AC Milan have signed Alexis Saelemaekers from Anderlecht on a paid 6-month loan with an option to purchase. The total value of a potential deal is about 7 million. Here's a breakdown of what the youngster brings to Milan:
Directness and High Intensity
Saelemaekers is visibly a direct player. He enjoys taking on his man and offers a threat going forward. His ability to maintain a high intensity when attacking makes him extremely useful especially in counter attacking situations which Milan need to improve on. The Belgium U21 international offers an option for a run to the midfield and is flexible in his approaches to run at goal or to the corner to put in a cross. He is similarly able to maintain his high work rate in the defensive phases of the game.
| Alexis Saelemaekers (#SciSkill 40.5) is having a breakout season so far.— SciSports Live (@SciSportsLive) September 9, 2018
The 19-year-old rightback has already provided 2 assists in 6 games this season for @rscanderlecht.#RSCA pic.twitter.com/dRTFaHOV2N
In my opinion, Saelemaekers was brought in over a number of options because he has the potential to play in a number of positions and over the next six months will be evaluated as both a right midfielder and a right back. The youngster started off as a right back with Anderlecht and slowly transitioned into a right midfielder and occasionally a right winger. He will be Castillejo’s back up primarily but will bring competition for Suso and Calabria in training. He is very capable of managing his opponents and his stunning acceleration make him the ideal player for turnovers. This also signals Milan's shift toward offensive minded wing backs.
TALENT OF THE DAY— FootballTalentScout - Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) January 31, 2020
Player role: attacking full-back
Strengths: pace, acceleration, technique, tackling, crossing, dribbling
Similar type of player: João Cancelo
Saelemaekers will have the most promise in the defensive part of the game. His growth over the next 6 months should largely focus on the RB position. Saelemaekers looked most promising at Anderlecht as a RB with his solid tackling and aggressive interceptions. He also featured as RWB where he was proactive as a transition player winning back the ball and driving up the field. Notably he is inconsistent and can be caught out of position quite easily and he needs to work on this at Milan. More than anything, he will be a depth player adding cover all across the right side of the pitch for the next six months.
One thing I picked up from watching his old games and highlights is that the kid is quick. It is perhaps the most notable of his traits and can be a huge plus for Milan off the bench for the rest of the season. Milan often lack an edge of the bench but have developed a significant group of options in Rebic and Saelemaekers who can offer pace on either wing and threaten the opposition’s goal. He would also allow Kjaer and Romagnoli to attempt long balls as this was a central part of his approach in his first season at Anderlecht and when he played for their reserves as a kid.
The aspect I am looking forward to the most is his technical ability to put in pinpoint crosses, take hard shots at the first post and put in square balls. Milan have lacked players who are technically sound and able to find open spaces to exploit. Saelemaekers is really good at finding his teammates in the box and offers a triple threat coming in from the wing as he pass, cross or shoot - and will find the target either way. It is evident that he will not start immediately nor will he receive significant playing time but he is an interesting prospect for the future who can grow without the pressure to immediately perform week in and out.
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