April 2017 will be remembered as the month that saw AC Milan change hands, with Silvio Berlusconi selling the club to Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, a consortium led by Chinese investor Li Yonghong.
As such, this month will be forever associated with the birth of a new era in the Rossoneri’s history. However, in order for this new era to be a successful one, it will have to involve strengthening the team.
Milan have improved this season in the eyes of most. They currently sit sixth in Serie A and are well placed to land the final European qualification berth. Head coach Vincenzo Montella has worked wonders with a thin squad, and it will need significant reinforcement this summer if further progress is to be made.
Here, Football Whispers takes a look at five players Milan could bring in to kick off their new era.
Gonzalo Rodriguez (FIORENTINA)
Exciting new eras don’t usually begin with the arrival of a 33-year-old centre-back, but perhaps Milan’s should. Gonzalo is widely regarded as one of the finest defenders in Italian football and, with his contract with Fiorentina soon coming to an end, he could soon be available on a free transfer.
The lack of a transfer fee is an added incentive to claim the player’s signature, though the Rossoneri should also be encouraged by the Argentine’s profile.
Standing at 6ft, Gonzalo is an imposing physical specimen. He’s also a commanding leader, having captained Fiorentina for the past two seasons. On top of that, he would bring the sort of rugged, old-school defensive streak Milan so desperately need.
Alessio Romagnoli is one of the most exciting prospects in Italian football, and he is also a key player for Milan. But alongside the 22-year-old’s sophisticated left foot, there is a need for a more conventional, brutish centre-back to add stability to the back line.
Gonzalo would bring this, though he would also fit in to Montella’s possession game, which involves patient build-up from the back, having played under the coach for three years during their time together in Florence.
Matteo Darmian (MANCHESTER UNITED)
Darmian hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in an attacking sense since joining Manchester United in 2015, but it’s worth noting that, this season, only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly have averaged more tackles and interceptions per game than the Italian.
Even if he does find himself leaving the Premier League giants over the summer, the 27-year-old will still attract most of the top sides in his home country, who will remember his combination of forward forays and defensive solidity during an impressive spell with Torino.
Milan need a new right-back to bridge the gap between old and new. At 30 years of age, Ignazio Abate is suspect in and out of possession, while his long-term replacement, the 20-year-old Davide Calabria, could do with more seasoning.
Darmian, who came through the club’s youth academy, would be a perfect short-term replacement for Abate. In addition, with his versatility, he would offer Montella plenty of options when it comes to changing formation.
Franck Kessié (ATALANTA)
In what has been a sensational season for Atalanta, Kessie has been one of a multitude of breakout stars. And the Ivorian midfielder, who is still only 20 years of age, could follow Mattia Caldara (now on Juventus’ books) and Roberto Gagliardini (joined Inter Milan in January) in sealing a move to a bigger club.
Considering his nationality, as well as his potent concoction of powerful running and technical mastery, the youngster has predictably been labelled the next Yaya Tourè. But, unlike his famed compatriot, who first broke out at a ball-winner-cum-playmaker, he is a natural offensive midfielder.
Fond of surging runs and arriving on the edge of the opposition’s penalty area, Kessie has scored six league goals from midfield this term. And when he isn’t scoring goals he’s making things happen, using his strength and control to resist markers and build attacking moves.
Milan have relied on Juraj Kucka to provide muscle and dynamism in midfield over the last two seasons, but the Slovakian has always lacked the refinement to suit the team’s style. Kessie would be a perfect upgrade.
Gerard Deulofeu (EVERTON)
Deulofeu is already on loan at Milan, but it is imperative that the club make his stay permanent in the summer. The 23-year-old Spaniard has found the consistency of performance that was previously lacking since moving to Italy in January, and he still has plenty of potential left to fulfil.
The winger was a precocious talent during his formative years with Barcelona, but spells at Everton and Sevilla saw his career stall. Questions about his attitude have been frequent, but his approach over the last few months has been refreshing.
This improvement is no doubt down to the change of scenery. On his fourth outing for Milan, he pulled of a stunning bit of footwork to beat his man and, cutting inside from the corner flag, set up an 89th-minute winner against Bologna.
Such speed and skill has generally been on show throughout his time with the Rossoneri, to the extent that there have been increasing rumours of a summer return to Barcelona. But, in truth, he should remain precisely where he is to advance his career.
Àlvaro Morata (REAL MADRID)
The idea of Deulofeu joining permanently and playing on the opposite flank to Suso is an exciting one for Milan fans. And the notion they could soon form an all-Spanish front three with Àlvaro Morata is positively mouth-watering.
This is a genuine possibility according to Sky Italia, who reported that the club met with the striker’s representatives during Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first leg clash.
Morata’s record since returning to Spain last summer is an excellent one. Despite making just 12 La Liga starts, he has scored 13 La Liga goals. And in seven Champions League outings – all bar one of which came from the bench – he has hit the back of the net three times. But, despite this, the 24-year-old hasn’t been able to claim a starting spot.
Moving to Milan would make a lot of sense. Having played in Italy before with Juventus, Morata knows all about Serie A. And the Rossoneri would offer him regular football. On top of all that, he could form a tantalising trident with his compatriots Deulofeu and Suso.