AC Milan fans can certainly be happy about how their 2020/2021 season has ended, but it’s likely that there will still be some lingering feelings of disappointment.
When you’re winter champions and don’t lose a game until early January, you don’t then expect to only secure a top-four spot on the final day of the season.
I Rossoneri have to keep reminding themselves that if someone had offered them second place at the start of the campaign, they’d have snapped their hand off. Milan haven’t appeared in the Champions League since the 2013/14 season. For a team that have won the tournament seven times, that is far too long.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON: FRANCK KESSIE
This is one of the easiest calls anyone can make. Franck Kessie has cemented himself as one of the best all-round midfielders in Europe this season. He’s been the beating heart of an extremely talented team.
The Ivorian has become the player that everything went through for Milan, and he played a staggering 94% of Milan’s Serie A minutes this season. Thanks to his excellent penalty record, he’s pitched in an impressive 13 goals and six assists for Stefano Pioli’s side.
He has a combative side to his game thanks to his incredible strength, but he has managed to not receive a single red card all year. This sort of reliability has been key for Milan and will be key if they want to push on further in 2021/22.
It’s worth noting that Kessie’s contract expires in June 2022, so Milan will need to get him to sign a new deal if they’re going to either keep the 24-year-old or at least ensure they get a big fee for him when bigger clubs inevitably come knocking. According to Transfermarkt, his market value has now reached €45 million.
BEST SIGNING: FIKAYO TOMORI
Milan didn’t have a blockbuster window coming into this season, which is why a January loan signing is being given the honour of best signing.
By January, Milan’s form had started to deteriorate slightly and their lack of defensive depth was being opposed. Alessio Romagnoli suffered a dip in form and it coincided with the arrival of Fikayo Tomori on loan from Chelsea.
The English defender had found himself out in the cold in West London and was desperate for a loan move. The way he adapted to playing for a club with the stature of Milan was remarkable, and he soon cemented himself as a key player.
He made 17 league appearances in half a season and scored a crucial third goal in a key win over top-four rivals Juventus. It’s extremely likely that Milan will execute the option to buy Tomori outright from Chelsea, and the player is certainly interested in staying in Lombardi.
THE COACH: STEFANO PIOLI
Stefano Pioli deserves nothing but credit for the way Milan’s season has gone. Sometimes a season predominantly filled with overachievement can be put down to a new player performing significantly better than people expected.
That didn’t happen with Milan. They were extremely well-drilled and efficiently dispatched of team after team in the early months of the season. Pioli has to take credit for that.
With Champions League funding and the right signings, there’s no reason why Pioli can’t mount a more sustained title challenge next season and steal the crown off of their city rivals.
Much like Fiorentina, a 3-0 win away at Juventus was the highlight of Milan’s season. With four games left to play, Milan were in the thick of a four-way battle four three spaces in next season’s Champions League.
Juve were one of those teams and the two sides met at the Allianz for a crucial game. After recent defeats to Sassuolo and Lazio, many feared Milan had run out of steam at exactly the wrong time. That made the dominant performance with goals from Brahim Diaz, Ante Rebic and Tomori even more special.
The win put Milan in fantastic spirits for the final three games of the season and ultimately led to them securing Champions League qualification.
A special mention should be made here for the emphatic 7-0 win at Torino in the following fixture, ensuring I Rossoneri had completely conquered the city of Turin over a four-day period.
By mid-February, the pendulum had started to swing in Inter’s favour in regard to the title race. Milan seemed to have lost the edge they had in the first half of the season, and Inter were really starting to hit their stride.
The clash at the Stadio San Siro was hotly anticipated, but Inter made extremely light work of their opponents, winning 3-0. Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku had a telepathic understanding that day, with the former scoring the first two goals, and the latter capping things off with a mesmerising solo run.
That result meant Milan fell four points behind Inter and from there it was tough to envisage Pioli’s side responding to Inter’s clear dominance.