seeing these two talented players wearing the famous Red and Black shirt. While so much was made of Zlatan Ibrahimovic being essential a month from his 39th birthday, the youth movement is largely taking hold of this team.

Both players started getting noticed while representing their nation's youth teams. Brahim during the European Under-21 Championships in 2016 and Tonali at the Euro Under-19s two years ago. Both managed to help their nations reach the final, where interestingly enough, they lost out to Portugal. Both made Team of the Tournament.

Their playing positions and roles are vastly different, but their attributes are much needed in the current Milan team. Brahim Diaz is particularly adept at operating as a Number 10 or out wide. He has excellent technique, with the ability to collect the ball calmly, having a good first touch. His ability to hold on to the ball allows him to attract the attention of opposition defenders, creating space for his teammates. 

Tonali, on the hand, is in the true sense of the word a regista. He can dictate the play from sitting in front of the defence, move the ball quickly, either on the ground or over the top. However, don't think the self-confessed Milan fan is all style and flair. He is quite happy to get stuck in and put himself about, putting in tackles and squaring up to the opposition. After all, his idol as a child was one Rino Gattuso, so much that the 20-year old called the midfield legend to get his blessing to wear the No 8 shirt.

Under coach Stefano Pioli, the team has grown in its quick movement off the ball and using the open spaces to unlock defences. Brahim Diaz can utilise his dribbling ability, ball control and slide rule pass to break the lines and push the ball forward to his teammates. Tonali has the vision to play the ball over the top, keep things ticking over at breakneck speed, combining with his teammates with little one-twos and always being readily available. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao must be overjoyed at the thought of these youngsters pinging balls forward to create goals.

Aspects that may not get as many headlines, but both players have in their arsenal, are tenacity and physicality. While sitting in front of the Brescia defence, Tonali was constantly asked to protect the back four and snuff out any danger that may lurk when his team was under pressure. That required the 2019 Serie B Young Player of the Year to stand up to supposedly stronger attacking players and put up a wall.

Brahim Diaz while going on the attack obviously will be the subject of defenders doing their utmost to stop him. One match that sticks out was against Villarreal in 2019. He picked up the ball and dribbled past a couple of defenders, left them in his wake and despite being held, was able to ghost to the edge of the penalty area and eventually draw a foul. 

Another aspect where both players can contribute to this current Milan team is in their ability to put pressure on the ball. This is arguably what contributed to the team's improved play after the lockdown. Pioli was clearly seen to be encouraging his players to press the opposition, not allow them to have ‘comfortable possession’ and fully expects them to stifle them.

Brahim in his brief 21 matches with Los Blancos had an innate trait to harass the defenders and win back the ball to start an attack. It's something that Pioli has improved in the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu and Samu Castillejo, with varying degrees of success. Tonali's energetic nature meant he was also able to put pressure on the ball whenever danger was imminent, but he had to pick his moments so as to not leave his team exposed.

Milan will be involved in three competitions in the coming campaign and needed depth to the squad to be able to handle the rigours of such workload. With the additions of Brahim Diaz and Tonali, who are young and eager to prove themselves, the club may have just found players to build their team around for years to come.

Of course, let’s not forget that they are both on loan, and Brahim Diaz doesn’t even have an option to buy negotiated yet. However, Milan have to get back into the Champions League and that means their time is now.

Image: @acmilan

Have your say...
Great work maldini heir. You are still my hero
on the 13th September, 2020 at 7:18pm
Colombo is an exciting prospect, for sure. I'm not sure he's ready to be the sole/primary vice-Ibra, it might be wise to still bring in someone a bit older and more experienced so as to not be overwhelmed with pressure and expectation, but it will be interesting to see what he can do with any opportunities he's presented with.

My main concern right now is not nailing down a top CB. Kjaer did not disappoint after the break but I'm not yet inclined to want to rely on him 100% of the time.
on the 13th September, 2020 at 3:28am
@ AnonMilan Don’t worry I’m thick skinned. We all need remember that it takes at least a season or more for players to get anywhere near their potential. That’s another reason transfers should be limited to only key targets. Fingers crossed. I’m also excited by Colombo.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 9:50pm
@Maldini's Heir Ok, that's somewhat fair. And tbh I apologize for being a bit hostile yesterday.

That said I do feel very good about Tonali. He's proven himself in Serie A and he has the personal motivation as a childhood Rossonero to succeed at the club. I'm less certain about Brahim coming into Serie A as a new league, but it seems the early performance signs have been encouraging; if Zidane rates him as highly as is claimed to already want him back at Real, there must be potential there.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 5:44pm
I admit my posts are repetitive but every one of you are banned from criticising any of these new signings if they’re failures. That’s even more repetitive. Everyone gets excited about new signings and by the end of the season (or usually by January) are hurling insults. I then end up getting shouted at for defending signings I was against in the first place!
on the 12th September, 2020 at 6:52am
Somehow I knew Maldini's Heir would be in here within the first 5 comments with his whining, pessimistic drivel. Mate, you don't know what you're talking about and you never have. Stick to playing Football Manager.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 10:11pm
One last thing: We're looking for a CB. Why not get Joachim Andersen from Lyon? Apparently he's on the market and if Transfermarkt is correct worth around 15m. It's rumored that Lyon are the only suitor for Paqueta, who we desperately want rid of. Apparently we need to make 23m to not book a capital loss. Why not offer Paqueta for Andersen plus cash? Andersen has disappointed there (I guess?), but is still talented, 24 and could benefit from a fresh start AND tutelage from his countryman Kjaer.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:32pm
@Maldini's heir

You have a serious case of paranoia. Half those players you mentioned are not even starters for their clubs. Don't make us laugh by claiming the likes of Kalinic or De Sciglio had better seasons when they didn't even play until absolutely necessary and yet people want them out of their clubs. They were freaking starters for Milan.

Honestly at this point you sound like a broken record and it's not fun anymore. Say something new.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:21pm
If Milan isn't in the CL at the end of this season then surely a linuep of the following should be more than enough for 2021-22:


Theo; Romagnoli; Kjaer or Milenkovic or New CB; Conti or Calabria or New RB

Bennacer; Tonali or Kessie

Rebic; Hakan or Diaz; Chiesa or Samu

Belotti or Leao

This is not only a CL qualifying lineup, it's a scudetto lineup in my humble opinion.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:20pm
Given all of these needs Chiesa is completely out of reach this year. Not even a dream at 70m. However, he will be a prime target next year, being 1 year out from contract end, probably even without CL money. Then there is the glaring hole of ST that Ibra will leave in 2021. Next summer will be the summer of the big RW and ST. With CL money odds are it's Chiesa, assuming another club doesn't grab grab him, and for ST my bet is Belotti, as he will also be 1 year away from contract end. Cont'd...
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:13pm
If we need to spend 40m on Milenkovic or someone else of caliber and that's all we have left in the kitty, then spend it. I think we can survive with the aforementioned midfield quintet sans Bakayoko and Conti and Calabria on at RB. If there is anything left after getting a new CB and renewals then try for an RB and THEN go for that no. 4 CM. But again, I think we might be good at CM. Cont'd...
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:09pm
As for what remains: CM no. 4- If we end up starting Bennacer, Kessie, Tonali, and Krunic (Pobega as a no. 5 if needed) I think it's OK. Bringing in Baka or that guy from Lille would be great, but more urgently we need to address CB. After Roma and Kjaer there is nothing. Gabbia is promising but is still to green for every day use. Duarte is garbage and Musacchio is forever injured and not great anyway. We need a good CB ASAP. Cont'd...
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:07pm
So far I'm fairly happy with the transfer campaign. Exciting young talent has come in, Ibra is here for another year which will be great for morale and leadership. For those talking about signing 70m euro players, keep dreaming. Milan has been long out of the UCL and can't afford that kind of money on a single player. We have depth issues and renewals to deal with (after Ibra there is Gigio, and Roma apparently). All things considered it's been good so far. Cont'd...
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:03pm
@Maldini's Heir Shut up, every window or article youre here moaning and telling us about how all the average players we have sold are better than what we have now. Spend all our money on a world class right wing? What world class winger is coming to a club with no UCL mate, think we could beat Real to Mahrez? Or match Bale's Madrid wage, better yet you think we could lure Mane from Liverpool? 
on the 11th September, 2020 at 7:21pm
milan transfer campaign for the best part of 10 years has been terrible, consistently signing average players with a few notable exceptions and not trusting youngsters even when milan had a limited budget. you could argue this is some sought of turnaround in the project tonali is a quality player but for 30 million is unlikely to offer good resale value. ultimately it could be said milan is simply trying to bring in the best players possible for the club given the limitations.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 6:34pm

That's a better return on the assists than I thought tbf. I definitely agree with your Belotti comparison. I've mentioned before how in Italy they seem to wait too long before giving young players a genuine run of games at a top team. Belotti and Berardi are prime examples of this, they reach a decent level but never kick on because they're not challenged on a daily basis as they would be if they were training with world class players and playing in Europe regularly from a young age.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 4:00pm
@maldini Heir
You are still here saying the say rubbish. Year after year essay after essay it's all the same. Change the record, PLEASE!
Milan have finally brought some talent into this side that has been dead for as long as you have been on here typing your usual suicidal nonsense. Who cares about ex-players, tbh I would rather forget the last 10 years, kind of like your comments never 'next level' just 'same level' nonsense.
For the first time in a long time is say, Forza Milan.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 3:44pm
Last season Chiesa made 10 goals & 9 assists in league, so he's just 1 assist away to make it double digit in goals & assists. He was occasionally played out of position too, as wing back or CF.
But I understand your point, Chiesa was wasteful & inefficient in previous seasons despite his flashy playing style. But he has improved last season.
I do agree 70 mil is overpriced, should be 50 mil max.

He should move to bigger club soon, otherwise chiesa may become stagnant like Belotti.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 12:45pm
Getting Tonali & Diaz on loan to provide depth is pretty good deal. I still think Milan could do a lot better with Chiesa as their RWF. But maybe his cost is too high, and Fio probably only want cash.
Diaz can cover for both AMF & RMF. Shame only a dry loan though, it makes milan look like a feeder club for RM.
IMO milan have better chance to finish top-4 than Ata-Nap-Laz-Rom now.

@Juve Fan,
Juve themselves rated locatelli higher than tonali. He's a better regista. Watch Sassuolo's passing game
on the 11th September, 2020 at 12:20pm
@ Maldini

As a general Serie A fan and a neutral i'd like nothing more than to see the great Milan rise up and challenge Juve. On Chiesa, he's a good winger but certainly not world class and certainly not worth £70million. I agree he'd fit in nicely at Milan and add to the core of young Italian talent they have in the squad but only for the right price. Elite wingers need to produce double figures for goals and assists just in the league and he's yet to do that
on the 11th September, 2020 at 11:59am
@ Chris True.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 10:41am
@ JUVE FAN I seem to remember Pirlo AND Ambrosini playing in the same side and the latter being our captain! That's the whole point. You judge a team not by the Pirlo's but by the Ambrosini's. That;'s the secret to your team's success. You won your first of your nine boring titles with Matri up front. Winning with average players is the secret to the best teams' success. Ask Nicky Butt. Ask Gattuso. Ask Padoin. As for Tonali, I'll wait to see him cry. That's football.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 10:39am
Maldini's Heir. At this point both players are a gamble but they are less of a gamble than some players in the past. Acerbi, for example, wasn't a particularly good player but after his own personal adversity he came out on the other side an absolute rock, so fair play to him. Locatelli is a regret but I don't think he was as versatile as we needed at that time because of the laziness of the forwards. I'm more optimistic now than I was when there was 100+ million spent on transfers.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 10:29am

Tonali's potential is on a different level to Locatelli's.

It's like comparing Ambrosini with Pirlo
Or Montolivo with De Rossi

Get your facts right - Locatelli just received his first cap, Tonali has been selected since 2019 and has 3 caps, how does that make him preferred?? Tonali's mind was on signing a major contract with his dream club - so Mancini released him from the squad.

Suso was overrated.

40% of Milan's losses this season came from Giampaolo's tenure in 7 games. Fact.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:58am
@Luca can you hardly blame him... a lot of what he says is true. But as with the past 5 seasons let’s hope this time it finally works!

I am slightly more optimistic than previous seasons because of the core group remaining and the strong finish to last season. Building on that momentum we should get the elusive 4th. Lazio will struggle with CL commitments, Napoli aren’t as fearsome, Roma are Roma, Atalanta may not be able to continue their great form... only Juve and Inter are certain for top 4
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:34am
on the one signing you'd love to see (Chiesa). Every transfer window for the past 10 years has followed this pattern and I'm worn out. Now Milan finally started getting the most out of their players at the end of last season and let's hope beyond hope that there is some kind of plan and I am just some idiot. I would be only too delighted to be an idiot. But please do this for me. If any of these new signings turn out to be FAILURES, go easy on them. They know not what they do.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:30am
@@Maldinis Heir

You becoming more cynical as every season passes.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:29am
@ Luca I am genuinely sorry I am such a misery guts and I hope I'm wrong. I was wrong in January (maybe). I was not wrong the previous 20 transfer windows. So you can see how I'm emotionally scarred. As a Milan fan a transfer window usually consists of losing a player you love (Bonaventura), gaining a player you hate (e.g. Mexes or Menez but I'm glad to see I don't dislike any of our new signings); and gaining a player who you know deep down will be destroyed (Tonali) all the while missing out
on the 11th September, 2020 at 9:25am
@Maldinis Heir

So Predictable, you've told us that combined 11 of players that have left about 100 times, nobody cares. Most of those players were sold not because they were deemed failures as you keep alluding to but because Milan needed the money and couldn't afford to turn loan deals into permanent deals. If in 3 years time Tonali is a top class midfielder can you come back on here and admit you got it wrong to everyone as you seem to have written him off already.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 8:50am
Maldini's Heir moaning about bringing in 2 good youngsters for a combined initial outlay of £10million because you only need 11 players to play a season in 3...2...1
on the 11th September, 2020 at 8:14am

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