For the fifth edition of 'Rossoneri Nation Squads’ we get a little closer to home with nationals of France who featured for the Rossoneri. French players have been sporadic across the history of the club but some of the them have been true heroes in the pursuit of a number of trophies. I chose a 4-1-2-1-2 for the side to accommodate for the more focused midfielders such as Bakayoko and Gourcuff. The likes of Papin and Desailly played crucial roles during their tenures at the club while others such as Hernandez have the opportunity to leave their mark on the club. The players on this squad have won 3 Supercoppas, 3 European Super Cups, the 2003 Coppa Italia, the 1994, 2003 and 2007 Champions Leagues and the 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2010 Serie A Titles
RB: Philippe Mexes (2011-16) [114 Appearances]
Mexes is close to one of the most polarising players alongside someone like Cassano due to the sheer brilliance of their game coupled with their shocking inconsistency and lack of temperament. Mexes will be remembered equally for his stunning bicycle kick goal from outside the box against Anderlecht and him choking Lazio’s Mauri after seeing a red card. Mexes always gave 100% but often that meant making rash decisions that resulted in stunning pieces of play or horrific tackles. There was no in between.
CB: Marcel Desailly (1993-98) [186 Appearances]
Marcel Desailly was aptly named ‘The Rock.’ This man was solid as a defender, you just could not beat him and he comfortably swapped between CB and CDM. At Milan, he revolutionised the hard hitting style that players such as Gattuso, Viera, van Bommel and Makelele followed. Desailly was a leader and his charisma was infectious, he was truly a generational midfielder and of the best CDMs in the history of the game. One of his best moments is easily his performance in the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final as well as his strong interception and well placed finish to score the fourth goal in the final.
CB: Adil Rami (2013-15) [44 Appearances]
Adil Rami at a point in time looked to be the long term solution at centre back before the club discovered Romagnoli. Rami joined on an initial loan deal and after impressing everyone, paid a portion of his transfer fee out of pocket to force through the permanent deal. Rami was tall and strong but more importantly added some swagger to the defence. He scored a few headers from corners and hit the opposition hard. Rami partnered numerous ageing defenders such as Alex, Mexes and Paletta as such struggled to transform the defence at the time.
LB: Theo Hernandez (2019-Present) [25 Appearances]
Hernandez is easily Milan’s best left back since Paolo Maldini in just half a season with the club. The left back was a gamble when he joined from Real Madrid but his excitable nature and his attacking bursts proved a huge support for Milan’s attacks as he scored crucial goals to win vital points. The left back have 6 goals and 2 assists in his first season making him one of the sides best players and he will likely go on to play a key part for seasons to come.
CDM: Tiemoue Bakayoko (2018-19) [42 Appearances]
Bakayoko is perhaps one of Milan’s Cinderella stories that did not have a happy ending. The out of favour midfielder received a lifeline with the Rossoneri but looked terrible when he first took the field, but after a few months he became one of the top performers under Gennaro Gattuso capping of a true reversal of fortune. The midfielder was graceful and effective at winning the ball in the middle of the park and his strength was a huge asset. He even managed a single goal in his season long loan against Inter Milan in the derby. The biggest regret is perhaps not redeeming him as he would have fit perfectly this season.
RM: Ibrahim Ba (1997-03) [77 Appearances]
Ba joined Milan during a tumultuous time where the club swapped Capello for Zaccheroni during to the poor performances. He was a regular in his first season where the club finished 10th playing as a mezzalla and alternatively as an anchor. Ba did manage to win the 1999 Scudetto but played a more rotational role then as he lost his starting spot to Helveg and Albertini. Ba was an important fixture for Milan in his first two seasons as he brought a key physicality to the midfield and allowed Leonardo the space to roam.
LM: Mathieu Flamini (2008-13) [122 Appearances]
Flamini was as close to an anonymous squad player as Milan have had in their history. He was more or less a depth player who was used to rotate the midfield. Flamini did manage to play significantly under Carlo Ancelotti and Leonardo due to his fantastic work rate and his defensive grit to play when Gattuso was unavailable. The midfielder ruptured his cruciate ligament that sidelined him for an entire season. One funny memory of him was in his final season at the club where he managed to score 4 goals in 5 games despite being almost entirely conservative as a player before his summer exit.
CAM: Yoan Gourcuff (2006-08) [54 Appearances]
Gourcuff is perhaps the tale of unfulfilled potential. The midfielder joined the Rossoneri after an impressive campaign at Rennes and quickly looked like one of the top young prospects at the time. His play-making ability was stunning and his passing was mesmeric. The only issue for Gourcuff was the struggle to break into the starting eleven at the time with Seedorf, Pirlo and Gattuso as untouchable starters in the midfield and Kaka holding the CAM position. His potential was wasted but a number of Milan players commented that his attitude and behaviour are what led to his underwhelming stint.
SS: Jeremy Menez (2014-16) [46 Appearances]
Menez was part of the experimentation of the false nine at Milan when the club was struggling to find a no. 9. The Frenchman came to the club with a bad reputation but quickly became a fan favourite when he ripped apart Parma in the second game of the season where he scored a brace including an otherworldly back heel. Menez was spectacle to watch, he was not afraid to take on his man and he could easily open up the defence and score on his own. His time at the club was unfortunately cut short by a hip injury that sidelined him for almost a season.
ST: Jean-Pierre Papin (1992-94) [63 Appearances]
Papin was an important part of Fabio Capello back to back Serie A title charges in 1993 and 1994 as the French striker injected some pace and composure in front of goal. He managed to play alongside Milan legends such as Marco van Basten and Daniele Massaro as a supporting striker and scored a staggering 31 goals across his two seasons when he bagged two Scudetti and a Champions League title. Papin was restricted at Milan despite his talent due to injuries and the limitations on foreign players in the league. One sad fact about the Frenchman is that he lost the UCL final in 1993 to his former club Marseille and did not play in the 1994 one where he got the winners medal.
Honourable Mentions: Bruno N'Gotty for his central role in the 1998/99 Scudetto winning season at centre back.
Team Strengths: Strong centre backs, Hard hitting midfield and pacey technically gifted strikers.
Team Weaknesses: Lack of creativity in the midfield, lack of pace in the midfield and potential for inconsistency in the attack.
Team Rating: 7.5/10 for their time at Milan. 8.5/10 for their career peaks.
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