Milan continued their busy January transfer window after officially announcing the arrivals of Asmir Begovic and Simon Kjaer on Monday.
It comes after both Mattia Caldara and Pepe Reina secured exits to join Atalanta and Aston Villa respectively, and so there has been a mini reshuffle in defence for Stefano Pioli.
On the face of it, we’ve lost an experienced goalkeeper who was playing a key role as the back-up option to Gianluigi Donnarumma while undoubtedly imparting his wisdom and knowledge on him to help him improve and develop his game.
Further, Caldara was arguably seen as a long-term partner for Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of the Milan defence and as a pillar of the side moving forward for years to come.
Injuries took their toll on the 25-year-old though as he made just two appearances for us, but as per the club’s site, he has re-joined Atalanta on an 18-month loan deal with an option to buy.
Meanwhile, the club also confirmed that Reina has joined Villa on loan for six months, while Begovic and Kjaer have both joined on a temporary basis until the summer, with an option on the latter to make it a permanent move.
With Begovic, 32, and Kjaer 30, hardly setting the world alight in recent years, question marks and eyebrows could perhaps be raised over the decision to make these changes to the squad, but there is surely a strategy at play moving forward.
Financial implications for squad players
Ultimately, neither Reina nor Caldara were contributing a great deal to the side given their lack of playing time over the past two years.
Essentially, Milan just need a decent cover option for Donnarumma and with Mateo Musacchio continuing to be preferred in defence, it was a case of ensuring we had depth behind him with Leo Duarte currently sidelined by injury.
As fans, we prioritise the competitiveness of the squad above all else. Have we improved the squad with the four deals in question? Arguably not, but it shouldn’t massively impact our ability to compete for a top-four finish in Serie A this season given the limited roles these individuals are likely to play.
So, what is the endgame here? Perhaps this is part of a wider plan to reduce the wage bill and to give ourselves some more financial flexibility moving forward when it comes to bringing in top targets.
Maldini has reduced Milan's payroll with €5.1m over the next 6 months by selling Borini, replacing Reina with Begovic, and replacing Caldara with Kjaer. Could increase additionally if Rodriguez (€2.2m/yr), Piatek (€1.8m/yr) and Suso (€3m/yr) leaves and Reina stay with Villa
— Maxi (@MaaxiAngelo) January 13, 2020
Coupled with other possible exits in the coming weeks, perhaps this is part of the touted revolution wanted by Zvonimir Boban, as reported by MilanNews.it, via the paper edition of Corriere della Sera.
Milan could be attempting to clear the decks to an extent with the report above noting that there is only a small group of players who are considered indispensable, and so these moves could free us up as much as possible while remaining attentive to the balance sheets and financial figures posted.
It’s not ideal to lose Reina as he was a more than competent second-choice goalkeeper, while it’s a real disappointment not to see Caldara get more time to prove his worth.
However, if their exits are part of a bigger picture to improve the overall quality of the Milan squad moving forward, then perhaps it will be worth it.
The Rossoneri will hope that Kjaer and Begovic can fill those voids in the short-term, but it will be down to the same core group of players to try and guide us up the table in the coming months and hopefully higher quality reinforcements are on their way in the near future.
Change of strategy, experience over youth?
That said, Tuttosport, as reported by MilanNews.it, suggest that there could be a different strategy at play in that the Rossoneri are going with experience over youth and are not focusing on signing young players with potential of a high resale value.
Instead, it’s a means to prioritising achieving our objectives on the pitch rather than looking at the financial picture, with a return to the Champions League no doubt likely to result in an increase in the value of the club as a whole and its appeal to prospective buyers.
While Begovic and Kjaer aren’t top signings, they are perhaps a safer bet in offering an immediate impact if called upon and adding that balance of experience and youth could be crucial in the bigger picture to help us close the gap between ourselves and fourth spot in the coming months.