After an enthralling summer last year, which saw AC Milan sign 11 new players, expectations and optimism at the club were high. However, the Rossoneri weren’t able to live up to the enthusiasm generated by their off-the-field activity after finishing sixth in Serie A again while ending up trophyless.
With a crucial summer ahead to ensure they don’t fall short next season, there are key factors that will need to be sorted out in the squad in order to put Gennaro Gattuso in the best possible position to oversee progression.
While the hearing with UEFA’s adjudicatory chamber looms large next month after the governing body rejected the option of a Settlement Agreement, it remains to be seen how that impacts Milan’s plans this time round too.
Sort out Gianluigi Donnarumma’s future
After the furore caused by his initial decision to turn down a new contract offer last summer, speculation remains rife over the 19-year-old’s future at the club.
The subsequent fierce backlash from supporters perhaps played a role in his decision to perform a U-turn and remain, and for the most part, Donnarumma slowly silenced his critics during the season albeit without ever really repairing his relationship with some fans entirely.
Whether it’s confirmation that he remains fully committed to Milan and will stay, or if it’s an eventual exit if a significant offer arrives, Milan need to clarify the situation. Particularly with Pepe Reina arriving this summer, question marks still remain over if he’s a replacement for Donnarumma or additional competition.
Don’t entertain offers for Alessio Romagnoli
Since he joined in 2015, Milan supporters have been fully aware of the special talent that they’ve got in the heart of their defence in Romagnoli, and they’ll be desperate to see him stay at the club for the foreseeable future.
Still only 23, he enjoyed another impressive campaign this past year and he’ll only improve with further experience and maturity to firmly establish himself as a stalwart in the side.
In turn, regardless of any potential offers put on the table this summer even if it’s a sizeable bid, Romagnoli is one player that Milan shouldn’t even be considering as a sellable asset such is his importance to the side currently and the influence he could have in our pursuit of success moving forward.
Don’t loan or sell Manuel Locatelli
Following the arrival of Lucas Biglia last summer, the 20-year-old unsurprisingly struggled for regular playing time. Although he made 33 appearances in all competitions, he was predominantly used as a reserve option and failed to get regular minutes to prove his worth to Gattuso.
Particularly with veteran Riccardo Montolivo failing to have a positive impact on the side, Locatelli should be given a more important role next season as the top alternative to Biglia.
With that in mind, a loan exit or permanent deal should not be an option for the youngster as he can certainly offer much more next year especially in games where Milan will dominate possession and need more creativity in midfield.
Give Andre Silva another year to prove himself
Despite being one of the standout signings last summer, the Portuguese international struggled in his first year in Italy.
That was perhaps to be expected, as at just 22, he had to adapt to a new league, teammates and culture while trying to live up to lofty expectations set during his spell with Porto and for his national team.
A return of 10 goals in 40 appearances ensured he didn’t make the greatest of first impressions, but evidently he possesses a lot of talent and can offer so much more. Having had a year to settle and to adapt to life at Milan, they’d arguably be well advised to give him another season to prove his worth as he looks to enjoy a positive World Cup this summer and boost his confidence.
Sign three new players to address key issues
A lack of alternatives in midfield, particularly for Franck Kessie to replace his physicality and powerful runs forward, coupled with no pace in the wide positions and the absence of a prolific forward, Milan’s issues this past season were evident.
Those are three areas that they’ll have to prioritise this summer in order to take the next step and compete for the Champions League qualification places next season.
Gattuso has players with plenty of technical quality at his disposal already in the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu and Suso, but without players capable of changing the tempo and switching through the gears, they can become predictable and too slow with their attacks which makes reinforcements in these areas crucial.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.