When Milan signed Simon Kjaer on loan in January, some eyebrows were perhaps raised over his arrival as an option to strengthen our defence.
The 31-year-old boasts plenty of experience across spells with various top clubs around Europe while he has 95 caps for Denmark to his name as he is an established figure at both club and international level.
That said, he was merely a bit-part player for Atalanta in the first half of the campaign, and so it was questionable as to whether he was really an option to improve our backline.
Further, with concerns over his age, lack of pace and ultimately it has been some time since he had performed at the top level, it was felt as though he was merely a depth option but one who could struggle if called into action.
As noted by Milan’s official club site, the Dane agreed a six-month loan deal in January, and there is an option to make his switch a permanent one from parent club Sevilla. Based on what we’ve seen in recent weeks, he’s starting to make the idea of an outright signing seem inevitable.
Kjaer has now made 10 appearances for the Rossoneri to date, and while we have seen those vulnerabilities at times and he has picked up a few knocks since joining, when he is fit to feature, he has performed at a high level.
In the six Serie A games he has started in, Milan have conceded five goals, while we also kept a clean sheet in our Coppa Italia meeting with Juventus after the season restart, with Kjaer playing the full 90 minutes.
His physicality, positional awareness and reading of play allow him to make up for deficiencies in his game, and coupled with captain Alessio Romagnoli, they are starting to form a decent partnership.
While it’s hoped youngster Matteo Gabbia gets a chance to continue his progression and development too, there is no denying that Kjaer is making it difficult for Stefano Pioli to drop him, as he was again impressive in the win over Roma on Sunday as he did the exact job required to keep Edin Dzeko quiet.
Kjaer was commanding in everything he did. From marking the Roma forward as he matched up well with him physically to keeping things tight against Roma in general as well as his distribution out from the back, it was surely a performance that forced the management to sit up and take notice.
With Mateo Musacchio now sidelined for months after undergoing keyhole ankle surgery last week, coupled with Leo Duarte suffering a setback as he attempted to make a comeback this weekend, it’s clearing the way for Kjaer and Gabbia to battle it out for the starting berth next to Romagnoli for the rest of the season.
Based on what we saw against Roma, even despite being a doubt to feature earlier in the week after hobbling off at Lecce on Monday night, Kjaer is now solidifying his spot in the XI, and if he can stay fit, it would be no surprise if he’s the top choice for Pioli ahead of Gabbia in the coming weeks.
As seen in the tweet below, it’s been suggested that it will cost Milan around €3.5m to sign him permanently, and given his age, it’s highly unlikely that he will demand too high a salary.
La cifra fissata tra #Milan e #Siviglia per il riscatto di #Kjaer al termine della stagione è di 3,5 mln di euro.
Per il difensore, escluso il coinvolgimento dei legamenti, dovrebbe essere solo una forte contusione al ginocchio: chance di recupero contro la Roma @MilanNewsit
— Thomas Rolfi (@TRolfi) June 23, 2020
With Mateo Musacchio’s contract expiring in 2021 coupled with the doubts over Duarte until he can stay fit and prove his worth in the side, it gives Kjaer a real opportunity to earn a long-term deal with Milan and there have certainly been positive signs from him since the restart.
Milan will need the defence to hold strong in the coming weeks, and there is little doubt that Kjaer’s partnership with Romagnoli will give us a solid foundation on which to build.
Injuries are still a problem though, and it’s hoped that he doesn’t disrupt Gabbia’s development. That aside, if it’s a low-cost operation to sign him to keep him as quality depth at least, while in turn perhaps sacrificing one of Musacchio or Duarte instead if they can command a decent fee, then keeping Kjaer could be the smart move from Milan.