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AC Milan’s Two X-Factors for 2017-2018

Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

The 2017-2018 season is the most exciting for AC Milan and for Rossoneri everywhere in years. After the completion of the club’s sale from Silvio Berlusconi into the hands of Yonghong Li and Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, Milan have gone on a signing rampage throughout the summer, and the squad now, as compared to the past few years, is night and day.

Massimiliano Mirabelli and Marco Fassone have brought in ten brand new players to the squad in a complete makeover of a team who limped into sixth place last year. Gone are the days of Sulley Muntari, Andrea Poli, Philippe Mexes, and more.

Eight of the added players are of starting quality: Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia, Franck Kessie and Ricardo Rodriguez. For depth, Milan has also added Fabio Borini and Antonio Donnarumma.

One can make a case for how valuable each of those eight additions are. Bonucci is (arguably) the best center-back in the world, and he has come from the defending champions and an arch-rival. André Silva is a young, promising striker who will only grow better, and has ringing endorsement from Cristiano Ronaldo. Conti brings stability to the right full-back position after years of questions (including players such as Poli and Juraj Kucka getting starts at the position in meaningful competition). Calhanoglu brings creativity into the midfield, which has appeared stagnant for years, and is a world-renowned threat on free kicks. Musacchio is a solid CB who can partner with Alessio Romagnoli or Bonucci, or play with both in a 3-set in the back, or be a very good substitute. Biglia is a classic regista, also from a Serie A rival, who can be a rock in the center of the midfield, which has been led by Riccardo Montolivo for years.

Milan also has seen the emergence of Patrick Cutrone, a 19-year-old youth academy product, who has developed into a solid option at striker and could see more time than anyone anticipated. In addition, the club has extended Gigio Donnarumma’s contract and has the likes of Manuel Locatelli, Giacomo Bonaventura, Suso and Gustavo Gomez at their disposal, another set of players of starting quality.

But for the true X-factors of AC Milan, look no further than the two of the first signings made by the new Rossoneri regime: Franck Kessie and Ricardo Rodriguez.

Franck Kessie has been talked about for much of the summer as a fantastic addition for Milan, especially in a midfield which in the past has been anchored with Montolivo, led by the light of Bonaventura, captained by Nigel De Jong (for a time) and featured Kucka, Poli, Muntari, Antonio Nocerino, Bakaye Traore, Valter Birsa, Urby Emanuelson, Michael Essien, Marco van Ginkel, Andrea Bertolacci, Keisuke Honda, Jose Sosa, Lucas Ocampos, Matias Fernandez, and more.

SHENZHEN, CHINA – JULY 22: Frank Kessie celebrates a goal with teammate Patrick Cutrone during the 2017 International Champions Cup China match between FC Bayern and AC Milan at Universiade Sports Centre Stadium on July 22, 2017 in Shenzhen, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Kessie burst onto the scene for Atalanta last year, helping them to finish 5th and make into the Europa League. He proved himself as a tank in the midfield, and attracted interest from Premier League clubs, who wanted someone on their squad to emulate the success of N’Golo Kante.

The Ivorian brings stability to a midfield that has lacked a hard-nosed ball-chaser, a tank, since the days of Rino Gattuso. The closest Milan has had was Kucka in recent years as a bulldozer in midfield, but Kessie looks to go past expectations. Already he has proven himself a consistent starter for the Rossoneri and has shown his movement on and off the ball. He is a disrupter, but more so, which is what Milan have been lacking. Not only do opponents find it hard to get past him, but he is able to do so much with the ball, either moving downfield or attacking. He works in coach Vincenzo Montella’s system and can succeed in a variety of formations, which is key given the newfound depth of the squad and any possible injuries (including current injuries to Bonaventura and Biglia). He is a key signing for a midfield that, for the majority of players not named Bonaventura, has been severely lacking and mistake-prone. He is versatile and has already shown that he is valuable, and will only grow into a better player at the ripe age of 20..

The second X-Factor for the red and black comes in the form of their third summer signing: left-back Ricardo Rodriguez.

While not the most glamorous signing for Milan, Rodriguez will be essential for the Rossoneri as they look to succeed in Serie A and the Europa League. He has already made his mark on the squad, scoring an incredible free-kick against Craiova in the Europa League Qualifiers. Not only is he a set-piece magician, which Milan has been lacking in (again, for anyone not named Bonaventura) the past few years, but his movement on and off the ball on the left wing from the back and moving forward is crucial to the success of Milan this season.

MILAN, ITALY – AUGUST 03: Ricardo Rodriguez of AC Milan looks on during the UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round Second Leg match between AC Milan and CSU Craiova at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on August 3, 2017 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Rodriguez played last season for Wolfsburg, who did not have a great season in the Bundesliga, finishing 8th. The 24-year-old joins Milan for a fee of 17 million euros, and brings stability (sensing a pattern?) to the left side of the defense, which has featured De Sciglio, Luca Antonelli, Leonel Vangioni, Pablo Armero, Michaelangelo Albertazzi, and Emanuelson.

The left side has been a mess for Milan in past years, with defenders either mistake-prone at the back when being attacked, or unable to create a true threat when moving forward or attempting to cross. Rodriguez has already shown he is a major upgrade in all of these areas, as he is not stagnant moving forward nor a weak defender. His crosses find their targets and create chances for those in the box, his free kicks are threats to score or assist, and he has the speed and technical ability to defend when being pressed. He is also not an inconsistent player as so many full-backs have been for Milan.

While neither Kessie and Rodriguez were signed as world-beaters or very flashy signings, they were brought into Milan to bring stability, promise, skill and ability to positions which have been lacking for years in Milano. They both fit in multiple formations and work well with Montella’s system as Milan look to grow from their Europa League qualifying spot last year. Milan has brought in several great players who will contribute great things to the squad, and look out for Kessie and Rodriguez, two of the first signings made in the new era of Rossoneri, to be the X-factors and major valuable contributors for the red and black San Siro side this year.

@ItalianFD

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