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Monday January 18 2021
Milan signal Scudetto intent with new signings

Clinging to a slim advantage atop the league table, Stefano Pioli’s Milan welcome several inexpensive, yet key, additions to reinforce the squad and forge ahead in their title chase, writes Matt Santangelo.

Whether it be injuries to key stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimović, Ismaël Bennacer, Simon Kjaer or recent positive COVID tests for Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu, Stefano Pioli’s done extremely well keeping his first-place Milan squad hungry, motivated and ready for anything.

The Rossoneri have plowed ahead despite all this and are right where they want to be here in January atop the Serie A table, despite being underdogs in the football betting odds.

The unfortunate reality though is that more injuries and positive tests lurk around the corner, posing a threat to their title push.

To combat this and ease the nerves of concerned fans everywhere who promptly called on those in charge to reinforce this month, Milan have begun arming themselves in order to meet their many objectives.

A simple appraisal of the current roster suggests there are three main areas to address this month, including the defence, midfield and attack.

Beginning with the middle of the park, the first arrival ushered through the doors of Milanello last Friday was Soualiho Meïté.

Born in France of Ivorian descent, the 26-year-old completed a six-month loan worth an estimated €500,000 with an option to buy from Torino, adding physicality and a balanced playstyle to Pioli’s midfield personnel.

While not the flashy, fledging youth profile initially desired in Toulouse’s Kouadio Koné who appears headed to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Meïté is a cost-effective solution to round out the roster in the short-term that can adhere to the double pivot’s duties in a 4-2-3-1.

Plus, there must be some extra motivation to perform going from a relegation-threatened side on the brink of sacking their manager to joining a title contender mid-season. Together with Bennacer, Franck Kessie, Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic, Pioli welcomes Meïté as another piece of the puzzle.

Then, in the defence, there is Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori who is on the verge of leaving Stamford Bridge for San Siro on an initial loan with option to buy set between €28 and 30m.

Initially, Milan appeared to be in pole position to land Strasbourg’s Mohamed Simakan, a target Paolo Maldini and chief scout Geoffrey Moncada have been tailing for some time now.

But, as talks hit a snag over the transfer amount and the Frenchman sustained an injury that will keep him out for a few months, attention swiftly turned to Tomori who has been frozen out from Frank Lampard’s squad this season but is readily available for action.

The 23-year old England international, though an alternative to Simakan, brings with him several qualities that will surely be of a great use to Pioli.

Athletic, pacy and with technical ability, Tomori’s recovery speed amongst a less than quick central defensive group is a refreshing addition, even if he isn’t particularly the defensive stalwart.

Playing under Pioli, a former defender himself, could also prove to be plenty beneficial for his adaptation to the Italian game and even bring out the most in Tomori’s already strong ability to play out the back. The mystery behind Tomori and his exclusion from the picture at Chelsea, despite possessing obvious talent, makes for a fascinating acquisition and one that could prove to be yet again another shrewd deal by Maldini.

Lastly, or at least for the time being, a viable backup for Ibrahimovic is recruited from the unemployment line, yet brings the readiness, ferocity and mentality necessary to instantly provide a spark upon arrival.

Mario Mandžukić, who spent four seasons at Juventus before his recent stop in Qatar with Al-Duhail, has agreed to join Milan on a six-month basis with an option to renew for an additional year.

A serial winner and one of the fiercest competitors around, the 34-year old Croatian issomewhat of a globetrotting forward, succeeding all over Europe with Zagreb, Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and more recently the Bianconeri.

Strong aerially, mentally and physical tough and a nuisance to defend against, the 2018 FIFAWorld Cup finalist adds something different to an attack already with a fair amount of dribblers and creators.

In Mandžukić, Pioli is provided a versatile attacking player who can score goals in a variety of ways and slot into a variety of roles, evident in the many he played while employed under Massimiliano Allegri.

Mandžukić is the kind of professional who, like Ibrahimovic, can set the tone and serve as anexample for the others. Milan are getting a battle-tested footballer who has played on the highest levels, for the biggest clubs and has thrived for each of them.

To sit chief amongst the rest of Italy through December was certainly something to be proud of on the red and black side of Milan. But, as Ibrahimovic explained, “I’m not interested in getting to the end of the year and finding out I was only winter champion.”

The second half of the season promises to be more challenging than the first for Milan, presenting trials few in the squad have experienced.

However, in these acquisitions, there is aid, and a shot in the arm that speaks to the confidence management has in Pioli and a preparedness to finish what has been started: winning the Scudetto.

@Matt_Santangelo

Have your say...
@Maldini's Heir ok you realise you have just proved your talking complete nonesene. So last summer there were 627 departures in Serie A yeah? and the year before there was 865 departures? There are 19 teams in Serie A. Lets say each team has a squad of 30 players. If every team replaced every player that would be 570 departures. No team in Serie A has replaced this entire squad twice in 2 years. Im beginning to think you are anti football. Ridiculous
on the 27th January, 2021 at 5:29pm
@ pauly Last summer there were 627 departures and 253 arrivals just in Serie A (and that was with the disruption of covid). The year before with a full transfer window for the agents and directors to play around in there were 865 departures and 376 arrivals at just 20 teams in Serie A. The year we signed Shevchenko (in 99) there were 324 departures and admittedly 278 arrivals. When we signed Van Basten (in 89) there were 177 departures and 127 arrivals. Stop me when you think this is normal.
on the 27th January, 2021 at 1:31am
Can you name a single Milan player who has benefited from going on loan? Suso and Niang, maybe, but of course they were shipped on after about 2 seasons. Also can you name a single other sport where there are loan players? I'm pretty sure there's no loan signings in rugby, and in fact there's also not thousands of transfers each window. Because that would be complete madness outside the world of back handers and middle management.
on the 27th January, 2021 at 1:24am
@ pauly Exactly, he would've used the existing players who have been playing for the club for months/over a year rather than someone who just turned up yesterday. And my issue is not football transfers, it's the sheer volume of them. Compared to when we signed Van Basten and Shevchenko there are now thousands, that is THOUSANDS, of football transfers in Serie A each transfer window. It's total and utter madness.

@ Vero Rossonero One example of a player who benefitted from a loan: Beckham.
on the 27th January, 2021 at 1:22am
Maldini’s Heir If Meite wasn't signed Pioli would have used Diaz? I didn't know you had a crystal ball. Pioli wanted to try a different set up against Atlanta. He most likely would have went with Krunic not Diaz. Transfers are destroying the game? Eh.. where did Shevckenko, Van Basten, Kaka, Weah etc. come from??? Without transfers we would be playing youth teams. Maybe you mean Agent fees as they drive prices up. Cutrone? He was at best 4th striker, he lacks pace and is struggling in Florence
on the 26th January, 2021 at 1:51pm
I think the biggest thing that people are missing with my posts is that football transfers are almost universally encouraged and praised by the media because it sells newspapers and drives viewers. Look at this article. No one questions their value or seems to want to investigate the highly shady dealings. But transfers are destroying the game because they are causing disruption and undermining players’ development. Serie A has the highest number of transfers of any of the top leagues.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 10:19pm
That is why loaning players out virtually never aids their development. Colombo is the latest in a long line of players who scored at every level at youth and many of those players ended up going nowhere: Ganz, Petagna (now at Napoli but his career has been too disrupted) and Cutrone (a player the club did everything to undermine). Colombo will now go the same way.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 10:15pm
@ pauly If Meite hadn’t signed for Milan he would obviously
not have been able to play and so Pioli would’ve been forced to use one of the existing players which is what this is all what it’s really about - making the most of what you’ve got. That’s how you win titles.

As to Colombo I said below the point was he was there to take pressure off Leão. He would’ve been our fourth choice striker. But by keeping him at the club we control his development. When we loan players out we lose control.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 10:12pm
@Maldini's Heir:

Messi: Once in a 50 year talent. Ludicrous to cite his development here.

David Beckham: Loaned to Preston Jan 1, 1995, age 19.

Verratti: Didn't need a loan. Developed at Pescara IN SERIE B.

Donnarumma: Head and shoulders better than all other GKs in the squad at 16. Generational talent that would have started for most clubs at 16. Dubious to cite his development here.

Calabria: Good so far, but difficultly in the same conversation as all the others. Your one good example.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 10:07pm
@Maldini's Heir The coach putting Meite out of position instead of Diaz had nothing to do with having a larger squad.Regarding how many top players in the past went on loan? That question is void - Colombo is not a top player - anyone with half an IQ can see that. He hasn't proven himself yet. If he was as good as you think he'd be playing. He's going on loan because he is not anywhere near the level of required. Notice he isn't even going to another Serie A club - it's Serie B.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 3:18pm
often the start of never ending cycle of loans and transfers that destroys a player's development; and b) it's even worse loaning a player in January where they don't get a full season at a club.

As to comments about Krunic, Milan had Brocchi on the bench and Juve had Padoin. You don't need super world class players on the bench. Ideally you need players who can cover more than one position.

As to comments about Calabria, he reminds me of Phil Neville.
on the 25th January, 2021 at 12:25pm
I am not going to say the Atalanta game proved anything but starting Meite ahead of say Brahim is exactly the problem I foresaw. Now that Pioli has too many options off the bench he'll start mixing it up and that could well cost us the title.

As to all of those talking about sending young players on loan: a) how many top players in the past 10 years can you name who were sent on loan? Was Donnarumma? Was Calabria? Was Gerard? Was Beckham? Was Messi? Was Verratii? Was anyone? Loaning players is
on the 25th January, 2021 at 12:22pm
P.S., just saw a post on this very site, and Sempremilan.com quoting Sky, discussing a possible move to Serie B for Colombo. So Maldini & Co. ARE working on it. He's 18 and a Serie B starting spot is exactly what he needs. Daniel too. I'm not worried.
on the 23rd January, 2021 at 1:56pm
Damn, that Locatelli post was meant for another thread...
on the 23rd January, 2021 at 3:51am
Seriously though, for every Locatelli there are 10 Cutrones or Paloschis. The real problem is not having any buy back or sell on clauses. Better the former.

Someone laughed at Locatelli coming back to Milan. For 40m yes it's too steep given Bennacer, Kessie and Tonali. BUT Bennacer has a 40m release clause becoming active this summer. If a big Spanish or English club comes along and dangles a huge salary maybe he leaves. And then...
on the 23rd January, 2021 at 3:49am
So really, all that's left is two send Colombo and Maldini on loan to Serie B to clubs that will start them full time and we have 25 players. Fact is they're not ready and Milan is in 1st and also alive in the EL. If we were out of EL or in 6th place then they'd probably play, since we'd be "developing for the future". But the future seems to be right now. So we need seasoned players that can deliver. Hence Mandzu, Meite, and Tomori. And to repeat, they're not starters. Case closed.
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 10:44pm
Our squad right now: GK1 Gigio, GK2 Tata, GK3 Antonio; LB1 Theo, LB2 Dalot; LCB1 Roma, LCB2 Gabbia; RCB1 Kjaer, RCB2 Tomori; RB1 Calabria, RB2 Dalot; RB3/CB5 Kalulu; LCM1 Bennacer, LCM2 Tonali; RCM1 Kessie, RCM2 Meite; LCM3/RCM3 Krunic; LW1 Rebic, LW2 Leao, LW3 Hauge; RW1 Alexis, RW2 Samu; CAM1 Hakan, CAM2 Diaz; CF1 Ibra, CF2 Mandzu; CF3 Leao. 25 players. +2 youth players (Colombo & Maldini) + 1 out of consideration (Musacchio) and basically doesn't count. Confirmed by Transfermarkt.
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 10:41pm
Conti is gone, Duarte is gone, and Musacchio might leave this month, and certainly on July 1st when his contract is done. He's not part of the project. They don't want to waste minutes on him. He does not count. Our 4 CBs right now are: Roma, Kjaer, Gabbia and Tomori, with a pleasantly surprising Kalulu as an emergency CB.
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 10:30pm
@Maldini's Heir If you add Tamori we have 27 in the squad, can't include 2 players training with the first team. We have D.Maldini + 3-4 loan players, so numbers-wise 27 is ok; 25 is ideal, 23 is short. We will trim it further in the summer. We can only work within budgetary parameters. We cant sign everyone long term, hence loanees. The aim is to reach the champions league & gain €50m extra revenue. 80-85% of the squad is settled; 15-20% loanees. We are adding key players to win us 60+ games
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 2:02pm
Then all this talk about Krunic. Krunic is a player that belongs in a club like Parma or Torino. He is not good enough for a starting spot at Milan. Sorry, just the facts. It's also well established that he's more of a mezzala or attacking midfielder, not deep lying CM in a double pivot. Then would you rather have him or Diaz backing Hakan up? They were trying to sell him last summer for crying out loud. Krunic is a case closed. No. 5 midfielder if anything. Please.
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 12:49am
@Maldini's Heir, your 1/19 analogy re hiring replacements. Do you really think Mandzukic, Meite and Tomori are there to replace anyone? Maybe Tomori eventually for Kjaer when his contract runs in 18 months, but that's a big IF. Seriously, having to play an RB at CM because you have no one else is problematic. Then Dalot goes to RB and who is the no. 2 RB? or the no. 2 LB for that matter? Games every 3 days and Covid. You can't compare 2020-21 to any other season regardless of total games.
on the 22nd January, 2021 at 12:45am
PS One of the priorities need to be getting rid of any loan arrangements for players so that they can be part of the long term plans. By my count (it's always hard to tell these days), we need to make Dalot, Tonali and possibly now Meite, permanent. In the summer we need to focus on getting the squad down to 23.
on the 21st January, 2021 at 10:24pm
@ pauly By my count we now have a squad of 30 first team players including 3 GKs, 5 FBs, 5 CBs plus Kalulu, 5 CMs plus Calabria, 2 AMs (plus Krunić who could cover), potentially 9 players who could play wide and potentially 5 strikers (for one position). Bit much, don't you think? Sure we'll sell some this window (thus causing more disruption) and replace them with players who have never played with these team mates before.
on the 21st January, 2021 at 10:22pm
Yes Bayern have a squad of 23 plus 4 youth team players which is 27. How many players do Milan have? 3 GK (+1 youth), 8 defenders, 10 midfielders, 5 strikers (+1 youth team player). Total is = 26. Of this 26, Mussachio has 5 months left on contract, Dalot/Diaz/Meite/Tonali are on loan. You think a squad of 16 would be enough to compete on all fronts with 60 games in a season. I'll await your response to this post and my last post should make interesting reading?
on the 21st January, 2021 at 2:30pm
We could look at Juve's title winning side, or Barca's, Real Madrid's, Bayern's or Mourinho's Chelsea. They all have the same structure. They're tightly knit groups that have generally played together for extended periods. Bayern, this season, have 23 players plus a few youth team players. Why does Milan need a bigger squad than Bayern Munich? Is there something in the food? Colombo's role is to get a few minutes off the bench when we're winning. Because we already have three CFs (and now four).
on the 21st January, 2021 at 8:10am
@ Mirko Ok I can maybe accept the covid excuse although I am not that bothered about Europe, I think we should focus on winning the title. Juve's squad is their undoing, Pirlo can't decide on a starting 11.

@pauly Yes football is not like a typical workplace, there's much more pressure where a delay of seconds can cost titles. This is why the January window is so problematic. A player signs one day and is expected to play a match with a new team the next. It's ridiculous.
on the 21st January, 2021 at 8:02am
@Maldini's Heir - yes Pirlo played 37 games. How many games have Milan played this season? 31. How many have they remaining? Possibly another 30 - that's 61 games. If Milan started next seasons champions league and league with 16 players we would not get through the group stages and would finish outside the top 4. We have a big squad and we are 1st in the league. We sold Conti, Duarte. We bought 2 players. We are adding 1 more addition.
on the 21st January, 2021 at 1:30am
Maldini's Heir The football world does not relate to ordinary workplace jobs so it is not relevant. Columbo is in the squad but he is poor, he would not make the starting team of Madrid, Barca etc hence why do doesn't play. Milan cannot sign world class players we don;t have fund for it - we cant buy Aguero, or Kevin De B. Strategy is to by up and coming players.Yes Calabria played well in midfield. But he wouldn't be up to standard for Champions League and we are building a team to compete
on the 21st January, 2021 at 1:22am
Juve have the luxury of bringing kulu, bernadeschi, Arthur, mckennie off the bench while Milan had to rely on maldini, Colombo etc. While not bad players by any means this was the sole reason they won that game. If we want to be competitive on all fronts going forward then we just need to get to that level and be able to bring on top quality. It’s a different world now unfortunately
on the 20th January, 2021 at 11:24pm
@maldini’s heir
Keep in mind in 11/12 Juve did not have European commitments and played once a week. In today’s world especially the fixture list is super congested, on top of normal injuries and suspensions Covid is an additional injury that rules players out. I agree with your sentiment in theory but last season and this season are outliers and cannot be compared to earlier years where a leaner squad was acceptable. Our squad players have all played and that is where Juve and inter are ahead
on the 20th January, 2021 at 11:19pm

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