Although the 2017 summer transfer window didn’t deliver the desired results, Milan fans will always remember that particular market due to the Yonghong Li rebuild.
It felt as though there was a new signing every day that summer, and given the way in which then CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli went about their business, there was little indication in many instances that a deal was set to be done.
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Despite all that expectation and excitement though, Li’s tenure came to an abrupt end, both Fassone and Mirabelli were moved on and Milan still haven’t been back to the Champions League.
One by one, their signings have followed them out the door. Leonardo Bonucci lasted one season before returning to Juventus, Andre Silva and Ricardo Rodriguez are currently out on loan while Nikola Kalinic and Fabio Borini have departed.
As noted by Football Italia, Lucas Biglia isn’t expected to be offered a contract renewal with his current deal set to expire this summer, while MilanNews note that Mateo Musacchio’s agent has arguably expressed an openness to an exit with just over a year remaining on his contract.
If those exits materialise, of that group of around 10 stand-out signings, only Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu and Frank Kessie could remain beyond this summer. Is time nearly up for them too though?
Conti, 26, has been limited to 38 appearances since arriving in 2017, missing a total of 63 games during that time due to injury.
Two of which were serious as they required knee surgery, and coupled with a lack of form and competition from Davide Calabria, we’ve yet to really see the Conti from Atalanta on a consistent basis.
When we signed him, it felt as though we’d landed the long-term solution at right-back. Capable of defending with an engine to get up and down the right wing to offer an attacking threat too, he had the all-round game needed from a full-back in the modern game.
However, those injuries have taken their toll and ultimately it’s largely been a struggle, barring a handful of games where he has looked impressive. With the onus of attacking out wide on Theo Hernandez on the opposite flank, will it be Conti or Calabria who move on or will Milan continue to stick with both if the duo are happy to remain?
It’s hoped that having been sidelined for so long, a full pre-season off the back of his most appearances in a single campaign in a Milan shirt this year can still set Conti up for a successful year next season.
Despite the coaching changes, the 23-year-old has remained a permanent fixture in the Milan XI throughout his stint with us thus far.
From 54 appearances in his first season with us to 42 last year, he’s up to 25 already so far this campaign with plenty of football left to be played.
His combativeness, tenacity, work ethic and physical presence make him crucial for our midfield. While Rade Krunic has perhaps shown similar signs, we’ve never really had an alternative to Kessie and so that’s another reason why he has featured so heavily.
While all those elements are important, there is a sense he still hasn’t kicked on. With those attributes and with youth on his side to gain experience and maturity while developing his game, how much progress on an individual level has he made?
Still wasteful in the final third with questionable decision-making at times as well as lapses in concentration which raise question marks over his technical quality on the ball, Kessie should arguably be much further down the line in his development at this point.
With a lack of midfield options as things stand still, it’s difficult to see him leave even if he is a valuable and appealing asset for other clubs. Whether it’s an environmental issue at Milan which will hold him back or if it’s just that he needs the right coach to take his game to the next level, if Kessie sticks around for the foreseeable future, he’s still got a lot of work to do.
Perhaps the most divisive of all three, Calhanoglu has also been an almost ever-present in the side having racked up 116 appearances for Milan already.
In those outings though, he has managed just 17 goals and 24 assists, and so for a creative player with a big role for us in the final third, it’s arguably fair to say that much more is still needed from him on a consistent basis.
We’ve seen flashes of his quality and he has improved under Stefano Pioli with the tactical switch. However, it’s still nowhere near enough and now aged 26, he’s reaching a critical point in his career.
Milan will hope that he is about to enter the best years of his career as he should have the maturity, experience and know-how of how to get the best out of himself by now. His versatility, work ethic and tactical awareness make him a useful piece in the squad, and that may well save him as ultimately every coach he’s had at Milan has valued him which says a lot in itself.
However, if he doesn’t kick on and an exit isn’t on the cards, there is a real case to be made that Milan need an upgrade and can use Calhanoglu as cover and competition. With Giacomo Bonaventura’s contract set to expire this summer, Milan can ill-afford to lose another player in that department and be forced into the transfer market to spend more money.
In turn, Calhanoglu could make it a clean sweep in terms of all three players staying. That said, there is still so much more needed from all three if they do still have the continued backing and belief of the club’s hierarchy.