Written by Arjit
Ok Fellow Milanisti ! Let’s Discuss Milan ! Let’s Talk Some Red & Black !
The mercato madness is in full flow now. With Milan firmly in the Scudetto race with rivals Inter heading into the second half of the season, need for reinforcements is greater than ever if the Rossoneri are to claim their first Scudetto triumph in more than a decade. Injuries threaten to derail Milan’s Scudetto push once again, and even though ‘Mister Pioli’ has done an admirable job of dealing with the never-ending injury crisis, it’s clear that the management must intervene in the January mercato to plug the gaps in the squad. The rumors are rife in Italian media that Milan owners Elliott Management have allocated budget of around €20m for the winter mercato. Maldini and Massara (M&M) have a daunting task ahead of them of finding the missing pieces at an affordable cost, and give Stefano Pioli the best chance for a title shot in the current 2021/22 Serie A season. It’s been a very long time, but with few smart signings, Milan’s ‘Scudetto dream’ may just become a reality.
Without any further ado, let’s discuss Milan’s mercato rumours and targets, and analyze those who would be the best fit from both a tactical and financial perspective.
Centre Back (CB)
Sven Botman (Lille) has been identified as the No.1 target to replace the injured Simon Kjaer and bolster the Milan backline, as per several Italian sources. The 21 year old Dutch centre-back has impressed with the Ligue 1 side since his €8m switch from Ajax in 2020. Botman played an integral role in Lille’s title win over PSG last season, having formed an impressive partnership with José Fonte at the heart of his team’s defense under the management of Christophe Galtier. Maldini is rumored to be a fan of the Dutchman and he’s considered the ideal profile to boost the Rossoneri’s Scudetto chances. Botman boasts an impressive physical frame given his 1.95m height and 81kg weight, making him a dominant presence in duels and corners. He possesses excellent 1v1 tackling and tactical discipline, as evident by a mere 7 yellow cards across his senior career. He may not be as rapid as Tomori but has decent recovery pace. Understandably, his price tag is quite expensive at around €30m. The reports suggest Maldini will attempt a Tomori-style formula, a paid loan with option to buy in the summer but it remains to be seen if Lille will accept such terms.
Gleison Bremer (Torino) and Abdou Diallo (PSG) are rumored as the most popular alternatives among the Milan management. Bremer already plies his trade in Serie A with Torino, knows the Italian league well, and would walk right into the starting eleven. Diallo has struggled for minutes since his move from Borussia Dortmund, but still remains a sought-after player given his ability to cover both centre-back and left-back positions. Both are young, fast, good in 1v1 duels and possession phase. Unlike Botman, they wouldn’t command a significant fee, and with their price tag being more around €20m, they could represent sensible alternatives on the market.
Centre Midfield (CM)
Boubacar Kamara (Marseille) has been heavily linked with the club as his contract expires over the summer. Maldini and Massara consider him the ideal candidate to replace Franck Kessié and Ismaël Bennacer, who have departed for AFCON tournament. Kamara is versatile as he can play both in midfield and defense, a quality appreciated by the Milan management and Stefano Pioli himself. Despite being only 22, he has made more than 100 appearances for Marseille already. He possesses excellent awareness and positional sense, neat distribution and ball carrying skills, and has a knack for making well timed tackles and interceptions. His passing range could improve, and goal-scoring isn’t his forte either. He could slot right into the team given his physical and athletic qualities. He will be free in the summer, although Marseille could accept a fee in the region of €15m to let him go in January. The biggest obstacle is the competition as Roma and Manchester United seem interested in his services, and are willing to meet Marseille’s valuation. Maldini will have to act fast if he wants to beat the competition and secure Kamara’s signature.
Renato Sanches (Lille) is a popular name amongst the Milan management due to excellent relations with Lille, having already signed Mike Maignan and Rafael Leão from them previously. Sanches has rediscovered himself in France after his early struggles at Bayern Munich. Sanches has been a consistent performer with Lille, helping the club win Ligue 1 last season. Sanches is a powerhouse in the middle, possessing excellent physical and technical qualities which make him a complete midfield package. He has also made a comeback on the international scene with Portugal after an impressive campaign with Lille. Sanches fits Pioli’s system perfectly, but his price tag is rather high at around €25m, which would most definitely rule out his signing in January, although a free transfer in the summer could still happen.
This is a rather tricky situation since forwards cost big bucks and Milan don’t necessarily have a massive budget for the January mercato to bring in a household name, Dušan Vlahović (Fiorentina) per say. Someone like Andrea Belotti (Torino) has an expiring deal which makes him more a summer possibility. Stefano Pioli might have to rely upon players returning from injury with the likes of Ante Rebić, Rafael Leão and Zlatan Ibrahimović all back in training at Milanello, alas some good news.
The hottest track remains of Romain Faivre (Brest). After the Frenchman nearly joined in the summer, he has remained on Milan’s radar given his impressive performances with Brest this season with 7 goals and 5 assists to his name. Moreover, Faivre continues to publicly flirt with the idea of moving to Milan. He seems ready for the big jump and could prove handy for Stefano Pioli given his ability play in many attacking roles. Brest have set as asking price of around €15m, although some reports say Milan could buy Faivre and leave him on loan at Brest until the end of the season, obtaining a nice discount in the process, ala an Adli-esque transfer.
Julián Álvarez (River Plate) and Agustín Álvarez (Peñarol) remain targets but an imminent arrival for either player seems unlikely. Julián enjoyed a fine season in Argentina’s Primera Division, finishing as top-scorer with 20 goals in 35 games for River Plate. The 21 year old has several admirers in Europe including Manchester United, who are willing to meet his €20m release clause to beat the competition. Agustín remains a more unknown quantity given he plies his trade in his native Uruguay. Nonetheless, he’s made a big impression with 23 goals in 38 games this season. The 20 year old’s agent has held discussions with both Milan clubs, so a market derby may be on the cards. The Uruguayan has a valuation below €10m, making him an attractive proposition for Milan, whether it’s January or summer remains to be seen. Both Julián and Agustín are young strikers with huge potential which fits the Elliott policy, although Maldini is working with a limited budget in January, making a summer attempt far more plausible. Lorenzo Lucca (Pisa) and Randal Kolo Muani (Nantes) remain targets, but they are raw talents needing more time to develop before making the jump to a club like Milan, both players will continue to be monitored, but a January move doesn’t seem to be on the cards right now.
January mercato usually involves fine tweaking to fill a gap in the squad. It can determine where the club would finish at the end of the campaign. With Milan’s constant injury problems and Scudetto push on the line, it’s safe to say the management needs to intervene and make some targeted signings. Stefano Pioli has done a marvelous job of keeping the Rossoneri within touching distance of Inter despite the injury setbacks throughout the season, but he would certainly welcome few additions to consolidate top 4 place and fight for the Scudetto until the end. Maldini and Massara will have to be smart and creative as usual, the fans may have to contend with loan or loan to buy deals as the club can’t really afford to overspend in the current climate. The current management has earned the right to be trusted in wake of recent signings. Ideally, Milan sign a player in each department, but the January market can be a ‘waiting game’, so let’s wait and see what transpires, shall we!