After a couple of very disappointing seasons, AC Milan seemed to have turned over a new leaf. Hiring Sinsa Mihajlovic to replace Pippo Inzaghi on the coach’s bench was a first step in the right direction for the Rossoneri. With Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol agreeing to buy 48% of the club from Silvio Berlusconi, Milan have been able to spend significant money this summer.
The team kicked off the summer by bringing back central defender Rodrigo Ely, who had been at Serie B club Avellino. The 21-year-old has looked quite impressive in preseason and the Coppa Italia match against Perugia. Expect Ely to get some solid playing time this season, with an occasional start. Then sporting director Adriano Galliani went out and signed a pair of midfielders; first, Andrea Bertolacci from Roma and then Jose Mauri on a free transfer. Bertolacci spent the last couple of seasons at Genoa and has played very well, even earning up a call up to the Azzurri. At a price of €20M, Milan overpaid but that’s a price you have to pay if you want to get back to the top. Price aside, expect Bertolacci to perform well and improve Milan’s midfield. Picking up 19-year-old Mauri on a free transfer was a great move by Galliani. Mauri is a very talented and skilled player. While there’s been talk of him possibly being loaned out this year, he will be very good in the future for the Rossoneri.
In one of the biggest deals this summer, Milan signed prolific striker Carlos Bacca from Sevilla for €30M. Mihajlovic gets a top class striker who consistently puts the ball in the back of the net. Bacca’s movement off the ball is remarkably good and all he needs is some decent service so expect about 15-20 goals this season from him. Milan also signed striker Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar Donetsk in an under-the-radar deal for €8M. It will be interesting to see how Adriano fits into Mihajlovic’s side but he has looked pretty good in preseason. From the little I have seen him play I think he will be able to both create and score goals. The Rossoneri finally made a significant improvement to their defense as they signed highly touted center back Alessio Romagnoli for €25M from Roma. Romagnoli played exceptionally well last season with Mihajlovic on loan at Sampdoria. While spending €25M on a 20-year-old center back is a risk, Romagnoli is already a starter and you can even make a case he’s their best central defender. Already drawing comparisons to Alessandro Nesta, Romagnoli looks set to flourish into a top center back for Milan over the coming years. Galliani is looking to sign one more midfielder to complete the mercato. Axel Witsel and Roberto Soriano are the two most likely candidates, although Witsel cost three times as much as Soriano. Milan is currently negotiating with Sampdoria to try and find an agreement for Soriano.
Mihajlovic will mostly use a 4-3-1-2 formation. Diego Lopez is a top goalkeeper in Serie A and will help keep Milan in most games. Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio and Luca Antonelli is a solid rotation for the outside backs but Abate and De Sciglio both have a history of injuries. Alessio Romagnoli, Rodrigo Ely, Philippe Mexes, Gabriel Paletta, Alex and Christian Zapata are the center backs. Expect Romagnoli to start just about every game and at least one CB to leave the club. Nigel De Jong will sit in front of the back four. Andrea Bertolacci, Giacomo Bonaventura, Andrea Poli and a new signing will alternate in the midfield along with De Jong. Keisuke Honda is the likely candidate to play the trequartista role, with Jeremy Menez and Suso also likely to get some minutes there. Then you have Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano starting up top who will score goals. Menez, Alessio Cerci and Alessandro Matri are currently the options off the bench. Expect M’Baye Niang to get some decent playing time when he returns from injury.
After disappointing performances in the Audi Cup against Bayern Munich and Tottenham, Milan won the Trofeo Tim Cup between Sassuolo and Inter and played quite well. Milan also looked good as they defeated Perugia 2-0 in the Coppa Italia. Honda and Bacca linked up fabulously for Luiz Adriano’s goal (https://vine.co/v/epjqtrJQVJd). With not having to worry about any European competition this season, Mihajlovic will certainly be expected to qualify for the Europa League. However, I think that there is a possibility that if things start clicking well that Milan can compete for 3rd place and the final Champions League spot. Milan will need to perform well consistently for that to happen. Sinsa Mihajlovic will look to lead Milan back to the top of Serie A.