All monetary figures discussed are as reported by Sky Sport, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Il Sole, MilanNews, TuttoMercato, La Marca, La Stampa, and TransferMarkt. All opinions and subsequent sense of humor are my own.
So by now, as the clock ticks past 8:00PM on the Italian peninsula (or 2:00PM for my fellow Milanisti on the Eastern American Seaboard or... well, just look at a timezone map), the 2018 Serie A transfer window has slammed shut. And, boy, what a transfer window it was.
Despite the fact that this will be historically remembered as the Summer of Ronaldo, it would be downright foolish to let the influx of talent and inter-league shuffling get lost in the... er... shuffle. Serie A welcomed the incoming of Emre Can, Keita Balde, Sime Vrsaljko, Lautaro Martinez, Joao Cancelo, Javier Pastore, Steven N’Zonzi and the re-location of Stefan de Vrij, Radja Nainggolan, Mattia Perin... and a bunch of other players that don’t play for AS Roma, Inter Milan or Juventus, apparently. And someone named Ronaldo Vieira, who is a real person and not a famous footballer portmanteau I just made up.
But this is a Milan blog, so let’s focus only on the players that matter. To date, the Rossoneri have made a slew of moves - some enormous, some not so much - in their attempt to bring themselves back to the top of the table and into the Champions League, all while having to respect the FIFA Fair Play guidelines in place. To make this easier, I’ll break them up into Departures and Arrivals. Additionally, I’ll try to assess the implications the moves will have on the summer balance sheet (with whatever contract/signing information is available for public consumption).
Departures (Sort of)
M’Baye Niang completes his transfer to Torino, Milan’s accounts receivable sing to the tune of 12M EUR. A better than average year for the Senegalese international, with 4 goals and an assist in all of 26 appearances for Il Toro, culminating with his inclusion in Senegal’s World Cup team and his first senior international goal against Poland in a 2-1 group stage victory. Don’t we still need a competent winger?
Grade: I’d say a firm 6.5/10 - The money isn’t bad, but the old regime sold low on him by rushing the sale.
Via mutual agreement, Luca Antonelli terminates his contract and signs on a Bosman with Empoli. His second go around with AC Milan left much to be desired, as it seems he never really found his footing between recurring injuries, getting passed in the depth chart by younger players, and maybe never really getting a fair shake. His second stint at Milan amounted to a total of 53 appearances, 13 of which happened last campaign with his only goal coming in the 6-0 thrashing of Shkendija.
Grade: Somewhere in the ballpark of 8.0/10 - Surplus to requirements, takes his salary off the ledger, and gives him a chance to play in what I’d imagine is the twilight of his career. Maybe we could’ve fetched some money in a return, but thats a moot point now.
Nice Try, Kids
Gianmarco Zigoni, not quite a kid at 27 years of age, leaves on a permanent transfer to play under former Milan legend and coach Filippo Inzaghi at Venezia, to the tune of approximately 450K EUR. I wish I could properly eulogize his AC Milan tenure, but truth is he made 1 appearance in 2010 while spending most of his career as Milan property on loan in the Serie B. Quite honestly, I’m surprised he fetched that much money.
An actual kid, Niccolò Zanellato, all of 20 years old, leaves this summer for the greener pastures (read: hopefully more playing time) of FC Crotone. He leaves on loan with obligation to buy at 300K EUR.
Combined Grades: Uhh, maybe like 6.0/10? Zigoni wasn’t upping his value anytime soon, so half a million Euros yields some return, while Zigoni maybe has some room to grow and maybe could’ve had a higher resale value if he maybe had a good season on a dry loan... maybe. Eh, 5.5/10.
The enigmatic Nikola Kalinic, who joined the season prior on loan with obligation to buy for 25M EUR, leaves to join Athletico Madrid for a reported 14.5M EUR (I won’t pretend to know how amortization works in situations like this, but basic math says this isn’t a GREAT deal). Saying that he failed to impress or even live up to his transfer fee would be a gross understatement, falling from 20 goals scored with Fiorentina to 7 with AC Milan. The fact that he couldn’t find consistent playing time behind kids like Patrick Cutrone and Andre Silva makes me wonder where he will slot in behind Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa. But I digress, he’s Cholo’s headache now.
Grade: 15/10 for the departure, 5/10 for the value. Glad to get him off the books, but it genuinely sucks to eat that much money in the process. Still mystifies me that a club like Athletic would drop that kind of coin on him.
The disappointing Gustavo Gomez, who joined from Lanus in Argentina for 8.5M EUR also had a disastrous season, totaling 2 appearances for Milan. Over his three seasons wearing the red and black he saw the field 19 times. That averages out to half a million euros for every time he stepped foot on the field in a competitive match. I would’ve done it for free, and also would’ve scored zero goals. He departs for Palmeiras in Brazil on a paid loan of 1.5M EUR with the option to make it permanent. Godspeed and good luck - may you impress enough so that we get some money back to balance our sheets.
Grade: Maybe like a 4.5/10 - I definitely need to see how this shakes out before I can really assess my feelings towards it. Consider this grade in flux, pending execution of loan options and at what cost.
The much maligned and underachieving Andre Silva leaves on (mixed reports from Italy and Spain) a paid loan of 5M EUR to Sevilla with an option to make it permanent for 30M EUR. Not a bad get, but boy, I’m sure a lot of you would’ve rather him stay and play this season behind that new guy we bought. Considering we paid 38M EUR for him to pry him away from Porto, the math aligns. But it’s virtually a lose-lose: if he plays exceptionally well, we’d have missed out on probably a great secondary striking option AND Sevilla would most likely exercise the option to retain him. We have a net loss, albeit small, and lose a great young striker. If he fails to perform well, well then he would return while having arguably driven his resell value down. Time will tell.
Grade: Damn, this one is hard. I’m gonna say 6.5/10. If he does well and Sevilla want to keep him, we recoup almost all of our investment in him. If he does well and Sevilla don’t want to spend money, it’s better for us. If he plays poorly, well, then we take another ride on the transfer carousel.
And lastly, Manuel Locatelli - can’t believe I’m writing this - leaves on a 2M EUR loan with obligation to buy at approximately 12M EUR. This is a bummer. The Italian sports media reports that Gattuso had made it very clear that he wanted to retain him, and he figured into being an important part of the squad. While he never dazzled - save for that laser beam against Juventus (his Rossonero tenure, immortalized in one moment) - he is still only 20 years old and with 48 games of experience under his belt. Many feel he forced his way out, seeing the writing on the wall that maybe was never there.
Grade: 6.0/10 - Decent money for a 20 year old who really hasn’t proven much on the pitch with his unsteadiness, but Sassuolo is banking on his potential in their ROI. And they just might get it.
Camera Shy: Riccardo Montolivo who refuses to leave, José Mauri who is allowed to leave, Stefan Simic who might leave, Gabriel to Perugia on a free, and Jherson Vergara to Cagliari (no details yet) .
Player for Player Transactions
In: Diego Laxalt / Out: Gianluca Lapadulla + 7M EUR - This one shakes out odd, as Genoa are in debt to Milan for 11M EUR for the 2019 impending purchase of Lapadulla. Both clubs value Laxalt at approximately 18M EUR, so this is the agreement (reportedly) reached. AC Milan walk away with the better player (by miles...er.. kilometers?) who primarily plays as a wing-back, but can even play as a winger. He has tremendous pace, and can exploit the outside parts of the pitch with his sneaky skill. Great acquisition, all things considered.
Grade: 8.0/10 - acquire an international caliber player who can play almost anywhere except keeper, for the holdover in a previous loan agreement plus 1/5 of Ronaldo’s annual wages? Not bad. Not bad at all.
In: Samu Castillejo / Out: Carlos Bacca + 19M EUR - Same type of situation, although I definitely thought we could’ve done better with the valuation on Bacca. By the time all is said and done, this shakes out to be a swing of 25M EUR in value. Castillejo will see time on both wings, and seems to be a great second/third option. He is known for his pace/acceleration and his ability to successfully take his opponents on in one-on-one situations.
Grade: 6.5/10 - I like Samu, I really do. But Bacca is so undervalued here, isn’t he? The fact that we had to up the offer to 19M EUR really speaks to the assumed leverage that Bacca had in his refusal to negotiate with seemingly any team outside of Villareal. So at least we got something good in the deal, even if we had to reach deeper into our pockets than anticipated.
In: Mattia Caldara / Out: Leonardo Bonucci - This one shook the earth a little bit, to be honest, and for many reasons. Bonucci, who angrily left Juventus to come to, and captain, rivals AC Milan was quite the shock last summer - but to see his about face, tail between his legs and ask to go back to Juventus was quite the stunner. To our benefit, we receive highly touted Mattia Caldara, one of the most promising and exciting young defensive talents in Italy and Europe (he is no slouch in his current form, either). This is as much of a win-win as there is: Milan receive a great young player with an exceptionally high ceiling to form a long lasting and potentially top-tier partnership with Alessio Romagnoli for now and the future, while Juventus receive arguably the second best central defender in the world to reload for their march to a Champions League title. Also, there was an additional caveat to this deal...
Grade: 9/10 - This is a deal which looks great now, and has the potential to look even better every year over the next decade. It’s not often that kind of deal happens, let alone with Juventus.
Gonzalo Higuain arrives on 18M EUR loan from Juventus with option to buy for 36M EUR for a grand total of 54M EUR for one of the greatest strikers in the history of Serie A, statistically speaking. Once the Ronaldo transaction became official, Juventus had to start immediately cutting large salaries, and the handsomely paid Higuain, who also plays the same position as Ronaldo, was the logical choice. Once Bonucci declared his desire to return to Turin, all of the pieces started to fall into place. In Higuain, Milan have finally obtained their star striker after seasons of missing out. Kalinic, Bacca, Menez, Matri, Torres, et all, never managed to fill the shoes of Inzaghi or Ibrahimovic nor the nets of the opposition. In Higuain, they have a true out and out goalscorer - lethal in both inside and outside the box - as told by his staggering 111 Serie A goals since 2013, including a record breaking season of 36 goals. Probably the second best Serie A acquisition this summer, after CR7.
Grade: 11/10 - And this grade is just looking at in vacuum - a premier goalscorer which we haven’t seen since at least Ibrahimovic. But the truth is that this deal is forever cemented to the Caldara/Bonucci swap as well, so that makes this combined grade a 20/10. Grazie, Juve!
Tiemoue Bakayoko, the 24 year old French central midfielder arrives from Chelsea on a paid loan of 5M EUR with the option to make it permanent for 35M EUR. Also a great pickup, as even though he struggled to prove himself in Chelsea, he is only one year removed from his coming out party at Monaco, where he dominated the center of the pitch in Ligue 1. This is a low-risk and high-reward move by the Leonardo/Maldini team. At worst, he can be a solid depth player who will be used to give rest to Kessie and Biglia. At best, he bounces back from an adjustment year in the Premier League, returns to form and ends up being a bargain.
Grade: 7/10 - At worst case scenario this is an above average to great signing for the reasons stated above. At best case scenario, it’s complete robbery when considered what players of this age and talent are routinely sold for. Let’s play it down the middle.
Pepe Reina, the veteran shot-stopper who spent the last few years manning the net for Napoli has joined on a Bosman. This is one of the moves made pre-Elliot management, and one thinks this was a failsafe to have a quality number one in the event that Donnarumma left for greener pastures (and greener paper - wait, what color are Euros?). However, Donnarumma’s agent, the notorious Mino Raiola has a very good relationship with Leonardo, and it’s looking more and more like Gigio will not be going anywhere. So the way this shakes out is we added a number one goalie to play number two and fill-in should one of bad form or injury (knock on wood) fall upon Donnarumma.
Ivan Strinic, former wing back for Sampdoria also joins for free, and also seemed to be a move made prior to Elliot taking over. Not a bad depth signing - plus he proved that he could play on a larger stage, after some inspired performances in the World Cup for finalist Croatia. He is injury prone, however, and is currently recovering from ailments that plagued him during the summer showcase. Rumors are already circulating that his injuries forced management to see out Laxalt. If he returns to health, he is a complimentary piece to our growing collection of fullbacks and wingbacks.
Alen Halilovic, who is somehow still only 22 years old, joins on a free from Hamburg. Reportedly sought out by Gattuso, he is a highly skilled player who can play both wings. Coming up through the youth system at Dinamo Zagreb, he became the second youngest player to feature in a Champions League game. With multiple impressive performances under his belt and the spotlight of Europe shining bright, he was snapped up by Barcelona as a 17 year old. He played tons of minutes with the reserves, but never really took advantage of whatever few chances he had to crack the roster. He spent a season on loan in Spain, before going to Hamburg. Milan are buying low on a quality player who is immensely talented with the ball on his feet and with a lot of upside and time to reach it.
Combined Grades: 7.0/10 - You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but maybe a little with Strinic. Fingers crossed his injuries aren’t anything serious. Otherwise we have acquired a nice stable of good to very good depth players.
All in all, not the wallet busting free-for-all of last summer, but some key acquisitions were made to bolster our depth, catalyze our youth and integrate some much sought after and legitimate star power. Overall, it would be difficult to not grade this as a 8.5/10 or better. The impact signings should do just that on the pitch, whereas the depth signings should provide the coaching staff to give regular rest to our starters, especially as the target will inevitably be a Champions League place and maybe even the Europa Crown. We all saw last year how thin the roster was past the first 12-14 players, regularly giving away points to the bottom feeding teams in what would essentially become our undoing in the standings.
Our friends over at www.transfermarkt.com have already done the calculations regarding this summer’s ledger - it’s okay, I don’t trust my math either - with a total of 16 players departing (valued at approximately 65.75M EUR) and 18 players incoming (valued at approximately 83.5M EUR) which creates a net loss for -17.75M EUR. Overall, not bad business considering the spending spree in the summer of 2017 and the ever growing disaster it brought forth both on and off the pitch.
What do you all think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and we can vent together about how we missed out on Sergey Milinkovic-Savic.