Saturday October 31 2020
Bennacer climbing into top tier

Amongst those who starred for Milan Thursday evening in a 3-0 Europa League over Sparta Prague, it was Ismael Bennacer who shone the brightest, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Following Milan’s 3-3 draw Monday against Roma, Stefano Pioli’s squad returned to the European stage with their second Group H match against Sparta Prague.

The Italian boss yet again seized the opportunity to rotate, effectively doing so by sparing the likes of the overworked Theo Hernandez and Franck Kessie from the start.

Aside from those two, the XI Pioli trotted out onto the San Siro pitch was strong and fully adept to fetch the desired result the Rossoneri needed to begin their separation atop the group. As we saw play out, the red and black would achieve just that, putting three past their Czech visitors through a plethora of exceptional performances.

Brahim Díaz, who scored last week vs. Celtic, once again put in a head-turning shift, with his sleek ball control, swift turns into space and creative prowess eventually freeing him for the club’s opening goal.

Starting in the left-back role this time around, Diogo Dalot continued to show immense confidence and steadily built form in relief of the star man Theo Hernandez, supplying an inch-perfect trivela pass to Rafael Leão for the goal before opening up his account shortly after.

In the midfield, Sandro Tonali’s full 90 minutes were more indicative of the player we saw marvel as a Serie A debutant at Brescia last season. Dictating tempo and showing improved crispness in overall play, the 20-year-old Italian enjoyed his best outing in his new colors.

Brahim, Dalot and Tonali rightfully deserve to have their praises sung, but it was the Man of the Match Ismaël Bennacer who, if the stands were packed to the brim, likely would have the Curva Sud shouting for an encore.

Breathing in new life, fresh enthusiasm and quality upon his €16m switch from Empolitwo summers ago, the 22-year-old Bennacer has undertaken a vital role in Pioli’s midfield.

Both shouldering and shrugging off the pressure to emulate his AFCON 2019 Player of the Tournament exploitsfor Algeria, Bennacercontinued to reveal all that he possesses in his locker on Thursday.

On the ball, his efficient and effective circulation of possession is set up by his tidiness and ability to dribble. Among the most successful dribblers in 2019-20, Bennacer is the calibre of midfielder where a dribble is used in both offensive and defensive sequences.

Possessing the grace to skirt out of trouble, he has proven time and time again to be one of Italy’s most press-resistantmidfielders. Alternatively, his quickness and evasive maneuvers in possession allow him to run a midfield, create space and then spray the ball into opportunity zones on the pitch.

Wielding a magic wand of a left foot, the French-born talent surgically prised open Sparta Prague’s defense with numerous penetrating balls that were of a high grade, more specifically when linking up with Dalot. Credit is certainly awarded to the Manchester United loanee for timing his runs perfectly, but Bennacer spotting them and playing him through into space is something Milan fans have not seen in quite some time.

Over 81 minutes, the rising star completed 88% of his passes, released six accurate long balls and completed all five of his dribbles attempts. Beyond anything statistical though, Bennacer is playing at a pace appearing much quicker to the opposition, thus allowing him to be one or two steps ahead in any situation.

Operating as a well-tuned, well-refined machine, Bennacer continues to compile one top performance after the other, and it is this form which has him rapidly ascending into Europe’s top tier.

Have your say...
Benacer is a steal at 50M....should be no less than 60-70M. Tonali will be great just needs time, smart of Pilot to ease him in plus Kessie/Benacer pairing playing so well difficult to unseat them. Pls sign Szobozlai. Diaz will leave unfortunately and Hakan may as well esp if ManU gives him 6.5M per season. Need a replacement. CB and RW needed as well and possibly a RB if we cannot keep Dalot. Leao can back up Ibra this year so we have cover. But RB, CB, ACM and RW are needed in January.
on the 11th November, 2020 at 12:41am
I think he, very much like Kessie, he HAD to adapt quickly. A player like this inspires confidence in the defenders behind him because not all defenders are confident with the ball at their feet, but Ismael will always offer a short option even if it means taking a risk himself. He holds onto the ball so well, not through skill but through knowing his limitations and having faith in his ability. His passing has really improved too. Good player, humble player, very grateful to have him.
on the 2nd November, 2020 at 5:20pm
Bennacer has improved so much and I think there's still further room for improvement. Kessie gives him added balance and confidence to play his game knowing he has strong support along side him. Piolo just needs to push Dalot into right attacking midfield to complete our offensive system.
on the 2nd November, 2020 at 2:56pm
Love it.. Completely silent on this one.. Guy is pure class. The biggest concern is how to play Kessie, bennacer AND Tonali.. Tonali looked like he played with the team for years, So solid and calm. Thankfully both Tonali and Bennacer show good technique while Kessie remind me of Desailly (for those who are old enough to remember. If we had a better right wing then Castijello, id said our midfield os more than solid
on the 1st November, 2020 at 8:33am
We really hit the jackpot with this deal. Thank got Veretout ended up at Roma so we could sign this guy instead.
on the 1st November, 2020 at 6:33am
It is amazing to see the player he has become. Confident, poised, controlled. Is passes i. The final third will improve even more. As it is, he has a healthy buyout amount, but if he pledges his loyalty to Milan, he capfuls become another legend in Milan’s Pantheon of greats. Him and Kessie are an absolute anchor in midfield and are both young enough to continue their stronghold in the middle of the park. I sincerely hope he sticks around for another 5-7 years. If not, we’ll have a big profit.
on the 31st October, 2020 at 10:07pm

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