Frozen out of the picture at Chelsea under Frank Lampard, Fikayo Tomori headed to Milan on loan this past January. The Italian side held an estimated €28 million option to make the move permanent and will make “everything” to redeem him from the Blues, said the honorary Rossoneri vice president Franco Baresi.
In search of quality minutes to aid in his growth, Tomori became the primary target for the Rossoneri’s slim defensive line soon after Strasbourg’s Mohamed Simakan picked up an injury that kept him sidelined for several months.
Based on the performances, the 23-year old England international has logged, however, one may argue he should have been the primary market objective all along.
Catapulted into Milan’s quest for Serie A supremacy, Tomori’s gradual ascent began when he came on as an early substitute against rivals Inter in the Coppa Italia.
He replaced the injured Simon Kjaer in a game decided by a Christian Eriksen free-kick, the two best Danish Players in Serie A.
In defeat, the former Derby County standout made an excellent first impression, proving himself to be an exemplary professional and possessing the necessary quality to perform at a high level for a club with Milan’s lofty ambitions.
Athletic, pacy and with technical ability, Tomori’s recovery speed amongst a less than quick central defensive group has been a refreshing sight, complimenting veteran Kjaer quite well.
At the same time, he’s been a key reason contributing to the unseating of captain Alessio Romagnoli from the starting XI; look no further than the crucial victory over Roma a few weeks back to support.
Tracking the Giallorossi’s attack from the midfield, Tomori channelled his speed at the right moment, accelerating to execute a perfectly-timed tackle on Lorenzo Pellegrini to cut down a dangerous goalscoring chance that ultimately helped secure the win.
Romagnoli’s vulnerability to being beaten in a high-line setup this season has made Tomori highly compatible with Kjaer, with two contrasting profiles catering to one another’s main strengths.
Unlike the Italian who has looked non-committal and fearful of costly errors of late, Tomori confronts each challenge with intent to win the battle or ball.
Playing under Pioli, a former defender himself and a coach with an impetus on purposeful attacking tactics, Tomori’s already strong ability to carry the ball out the back and take on more progressive duties further up the pitch is exactly what Milan require to further modernise their play style.
While new Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel has completely rejuvenated the Blues’ fortunes as both UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists and solidified top four contenders yet again, there is still regret with how Tomori’s case was handled.
His exclusion from Lampard’s squad remains a bit of a mystery, but a silver lining for the Londoners exists. Thiago Silva’s presence has provided veteran stability and the strength in numbers Chelsea has in their defensive department could make Tomori a bit expendable while recouping a fair sum in a hypothetical stay at San Siro.
Seldom putting a single foot wrong, Tomori has made such a statement that it is hard to imagine Milan having any reservations over his option.
Though it may appear steep in football’s current economic climate, as both Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara have pointed out in recent quotes, there is a mutual understanding by all at the club to find a permanent solution. What could this mean for Romagnoli?
The Italy international’s current contract is set to expire in June 2022 and with agent Mino Raiola seeking a substantial pay raise for his client in a new deal, perhaps he can serve as a makeweight for Elliott to break even.
As Milan fight on the pitch to secure top four and renew key stars such as Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, a lot rests on the final months of the season to better understand the future outlook of the club.