Brahim Diaz looked like a man on a mission during AC Milan’s opening Serie A game of the season against Sampdoria.
Having extended his stay at the Rossoneri for another two years this summer, he seems to be more than aware of the opportunity that has been presented to him by the departure of Hakan Calhanoglu to city-rivals Inter, perhaps driven on by the Turk’s excellent Serie A debut the day before.
Brahim makes the difference
The young Spaniard rewarded legal online sports betting punters and scored the game’s only goal after Milan captain Davide Calabria robbed Tommaso Augello out wide and played a low ball into the box. Diaz’s low shot should really have been saved by Emil Audero but it squirmed into the bottom corner and proved decisive.
Despite the game not quite materialising into the high-scoring affair that it hinted it could be in the first half, Diaz remained the primary source of creativity and excitement on the pitch.
The ex-Manchester City midfielder picked up pockets of space that should not really have been there. Both teams were lacking a major presence in midfield which played into the hands of individuals like Diaz and Rafael Leao.
Despite the much-talked-about inconsistencies in Hakan Calhanoglu’s game, he was the player in Milan’s side last season who had the most creative impact and responsibility. Brahim was second-fiddle in this regard and couldn’t build the rhythm needed to be an elite No.10.
With Calhanoglu now (impressively) plying his trade with the Nerazzurri, and Diaz’s future somewhat more settled by committing to at least another two years with Stefano Pioli’s side, he can get into a proper rhythm in the Milan attack and become one of the most important players in the division. With performances like this one against Sampdoria, the Milan faithful will soon forget about Calhanoglu.
The positional discipline that Alexis Saelemaekers exhibited on the right-hand side meant that no matter how tight a spot Diaz found himself in, he always knew he had an out ball to keep Milan moving.
Similarly, he was able to link up very well with Olivier Giroud who is known for his excellent touch and ability to play short, instinctive passes that many players simply don’t see. This, coupled with the fluidity he was able to show with Rafael Leao down the left and in the middle, meant he could find joy all over the pitch.
Diaz exhibited another element of midfield play which in future games he will hope to do less of. He put a high amount of effort into tracking back and winning the ball off the opposition. This is likely down to only having Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic behind him. When Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer are on the pitch, the Milan backline has a lot more protection.
His talent was never in question, but Diaz has the opportunity this season to bring the consistency that Milan fans yearned for from Hakan Calhanoglu.