On Friday June 28th Milan were officially excluded from the 2019-2020 edition of the Europa League due to the breach of “break-even obligations during the 2015/2016/2017 and the 2016/2017/2018 monitoring periods”. Last season Milan lost their case at the UEFA Club Financial Control Body Adjudicatory Chamber but appealed to the Court Of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and won the rights to participate in the 2018-2019 edition of the club tournament. This year however Milan have ‘accepted’ or perhaps better put negotiated an exclusion. Elliott have maintained that the mismanagement of the past ownerships of Berlusconi and Li was not their fault. A sort of clean slate is now available but one where extreme caution is required because Milan may end up in the same place in three seasons. Transfer activity and spending may get some breathing space but obviously the team can not go on a crazy spending spree.
Gazidis will now attempt to strengthen the team but maintain a balance and as tough as it may seem Inter – recently satisfying FFP regulations – may point the way to one possible path forward. The cross town rivals have managed to escape UEFA’s wrath by selling youth players to create gains on the balance sheet. Names like 18 year old Davide Bettella and 19 year old Federico Valietti sold to Atalanta and Genoa respectively last season for a combined €13 million generate positive numbers, so does the recent sale of Zinho Vanheusden to Standard Liege for over €12 million. But to do that Milan’s management needs to rebuild the recently relegated primavera team too.
The mercato or silly season has, as usual, conjured up a variety of names and now that the UEFA verdict is in it provides an opening for wilder rumours, most of which still remain unrealistic. At the outset names like Stefano Sensi were daily mentions but he has drifted away towards Inter or elsewhere. A meeting with Florentino Perez, Real Madrid’s president, in Madrid provided excitement when the possibility of Dani Ceballos was brought up. The talented 22 year old midfielder could be available on a loan with or without obligation and would provide much needed skill to Milan’s bare midfield. However that meeting may have yielded a left back first. Theo Hernandez, Lucas’ brother. The indications are that the French player is more than willing to fly to Milan and Real are open to some form of transfer. Whether or not a LB (costing around €20 million) is a priority is up for debate. The search for much needed midfield enforcement has revolved and focused on Arsenal’s Lucas Torriera. News of the payer wanting to return to Italy after one season in London circulated, were denied and then recycled. Arsenal’s (un)willingness to let him go has changed on a daily basis as well. At this point it seems that Uruguayan is either too expensive (€40 million plus) or unmovable.
One often neglected aspect of Milan’s transfer activity is selling players for good money! A lot of words have been written about Milan possibly ‘sacrificing’ Donnarumma for pure profit. Numbers north of €50 million have been whispered and PSG is likely the prime destination. Whether or not the now Buffon-less Parisians are willing to pay that amount remains to be seen. Super agent Mino Raiola may have his part to play and so does Leonardo, now PSG’s sporting director. PSG’s initial offer included goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and anywhere between €20 and €30 million cash but Milan have three other goalkeepers in Reina, Plizarri and Antonio (Gigio’s brother) on the squad and do not need a goalkeeper in return. If Hernandez does arrive for amounts mentioned then Milan can (or plan to) cash in on Rodriguez. Suso is another name said to be unfit for Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 but the coach may ask him to stay and try to integrate him into the attacking midfield role. That looks unlikely to be a success and perhaps the Spanish winger can generate some much needed profit this summer as well.
Midfield requires a lot of work and one hopes a lot of talent can be found within realism. Other spots such as central defense need bodies too and while players like Ozan Kabak seem to have rejected Milan’s offer as unsatisfactory there is still time to find the right player for what should be a back up spot, left vacant by Zapata’s departure. Midfield is in dire shape and needs to be an absolute priority.