A new Serie A season is upon us, and expectations are refreshingly high at AC Milan after a busy summer of transfer activity. Yonghong Li’s takeover has brought with it 10 new signings over the past three months, with more potentially yet to come before deadline day. With more than €200 million spent on a squad overhaul though, the Rossoneri will undoubtedly harbour loftier ambitions than usual this year.
Antonio Donnarumma, Andrea Conti, Mateo Musacchio, Leonardo Bonucci, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Lucas Biglia, Hakan Calhanoglu, Fabio Borini and Andre Silva make up the new-look Milan squad, offering a mix of quality young talent with experienced leaders who have performed at a high level.
Key weaknesses have finally now been addressed. A defence in desperate need of long-term rebuilding has been transformed, much-needed quality has been injected into the midfield while better-suited attacking options are now at Vincenzo Montella’s disposal.
Perhaps a question mark remains up front for now, but speculation continues to suggest that there are still new faces set to arrive in the coming fortnight to lessen the burden and pressure on Silva’s shoulders to deliver goals.
Nevertheless, this summer’s transfer market has been a real success on paper already, and in turn it has rightly raised the level of positivity surrounding the Italian giants.
Newly appointed club captain Bonucci remains the marquee signing and will be pivotal this season and beyond, while Kessie and Rodriguez in particular have wasted little time in preseason proving that they’re up to the task.
Milan have also done an excellent job in offloading players surplus to requirements to recoup some money with M’Baye Niang tipped to join the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Juraj Kucka, Carlos Bacca and Leonel Vangioni in heading through the exit door.
Though the excitement over new signings was enough in itself, there was also the drama of the summer involving Gianluigi Donnarumma. The Milan goalkeeper shocked supporters after initially rejecting the club’s offer of a contract renewal in June, sparking an angry backlash on and off the pitch.
Eventually, the 18-year-old put pen-to-paper on a new deal to become one of the best-paid players in Serie A despite still being in his teens. He’ll hope to be equally as important as any summer signing in the upcoming campaign, as Milan’s starting lineup is certainly a formidable one.
For all the enthusiasm surrounding the club though, it comes with a significantly raised level of pressure on Montella to put all the pieces together and ensure it’s a success.
Navigating their way through Europa League qualifiers has been simple enough so far, but they can ill-afford a poor start to domestic matters with Champions League qualification unquestionably at the top of the list of objectives this season. It won’t be easy of course given the level of competition involved, with defending champions Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Inter and Lazio all vying for the same target. Nevertheless, Montella now has the tools to make it a reality having done a commendable job in his first year in charge in guiding Milan back into Europe.
Managing a fixture list that features the Europa League will also be a tricky task for Milan this season, as after years of mediocrity they’ll be keen to make an impression and reacclimatise to life in European competition.
The depth of the squad will undoubtedly be tested, but Montella and the hierarchy are adamant that it’s a competition that they’ll take seriously, and rightly so as it should be seen as a fundamental part of the progression of this young squad.
From Li’s takeover to the impressive work done by CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli in the transfer market to the new-look style of play from Montella, there are so many reasons for optimism at Milan this season. Now they must deliver on the field and avoid losing that early enthusiasm generated from the summer transfer business.
The fans have shown that they’re ready to back the team, as evidenced by a stunning 65,000-plus attendance for their Europa League qualifier against CS U Craiova, but now it’s down to the players to ensure that they continue to return to the San Siro on a regular basis.
Milan’s new signings will be crucial in that, as will the likes of Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Manuel Locatelli, Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura who remain essential pieces in this squad. Add all these elements together, and it’s hoped that at the very least the Rossoneri will be back at Europe’s top table next season, while some aren’t quite ruling out a title challenge just yet.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.