There’s a very real chance that AC Milan fans will come away from this Serie A campaign feeling dejected and uninspired. After being Winter Champions, it’s difficult to accept being out of the title race by March. It’s even harder when the team that ran away with it are your city rivals.
The Rossoneri looked solid at the back, vicious in attack, and composed in midfield during the first half of the season. They didn’t lose a Serie A game until January 6, falling to a 3-1 home defeat against Juventus.
Their disappointing second half of the season will be tough to take for Milan fans, but there are some clear signs in the squad that they can give the title a proper go in 2021/22. Let’s not forget, winning the title was never the aim for Milan this season.
There is quality all over the pitch when Stefano Pioli has his full squad to choose from. More importantly, there are a number of talented young players who have taken the next step in their development this season.
Under the guidance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who of course signed a one-year extension recently, Rafael Leao has matured into a really exciting striker. Against Benevento, he linked up excellently with the players around him and his pace is big problem for many Serie A defences.
The midfield trio of Sandro Tonali, Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie all have age on their side, with Kessie being the oldest at 24. The two latter have shown they work excellently as a double pivot, and Tonali can easily slot in to create a more robust three against tougher opposition.
The two first-choice full-backs, Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria, have both cemented themselves as some of the best attacking full-backs in Europe. Hernandez in particular seems to have the ability to become one of the best left-backs in the world.
There are some uncertain futures in the squad though that need to be resolved if Milan are to mount a more credible title charge next season.
Gianluigi Donnarumma is seriously considering his future, with Champions League qualification clearly a requirement for him to sign a new deal. Not only that, but he might be asking for more wages than Milan would be willing to offer the 22-year-old. Juventus are plotting a move for the keeper, and should he leave, a move for Lille’s Mike Maignan seems to be on the cards.
The other player whose future is still undecided is Fikayo Tomori. The Chelsea loanee has made more of an impact at Milan than many expected, and he’s turned into a first-choice centre-back for Pioli. With Chelsea performing well without him, it’s thought he will be open to staying in Northern Italy.
Both attacking and defensive depth will be needed to mount a successful title challenge, but should they clinch Champions League football, Milan could be in a great position to take the title fight deeper into the calendar next season.