AC Milan have reportedly agreed to sign Empoli midfielder Ismael Bennacer for about 16 million whilse offering the 21 year old a contract worth 1.5 million a year. The move has not been finalised as the Algerian has been engaged at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) where his national side progressed all the way to the final and he has been tearing teams apart.
Bennacer has been an incredible force for Empoli over the past two seasons and kicked off his national duties in style when he was linked with Milan and a rumoured agreement was reacvhed between Empoli and Milan. However, over the past month Bennacer has been a standout performer creating lots of buzz around his name while dominating the central midfield for Algeria. I recently wrote a breakdown on what to expect from Bennacer that you can read here. He has more than impressed me over the 7 games he played at the AfCON where he displayed a maturity and passion that was infectious as he came across as the heart of his side. Bennacer was crowned the Player of the Tournament for his impressive displays in the midfield where he combined his impressive passing with his tireless pressing ensuring the Algerian midfield was always running smoothly. Bennacer was the core of an Algerian side that only conceded two goals in the entire tournament while simultaneously scoring the most with thirteen goals in a possession based system.
Bennacer won me over partially with his football but largely with his mentality. Bennacer is a fighter and has swagger, something Milan have lacked for a long time. Bennacer was not afraid to confront the opposition or referees despite what a small guy he is. Moreover, he was a warrior for his teammates always encouraging them and screaming to psyche them up and get everyone fire up. Watching twitter videos of his interactions with the Algerian fans was exhilarating and I really wish he can do the same for Milan. Bennacer has that fire in him and Milan need that right now. Once he signs his contract, I will be celebrating because I am confident he will be our spark.
On the footballing side, Bennacer is a very exciting prospect because of his ability to pull the strings from the middle of the park. He thrives as a deep lying playmaker and is exceptional at breaking the lines with his passing and winning the ball back. In the AfCON final, Bennacer won a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and took two touches before playing a lovely through ball slicing open the Senegalese defense to Algeria’s no. 9 for the winning goal. Bennacer is always impactful in the game and keeps the ball moving to open up spaces. He finishes the AfCON as the assist leader alongside fellow Rossoneri midfielder Franck Kessie but returns home a Champion heralding his nation’s second continental victory. Bennacer is a fighter, a champion and hopefully soon a Milanista.