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Why Have AC Milan Failed to Make Capital Gains on Their Youth Players?

With the discussions of FFP in the air, I want to take a dive into Milan’s struggle to make capital gains on their youth players despite having a really good Primavera. This article will revisit some of Milan’s top youth prospects and their exits

Italy U21 Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

With the discussions of FFP in the air, I want to take a dive into Milan’s struggle to make capital gains on their youth players despite having a really good Primavera. Over the past decade, AC Milan has barely made significant profits on starting players and youth players alike. In particular, Milan have constantly been forced to let players run out their contracts as opposed to sell them off when they are no longer needed. Today, 30th June 2019, Milan have released Montolivo, Bertolacci and Mauri for free despite the potential to have made some money off the transfers of these first team outcasts.

With UEFA bearing down on AC Milan and the club’s desire to return to the Champions League, they must make capital gains to ensure they break even year-on-year starting now. A good model to follow is that of Inter Milan and Juventus who are selling youngsters to balance the books when they spend on top talent. Last season, Juventus sold off Audero, Sturaro, Orsolini, Cerri, Favilli and Marrone for €68 million. This season, Inter have sold Pinamonti, Vanheusden, Sala, Adorante, Gavioli, Rizzo, Merola and Burgio for €52 million. Both teams handed a huge boost to balance their books by selling off their youth talent barely impacting the starting teams.

This article will revisit some of Milan’s top youth prospects and their exits:

Niccolo Zanellato - Crotone - €300,000

Zanellato was a promising central midfielder who played for Milan's U17 and U19 teams before his promotion to the first team in the summer of 2017. He appeared for Milan twice in the Europa League prior to his loan to Crotone and eventual sale for 300k. He was a dominant force in the centre where his height helped him win possession and distribute the ball well.

Mattia el Hilali - FC Chiasso II - Undisclosed (<€100,000)

el Hilali played a huge role for Milan’s Primavera between 2016 and 2018 where he anchored the team as a defensive midfielder occasionally dropping back as a centre back. He and his brother were both key prospects for Milan at the time and the player even received a contract extension under Galliani. He was loaned out and allowed to leave for cheap to the Swiss 2nd tier.

Mattia de Sciglio - Juventus - €12 million

de Sciglio was one of Milan’s most hyped prospects heralded as the ‘heir to Maldini’ when he broke out in 2011/12 but the comparisons quickly eroded when he showed his poor technical skills and his poor positional sense. He was still held in his esteem by many clubs and his agent did well to maintain his image to ensure there was interest for him. He was sold to Juventus for a reasonable fee where he recently bagged his second consecutive Scudetto.

Alessandro Mastalli - Juve Stabia - Undisclosed

Mastalli is perhaps one of the saddest cases and one of Milan’s greatest missed opportunities. He was a true leader and he captained the Primavera to amazing heights. His sublime passing and his great vision were centre-pieces for the youth teams with whom he won the Viareggio Cup. Mastalli left Milan for peanuts despite his great potential, the held a starting spot with Juve Stabia throughout and helped them win the Group C of the Serie C this year.

Hachim Mastour - PAS Lamia - Released

The great Moroccan phenomenon who may have indulged too much in the spotlight, if only, Milan sold him when his hype blew away the internet. A Nike endorsement, videos with Neymar and first team promotion when he was just 16 years old. He has faded since with failed loan stints in Italy and the Netherlands. He was eventually released from the club before signing with a mid-table Greek side.

Raoul Bellanova - Bordeaux - €1 million

Bellanova is another huge prospect at right-back who was seen as likely to emulate the path of Calabria. Bellanova has been a regular fixture in Italy’s U17, U19 and U20 sides over the years because of his defensive solidity coupled with his piercing forward runs. He was sold to Bordeaux for just €1 million before being loaned back to Milan Primavera for the season, he has huge upside potential at just 19.

Manuel Locatelli - Sassuolo - €12 million

Perhaps the only player who Milan pulled the trigger with. Locatelli was a big surprise and a welcome face in the central midfield following Montolivo’s flop. He will always be remembered for his screamer against Juventus that won us a rare game against the Old Lady. Locatelli was allowed to leave on a €2m loan with a €10m obligation to Sassuolo that marked one of the few significant profits from a youth player.

Simone Verdi - Bologna - €6.4 million (+ 4.9 million add on)

Verdi is living it up in Napoli following his huge €25 million move. The versatile attacker grew up as a right winger at Milan before being sold for €1m to Torino in 2011. He was co-owned and reacquired in 2015 for about €450k. Verdi always had the potential and was always highly rated but Milan never took a chance on him and constantly loaned him out until his sale to Bologna on the cheap with a sell on clause. He exploded at Bologna and earned a big move to Napoli. Overall Milan gained just over €10 million from the deal given the initial sale and the sell on value.

Gabriel - Perugia - Free

Gabriel was not brought up through the Primavera but was purchased young with huge potential joining Milan in 2012/13 for €500k. He joined at a time when Abbiati was still the No. 1 followed by the arrival of Lopez and the emergence of Donnarumma hence he fell down the pecking order. But Gabriel had great loan stints at Carpi and Empoli in Serie B especially 2017/18 where he won the Serie B. Despite his stellar performances, Milan failed to capitalise on him allowing him to run out his contract and join Perugia for free in the Summer of 2018.

Stephan el Shaarawy - AS Roma - €14.4 million

Il Faraone was Milan’s breakout superstar following the departure of Ibrahimovic in 2012 when he scored 19 goals in the first half of the season prior to his injury. El Shaarawy struggled to replicate his first season’s success due to lingering injuries and immense public pressure leading to Milan sending him out on loan to Monaco and subsequently AS Roma both with options to buy. Roma exercised theirs after he proved to be an outstanding creative force and solid goalscorer. Overall Milan lost a great player for a poor price due to the circumstance of the situation.

Overall Milan have not profited off their youth players like other top teams in Italy have and this will be a necessity with the strictness of FFP going forward. The main issues have been poor promotion and marketing by Milan, terrible timing of sales and over/underestimation of talent by the management.

In Milan's current first team, there are three stellar youth graduates in Gianluigi Donnarumma, Davide Calabria and Patrick Cutrone all of whom have excelled in their respective positions winning over 70 appearances for the rossoneri. In that time Donnarumma has kept 57 clean sheets, Calabria has assisted 5 times and Cutrone has fired in 28 goals. More importantly, the Primavera side has a number of young players who have been impressive and need to be marketed well to allow Milan to make capital gains unless they can be further developed into starters.


Have Milan Failed to Profit of Their Youth Talent?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Yes, More Capital Gains Should Have Been Made on Sales
    (253 votes)
  • 15%
    No, The Quality of Player's Was Not of a High Value
    (64 votes)
  • 3%
    Yes, The Major Players Were Assimilated into the First Team
    (15 votes)
  • 22%
    No, Milan Have Sold Too Early or Too Late
    (94 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now