Transfer window update: Crazy like Milanese foxes?
How the might have fallen… well, they’ve become rather mediocre at any rate. Milan, once the untouchable champions of Europe – the club of Gullit, Rijkaard, Van Basten, Maldini, Baresi – haven’t finished in the Champions League places since 2012-13. Financial problems haven’t helped, and the club is now owned by a “vulture” hedge fund that never before had anything to do with top-tier football. Midway through the season, can they do enough in this transfer window to turns things around, or at least return to the Europa League?
They’re trying. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may seem like a shiny object, but he’s actually still playing at a very high level, even for Serie A. Even in his mid-thirties, he one of the best strikers MLS had ever seen, and our league adjustments projected high attacking output in Italy as well. He’s hit the ground running, too:
That’s not a bad free transfer, though who knows what wages and bonuses Mino Raiola has levered out of the club. Another decent deal is swapping Pepe Reina for Asmir Begovic as a backup goalkeeper. Begovic can’t hold a candle to Reina as a shot-stopper – the Bosnian has really been quite poor lately, especially in open play – but his wages are likely much lower, and he may never play anyway. That means more money for Zlatan. Here's a goalkeeper comparison, with the shot-stopping ratings on the right:
Milan’s other move has been to bring in Simon Kjaer on loan from Sevilla as CB cover for Mateo Musacchio, who missed a couple of matches earlier in the season, apparently due to muscle fatigue. Kjaer was good for Sevilla back in 2017-18, and he’s a more aggressive defender than Musacchio (especially playing centrally in the first half of this season at Atalanta). He’s an outstanding tackler, but not a ball-playing CB like Musacchio, so it’s not a like-for-like situation:
More puzzling is the fact that Palmeiras had an option to buy Gustavo Gomez, another right-footed CB, for just €4.5m. The 26-year-old Paraguayan was among the best overall defenders in Brazil last season, and his numbers would have held up very well in Serie A, too – except for his skill in ground duels, which is fairly nonexistent. Maybe he wasn't a good fit for Milan, but we're pretty sure he would have had commanded a higher price in the open market:
As any hedge fund manager knows, there are some assets you hold short and others you hold long. And you don’t write a low option for an asset that you might really need down the line.
We’ll be watching to see what other deals Milan can pull off this month. We’ll also be waiting for video of that negotiating-session-cum-cage-match between Raiola and hedge fund heavyweight Paul Singer. We can dream, okay?
[Photo: Andy Witchger]