One of Serie A’s best young defenders this season, Wilfried Singo, has reportedly emerged as a potential candidate to join AC Milan in the upcoming summer transfer window. Torino’s 20-year-old right-back has played in 21 matches this season, recording one goal and two assists, and has been a key component of La Granata’s attack.
At first glance, Singo is reminiscent of a younger, less-developed Theo Hernandez. The Ivorian plays almost exclusively at right-back, where he uses his pace and dribbling ability to push the ball up the pitch and create chances. Right-footed, Singo exploits space on the right wing and looks to play the ball into the box, averaging an outstanding 3.29 crosses per 90 minutes.
Advanced analytics reveal Singo’s offensive prowess as well. Despite playing in just 27 professional matches, the defender excels at moving the ball up the pitch, ranking at the 86th and 91st percentiles for progressive carries and progressive carries into the penalty box among all “Big Five” European league fullbacks. He finds time and space as he moves, often looking for Andrea Belotti to make a run toward goal.
The 20-year-old is best-suited to play wing-back given his creative talents (and lack of outstanding defensive skill), and would be an ideal replacement for Hernandez in Pioli’s four-back system. Under both Marco Giampaolo and Davide Niccola this season, Singo has had remarkably similar positioning in both three-man and four-man backlines; he plays high and wide and rarely gets touches in the defensive third.
Simultaneously starting both Singo and Hernandez would not be ideal for Milan for a couple of reasons. First, both are offensively-minded defenders who often push up the field, which, even with Franck Kessié or Ismaël Bennacer providing cover, would leave too much open space on the wings. Second, neither are elite defenders, so even if they dropped to the backline, the Rossoneri would be vulnerable defensively. Neither Hernandez nor Singo tackle well or block a high number of shots relative to other top European fullbacks, though with Singo’s frame and pace, he could certainly improve defensively as he earns more minutes.
The above heat maps provide anecdotal evidence of Hernandez’s and Singo’s similarities. The pair both played in four-man backlines and had a 68 and 64 touches in their respective games. Singo played almost exclusively in the right channel, preferring to play high and wide, while Hernandez drifted slightly more centrally. It’s not difficult to see Milan substituting Hernandez out in the 70th minute, shifting Calabria to left-back, then bringing Singo on at right-back.
The Ivorian certainly would not be cheap; Transfermarkt currently has Singo’s value at $6.60 million, but given the current demand for young, quality fullbacks at big clubs, Milan would probably have to pay somewhere between $8 and $10 million for the Ivorian’s services. Bouana Sarr, for example, was recently sold by Marseille to Bayern Munich for an estimated $9.5 million. If Milan eventually buys Singo, the club has to be confident in his eventual development.
Though the young defender certainly has his share of weaknesses, signing Singo should be one of Milan’s top priorities given his age, offensive ability and potential to develop. Because Alessio Romagnoli, Simon Kjær and Davide Calabria have all missed significant time with injuries this season, ameliorating defensive depth is crucial for Milan this offseason. Adding Singo alongside Pierre Kalulu and Matteo Gabbia would ensure that the Rossoneri have one of the most promising groups of young defenders in Italy.