How AC Milan could line up in the Serie A opener against Udinese

Having completed their pre-season tour, AC Milan are now getting ready for the Serie A opener next weekend. For Giampaolo, it will be an important week of training, as he will have to decide on the starting eleven for the Udinese clash.

The Rossoneri played their final pre-season game last night, drawing 0-0 away at Cesena. Despite several chances, Giampaolo’s men lacked composure in the critical moments, squandering most of what came their way. However, even though Milan certainly should have done better, it was not all bad.  Continue reading

The Summer of the Plusvalenza

The first time I ever heard of the word was while reading Luciano Moggi’s autobiography “Il Pallone lo Porto io” which in many ways is so fitting. Juventus’s notorious former sporting director used the terms “plusvalenza da urlo” (a capital gain to scream about) in two different chapters to describe the substantial positive financial impacts of selling both Zinedine Zidane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while he was running the bBianconeri’s mercato before the Calciopoli scandal.

Because he had acquired the two legendary players for a bargain fee before they broke out on the international stage and kept them a few seasons in Turin, there was a substantial gain to be made even with Ibrahimovic who left for Inter at a below market value when Juventus were abruptly relegated. As many remember, the Zidane sale to Real Madrid brought in such a big pluslvalenza that Moggi was able to acquire Lilian Thuram, Gianluigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved with the proceeds.

So while the term “plusvalenza”- which is the amount a selling club earns above the remaining amortized value for a player they are moving to another team- has been around for a long time, it feels that this is the summer where even a Serie A fan who has no interest in accounting has finally heard about it.

While a plusvalenza has a positive impact on clubs’ bottom line, this summer it has often been used with a negative connotation. As a matter a fact, Plusvalenza FC is now competing with Piemonte Calcio as the new ironic way to refer to Juventus while both Roma and especially Inter have been accused of using creative accounting with their sales in an effort to use plusvalenze to meet their Financial Fair Play parameters (this is even more relevant when you consider that Chievo received a point deduction at the start of last season as punishment for a series of questionable plusvalenze with Cesena).

Moggi certainly was the Godfather of the plusvalenza, but the prime of his management career came in Serie A’s glory days when almost all teams were flush with cash. Nowadays between Financial Fair Play and most Italian clubs carrying substantial debts, plusvalenza is becoming an essential tool when it comes to survival and fielding competitive teams.

Juventus fans have seen the good and bad sides of plusvalenze in past two years. The club was essentially able to cover the cost of the transfer fee to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo by selling likes of Audero, Sturaro, Cerri and Mandragora to mid-table teams in Serie A. These players had been previously bought more as future financial instruments than building blocks for the team and after owning them for a bit, Juventus flipped them for a considerably higher amount than their remaining amortized value.

Plusvalenze used to acquire an all time great like Cristiano Ronaldo are easy to digest, especially when they involve players that aren’t able part of the squad, but it then becomes much more painful to see the likes of Moise Kean, Leonardo Spinazzola and Joao Cancelo leave to generate the profits necessary to maintain a squad that features Ronaldo, newly acquired De Ligt and numerous veterans earning over 7 million after taxes a season.

Cancelo and Spinazzola generated a substantial profit despite spending just one season in Turin, as part of those deals Juventus also acquired Danilo and Luca Pellegrini. It’s hard to argue that the Bianconeri are considerably weaker at the wing back position as a result of the two transactions, but the financial gains on the transactions are what helped pay for acquiring the likes of De Ligt and Demiral. The same applies to Rabiot and Ramsey, who despite signing on a Bosman deal come with substantial annual salaries.

On top of paying for an expensive squad, Juventus posted a significant loss during their last fiscal year. There is the obvious spending to secure Ronaldo (and to pay for his salary), but also the Bianconeri didn’t make a very deep run in the Champions League thus limiting their revenue. To help compensate for the recent expenses and difficult financial outcome, Juventus had to also sacrifice Moise Kean who was sold for 30 million to Everton.

While some complained about the low return, Kean was also in the last deal of his year and at least his entire transfer fee was a plusvalenza since he had no amortized value as a home grown player. For the same reason, Milan strongly encouraged Patrick Cutrone to accept Wolvehampton’s offer- the plusvalenza generated by that transaction can essentially cover the annual cost of all of the Rossoneri’s new additions this summer.

On the other side of Milan, Inter have perfected the art of generating plusvalenze to help meet their Financial Fair Play parameters. While moving Nicolo Zaniolo in the Radja Nainggolan deal certainly came back to bite them, overall the Nerazzurri have done very well selling their Primavera players (who in almost all cases are pure plusvalenze when sold since they tend not to have amortized values to offset) to balance their budget, their most recent accounting masterpiece featured Zinho Vanheudsen joining Standard Liege for over 12 million.

It’s certainly understandable that fans mainly just care about seeing their squads improve in the summer, and someone who is Juventus’ sporting director has to accept that you can go from being a called a genius on the day you sign De Ligt to being called a bumbling fool for selling Cancelo on top of considering selling Dybala- but there are usually connections between the two things, as Moggi taught us a “plusvalenza da urlo” can also net you three champions like Buffon, Thuram and Nedved because you sold Zidane at the right time.

 

AC Milan rumour round-up: Laxalt and Suso face uncertain future; Correa stalemate

Another week has gone by, and as usual, there has been no shortage of AC Milan news. In fact, the Rossoneri remain very active on the market as a few pieces are still missing in Giampaolo’s team. Down below are the latest rumours. 

Suso future still uncertain

The Spaniard’s future is yet to be decided, despite Giampaolo’s comments on him the other week, stating that he has fallen in love with the player and thus wants to keep him. Milan, however, potentially have other plans as they are willing to listen to offers. The price tag is believed to be around €35m.  Continue reading

Selling Suso would be a big mistake by AC Milan

Despite a stellar pre-season with AC Milan, adapting to his new role quicker than expected under Giampaolo’s guidance, Suso remains on the market as the Rossoneri are looking to gather funds for other operations. In my opinion, selling the Spaniard would be a huge mistake. 

As many can agree on, the winger has been one of the best, if not the best, Milan players in the last two seasons. That alone, one might think, should secure his stay at the Rossoneri for the upcoming season. However, as a result of the transfer market strategies, his future at San Siro is now at serious risk. Continue reading

AC Milan rumour round-up: Suso set to stay; Leao arrives, Correa next?

Another week of transfer rumours has been, and as always with AC Milan, there have been tons of them. From the arrival of Rafael Leao to new updates on Suso’s future, this recap brings you up to speed with all things Rossoneri. 

Suso set to stay after impressive pre-season

The Spaniard has impressed everyone in his new role behind the strikers, after previously struggling there. During the pre-season, he’s been the Rossoneri’s best player, managing to create chances both for himself and his teammates. Against Man Utd, he scored an elegant curler past De Gea, in addition to assisting Castillejo for the second. Continue reading

Last month of transfer window in Serie A

While the transfer window closes in the Premier League next Thursday, we have another four weeks of rumors, deals, plusvalenza calculations to go in Serie A. What do the top teams need to address in the final third of the Mercato? Let’s take a look by asking a key question for each

 

Do Lazio have to sell Milinkovic Savic?

Say what you will about Claudio Lotito, but he certainly likes to handle transfer business on his terms. Sending Milan Badelj back to Fiorentina after previously signing him on a Bosman after his contract with Tuscan club expired is just his latest coup. Lotito’s ability to sell well, and find cheap and outstanding replacements for his stars, have ensured that Lazio have no Financial Fair Play concerns or even any significant debt.

For this reason, Lazio would be happy to keep the Serbian international at least through next January. But even though Milinkovic Savic’s main suitor Manchester United have only 5 more days to sign him, he could also be a target for Paris St Germain who have until end of August to strike a deal. Should Lazio be able to retain the Sergeant, they would be in great position to challenge for a Champions League spot considering that Vavro should improve their defense and Lazzari has shown in preseason why so many saw him a perfect fit for Simone Inzaghi.

Should Juventus fans panic?

Although the Moise Kean sale would probably look a bit better had the De Ligt signing been completed after it since it was done partly to finance the enormous expense of acquiring the Dutch defender, losing the teenager is a tough blow on the pitch no matter how big the plusvalenza. Still, things could get considerably worse on Juventus Twitter should the Cancelo for Danilo + cash deal go through (which looks very likely) as well as the Dybala “sacrifice” to acquire Lukaku.

While there are off-field and financial issues behind the desire to move Cancelo, Juventus would not only lose one of their best performers from last season, they would also considerably improve another contender for the Champions League (which at least isn’t a concern with Dybala in the short term).

Certainly there are reasons for concern when you look at the considerable talent potentially leaving Turin this summer, but Fabio Paratici has also added significant talent with De Ligt, Demiral, Ramsey and Rabiot- ultimately Juventus will probably go as far as their two new midfielders can take them because -at least with Maurizio Sarri on the bench- Juve won’t have to rely so much on an attacking right back to bring most of the creativity.

 

Can Napoli and Inter finally bolster their attack?

So far the likes of Lukaku, Dzeko, James Rodriguez and Lozano have yet to arrive which has left a very sour taste in the team’s fan bases. But when you look at Inter’s and Napoli’s moves so far the teams are certainly improved, especially on defense since they acquired Godin (who did suffer a minor injury) and Manolas respectively.

Napoli went through a very stressful negotiation with Mino Raiola for Kostas Manolas so it remains to be seen if that will carry over in a potential move for Lozano, who is more likely to leave PSV after the Dutch club failed to qualify for the Champions League. De Laurentiis is also hoping he can convince Real Madrid and James Rodriguez to accept a loan with option to buy deal- a formula which at the moment neither party is excited by. While haven’t been any confirmations on the reports of Napoli offering Milik to Manchester United for Lukaku, could the Polish striker be in play for a potential swap deal should Mauro Icardi agree to play close to the Amalfi coast?

Inter are monitoring the Dybala/Lukaku situation- they want to be ready to bounce for either player should the Juventus striker fail to agree to terms with Manchester United. Lukaku would be more than happy to play for Conte and maybe Dybala would look at them in a more positive light now that Juventus has made it clear they do not see him as an important part of their futures.

The Nerazzurri continue to pursue both Edin Dzeko and Ante Rebic as alternatives to Lukaku- their acquisitions wouldn’t be mutually exclusive and would give Conte different options to play alongside Lautaro Martinez.

 

How will Atalanta replace Mancini?

The Bergamaschi have had an outstanding window by adding Luis Muriel, Malinovskyi and retaining Pasalic. While there were concerns they would move their top performers, the only starter they sold is center back Gianluca Mancini to Roma. 

Atalanta are considering some options abroad with Sevilla’s Sergi Gomez and Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Ayhan, they could go with an internal solution by moving Hateboer to center back or giving a chance Roger Ibanez (who arrived from Fluminese last January) or Marco Varnier who tore his ACL last summer after arriving from Cittadella as Caldara’s replacement.

 

Will Milan have to sacrifice Frank Kessie’?

Donnarumma’s decision to stay and potentially extend his contract and the inability to find a team willing to pay Suso’s exit clause of 40 million, may force Milan to sacrifice Kessie’. The Ivorian midfielder was a much more logical fit playing for Gattuso than in Giampaolo’s ball possession system and he could net a pretty big plusvalenza since he has suitors in the Premier League- particularly Wolverhampton. 

Time is a factor in this potential deal since the transfer window in the Premier League closes on Thursday, but Milan would at least have almost a full month to reinvest the Kessie funds on Angel Correa.

 

Positive first showing by AC Milan despite makeshift eleven

AC Milan kicked off their pre-season in good fashion, facing Bayern Munich on Wednesday morning Italy time. However, despite the result (0-1), the Rossoneri had a positive first showing, as their game plan looked promising. 

In the first half, Giampaolo’s men showed great promise against an opponent that focused on pressing high up the pitch, which immediately put the Rossoneri’s defenders to the test. Fortunately, despite the fact that the centre-back duo consisted of Gabbia and Strinic (a 19-year-old and a left-back), they were able to handle the German side’s attacks very well. Continue reading

AC Milan’s International Champions Cup schedule

In exactly one week, AC Milan will be back in action once again, as the pre-season kicks off in the United States. For Giampaolo, it will be a good opportunity to introduce the players to the new formation, while also making his verdict on a few players with an uncertain future. 

This year’s edition of International Champions Cup premiered in the middle of the night on Wednesday (European time), as Fiorentina beat Guadalajara by two goals to one. For Milan, the first match will take place in one week, scheduled for 03:00 on Wednesday. The Rossoneri will face Bayern Munich, who will be looking for revenge after losing this fixture two years ago by four goals to nil.

More importantly, however, the Rossoneri fans will get to see the first glimpse of Giampaolo’s Milan, set to deploy the 4-3-1-2 formation. That said, it remains to be seen which players will get the nod, although one could assume that the Italian will try to test as many players as possible. After all, the pre-season might decide a few players’ futures with the club.

In total, Giampaolo’s men will play three games in the tournament: two in the USA and one in Wales. In other words, a nice little warm-up ahead of the season’s start, especially since the opponents are of good calibre. In fact, after the tournament, Milan will only play one more friendly this summer: in Kosovo against local team FC Feronikeli.

Therefore, it will be important for Giampaolo to maximize these three games: from learning his squad the dynamics of the new formation, while also being able to test a few uncertainties. The likes of Andre Silva and Suso come to mind, as both have been linked with an exit for different reasons. The Portuguese striker will most likely fit in the system, while the Spanish winger could struggle in a more central role next season.

Along with the management, Giampaolo will then have to make a decision on the squad as a whole before the transfer window closes, making sure that he is as prepared as possible ahead of an important season. Down below, you can see the full schedule for the Rossoneri during the International Champions Cup.

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Tactical tests at Milanello for Giampaolo: Calhanoglu, Suso and more

As expected, Giampaolo is getting to know the AC Milan squad ahead of the upcoming season, painting a picture of how the starting eleven should look come the end of August. According to Sky Italia, several players were tested by the manager during Monday’s training session at Milanello. 

Starting from the back, the defence tested is very similar to that of last year, also because there’s only been one signing on that front thus far. Giampaolo tried Musacchio and Romagnoli as the duo in the centre, while Rodriguez played as the left-back, although Hernandez is expected to start at the beginning of the season. On the right flank, Calabria and Conti will have to battle it out for a starting spot. Continue reading

The different approaches Roma, Inter & Milan took to comply with FFP

manolas

In many ways June 30th is an even more significant deadline than the last day of the transfer window since that is when the fiscal year for many clubs ends. For the clubs who also have to meet Financial Fair parameters, or who want to avoid having FFP restrictions in the first place, it’s an especially important deadline to get their houses in order. We have seen Inter, Roma and Milan- three clubs who have FFP restrictions- and Juventus, who want to avoid having parameters set upon them, handle this deadline in very different ways. 

Let’s start with Inter who thanks to their very strong youth system have been able to remain complaint without having to sell any significant starters in recent years. This strategy has worked very well for the nerazzurri since the only time sacrificing a prospect has really come back to haunt them is with Nicolo’ Zaniolo, so despite that setback the club decided to continue with this approach.

This year they sold Andrea Pinamonti to Genoa for 18 million (with a gentleman’s agreement for a buy back), Zinho Vanheudsen to Standard Liege as well as Andrea Adorante to Parma and Marco Sala to Sassuolo as part of the Sensi deal- interesting only the Sala part of the transaction was announced on June 30th for fiscal reasons.

Roma on the other hand continued to sell established players in an effort to comply with Financial Fair Play, since they won’t be able to count on the Champions League revenues after failing to qualify for the next edition, they had even more urgency to shed some of their higher salaries. 

In addition to Kostas Manolas joining Napoli (a deal expected to be announced on June 30th) for his full exit clause and Gerson being sold to Dinamo Moscow for 10 million, the giallorossi also rekindled their relationship with Juventus, which had been rather frosty since the bianconeri exercised Miralem Pjanic’s exit clause a few years ago, with the interesting Leonardo Spinazzola for Luca Pellegrini swap.

Just like with Inter announcing the Sala transaction right before their fiscal year ended, Roma using timing to their advantage. As part of the deal for Manolas, the giallorossi will also acquire Amadou Diawara to replace Daniele De Rossi- but his acquisition for 18 million will be announced after the sale of the Greek defender so they can get the incoming plusvalenza at end of fiscal year 2019 and place the expense to acquire the Napoli midfielder in next year’s.

Gianluigi-Donnarumma

Let’s move on to Milan who recently struck a deal with UEFA to get more time to balance their financial books after the disastrous Chinese era. In exchange for sitting out this edition of the Europa League, the rossoneri have now an extra year to get their balance sheet in order, this will allow them to not have to rush the sale of some players who can bring in some significant plusvalenze, especially goal keeper Gigio Donnarumma, whose departure would also save Milan 24 million in wages before taxes the next two years.

In addition to Donnarumma, new sporting director Massara will work with Maldini and Boban on selling players who failed to live to expectations (Rodriguez, Laxalt, Biglia) and those who can bring in a big plusvalenza like Kessie, Cutrone and Suso (to be clear not all of the players listed in this paragraph will be sold)

While they failed to land promising Turkish defender Kabak, we can expect Milan to continue targeting players with significant upside who also have fairly low salaries like Theo Hernandez, Gianluca Mancini and Dani Ceballos- this will help Milan keep their payroll in check while also landing players who can either be an important part of their future or a candidate to net a big plusvalenza down the road.

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Juventus continue to look for ways to avoid having Financial Fair Play parameters slapped on them to begin with by selling some of the prospects they had acquired in previous years. The end of the co ownership provision a few years ago, started the trend of young players being sold with options to buy and counter options to buy back like in the cases of Emil Audero (whom Sampdoria just kept) and Roberto Mandragora, whom Udinese bought for 20 million while Juventus had right to buy him back for 24 million.

While Juventus didn’t have to sell Dybala and/or Pjanic after acquiring Ronaldo, they ended up paying for the former Real Madrid striker by selling Audero, Mandragora, Orsolini, Cerri and Sturaro- they are starting to make a down payment for their next big addition (likely De Ligt) by selling Spinazzola to Roma- look for Paratici to continue this trend.