Fan Zone: Isak on Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli & other Milan topics

Despite his young age, Isak Möller is a knowledgeable and well-seasoned Milan fan. He is an integral part of www.sempremilan.com and you can find him on Twitter @Isak_Moller.

Below is the latest Q&A with Isak- again I cannot highlight enough how much of a big Milan fan he is! The club is struggling to win trophies but it does not mean the fans have disappeared! Here we go:

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Milan players (ranked by preference) and why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: As a Swede, it would be impossible not to choose the big striker. I started following Milan (and football in general) in 2010, meaning the first season I watched in full ended with us winning the Scudetto! Zlatan was a huge part of this and we really missed him when he left. Even at 38 years-old, arriving for his second spell at the club, he has made an incredible difference.

Paolo Maldini: Although I never got to see him in action before he retired, it’s an obvious choice. The greatest players are never forgotten, and the defender is certainly one of these. Ever since I started following the Rossoneri, he has been the symbol for the red and black colors, keeping the club’s reputation intact.

Alessio Romagnoli: As mentioned, I wish I had followed Milan back in the day. But since that isn’t the case, it would be silly not to pick a player from the more recent years. Joining from Roma in 2015, Romagnoli has been one of our best players, keeping us from crumbling completely. He has certainly become a fan favorite, giving his all while wearing the captain’s armband.

2) From the current team, pick your favorite Milan player by position. Pick one for DEF, one for midfield and the same for attack, & why?

DEF: Obviously, I have to choose Romagnoli for this one as well. Although this season has been tough, the 25-year-old has continued to perform on a consistent level, which isn’t exactly easy given the number of changes made throughout the course of the season.

MID: Hakan Calhanoglu. Yes, I’m one of those fans. If there is one player that has divided the Milan fan-base in recent years, it’s the Turkish midfielder. You could argue that he’s inconsistent, but in my opinion, he’s a very important player even when he isn’t performing at his best level. Hopefully, Ralf Rangnick can help him improve further next season, should he arrive.

STR: Of course, Ibrahimovic. It’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri have performed a lot better since his arrival in January, seemingly elevating the likes of Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Ismael Bennacer. Hopefully, he will stay for next season as well, although it looks unlikely.

3) Most important Milan victory in your lifetime? Why?

I would probably have to say the Champions League win against Liverpool in 2007, getting revenge on the English side. And since it’s the last time we won the competition, it obviously makes it a bit more important.

4) Your all-time favorite Milan match? Why? 

It has to be the Supercoppa Italiana final against Juventus in 2016. After beating the Bianconeri a few months earlier in the league, courtesy of a Manuel Locatelli rocket, we managed to do it again against all odds. It was also the first trophy in quite some time, and although I watched the 2010/11 Scudetto season (I was very young), this win meant more to me.

5) What’s Milan’s objective for this season? Is it making the Europa League, or perhaps the Champions League?

As always, the objective is to reach the Champions League. However, looking at the current standings, it becomes pretty clear that the Rossoneri will have to fight for the Europa League.

6) Where do you see Milan’s weaknesses? Is it the midfield or are the issues defensively?

At the beginning of the season, I would have said the midfield, or perhaps even the attack. However, since Pioli changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1, everything has worked a lot better. I think it’s just a case of getting better players, which obviously is something that Milan will work on this summer.

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7) Different from ranking your favorite Milan players in Questions 1&2, who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Milan jersey?

I think it has to be Paolo Maldini. In addition to being an icon of the club, he has also become an icon of defending. I don’t think it needs further explaining, really, as he’s known all over the world as a spectacular player.

8) Who is the most critical player for this Milan team? Is it Rebic, Ibra or Theo Hernandez?

For the time being, I think I speak for the entire Milan community when I say Ibrahimovic. Sure, you could argue that both Hernandez and Rebic have done better on the pitch. However, you can’t deny the Swede’s incredible impact on the team, turning things around after a poor first half of the season.

9) Who should Milan sign realistically? If you can pick 3 players to strengthen the squad ahead of the next season?

If I can only pick three players, it would have to be one for each department. Milan desperately need a centre-back, in my opinion, and signing a player like Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic would make it interesting for the future. For the midfield, the choice is obvious: Sandro Tonali. The competition is fierce, but I don’t think we should rule out the Rossoneri. Up front, there has been a lot of talk about Gianluca Scamacca, who certainly is a name for the future. However, if we need to replace Ibrahimovic, I’d say Arkadiusz Milik.

10) Why did Bonucci and Higuain fail to impress at Milan?

I think it was a combination of many things. Let’s just put it this way, Leo Bonucci wasn’t the only disappointing player that season, although it must be said he was very good under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso. In the end, he clearly just got homesick. As for Gonzalo Higuain, he’s no longer the goalscorer he used to be. In half a season at Milan, he got 8 goals and 3 assists. This season, with Juve of course, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. Considering he has played more games with the Bianconeri, it’s not much of a difference if you ask me.

11) Based on the above, would you sign another player from the current Juve squad if he’s made available? 

I wouldn’t mind someone like Daniele Rugani, although he isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Merih Demiral would obviously boost our squad, but the price tag is simply too high. That’s about it, though.

12) When football resumes, do you see Milan with any realistic chance of making 4th to qualify for the Champions League?

Not at all, but you never know! I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for the Europa League.

 

Five More Serie A Players Test Positive for Coronavirus

After the league was temporarily suspended last week, it was reported that Juventus defender Daniele Rugani was the first Serie A player to contract the coronavirus. Shortly thereafter, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini announced he tested positive for the disease himself, indicating the suspension of the season was the correct call. Following these reports, all Champions League games were postponed in addition to the suspension of all major sports leagues, including the NBA, the NHL, and the MLB.

Today, reports came out that a further four Sampdoria players got the Coronavirus in addition to Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic. Morten Thorsby, Albin Ekdal, Omar Colley and Antonino La Gumina were the league’s next round of confirmed cases. Moreover, Sampdoria’s team doctor Amedeo Baldari also contracted the virus, bringing the league’s total to eight for the time being.

Sampdoria midfielder Albin Ekdal took to Twitter to address the latest news:

“Listen to the authorities and do everything in your power to help reduce the spread of this virus. It will help us protect the sick and the elderly. Lastly I would like to say thank you to all healthcare professionals who are doing a heroic job right now.”

Given the recent spike in cases, Italy’s Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora recently spoke out against the league’s indecision. In a recent interview with Rai Uno, Spadafora said: “Football is a world in itself: there was a time when the Lega Serie A didn’t want to take responsibility as it should have done,” said Spadafora. “We did it as a government to protect interests. Now there is no longer any controversy because some of the players have the virus. We would have preferred to have stopped the league sooner, but better late than never.”

With the league suspended until April 3, it has left many wondering if the season will finish at all and if so, what the result will be. Currently, Juventus are one point ahead of Lazio in first, however, the bianconeri still have a game to play against Simone Inzaghi’s men. If the games cannot be played, playoffs are being touted as a real option. However, it is still unclear how that would play out.

Where it might get trickier is in the relegation zone. Judging by the standings, SPAL and Brescia are as good as relegated on 18 and 16 points respectively. While either side could hit miraculous form over the last twelve match-days to save themselves, it was looking increasingly unlikely.

The third and final relegation spot, however, is a different story. Lecce and Genoa are currently tied on points, with the Grifoni holding the tie-breaker for the time being. Beyond Genoa and Lecce, Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria are just one point ahead in the relegation race. Torino aren’t exactly out of the woods either on 28 points and could feature in a relegation playoff if one comes about.

With much uncertainty surrounding the league and more cases being reported by the day within the league, Serie A will need to take action shortly. After all, April 3 is fast approaching.

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Coppa Italia: Milan vs Juventus Preview

Juventus will take on Milan in a midweek Coppa Italia away bout, where they will be looking to gain an edge in the first leg of an 180-minute contest that will be completed in three weeks, on March 4th. The Bianconeri fairly easily eliminated Sampdoria and Roma to get to the semi-finals. Their dominance in the domestic cup was interrupted last season, when they were knocked out early by Atalanta after taking home the trophy for four straight editions. A streak that allowed them to run away in the historical standings, as they were previously tied with Roma at nine.  Continue reading

Sarri previews the Coppa Italia match against Udinese

Coach Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the journalists to discuss the tomorrow’s Coppa Italia game against Udinese: “Matthijs De Ligt is coming back to peak form and the Roma match is a proof of that. Daniele Rugani is an important player and I hold him in high regard.”

“It is not easy to recover after a big game but we have to do that, we spent a lot physically and mentally on Sunday. We want to move forward, so we have to find the proper motivations and strength to recharge the batteries. Every competition we are in is an objective of ours.” Continue reading

Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

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Sarri provides injury updates and more ahead of Bologna game

Maurizio Sarri was back in front of the press today to discuss few topics ahead of the Bologna game. He started off by assessing the form of Douglas Costa and the other injured players: “I do not know where the news about his return came from because he has always been practicing on his own so far. The question about the scheme will be relevant at a later time. Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Mattia De Sciglio all re-joined the group in the last few days.” Continue reading

Serie A Wishlist: One Player Each For Calcio’s Top Four

With the mercato closing in just under two week’s time, many of Italy’s top sides are scrambling to complete their sides. Inter have been linked with every striker remotely available, Roma desperately need a defender while Napoli are looking at a number of James Rodriguez alternatives. But who exactly should these sides be targeting before the window shuts? Let’s have a look starting with the Italian champions, Juventus.

1) Juventus

Juventus started the transfer window in swash-buckling fashion securing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt, but have recently taken a back seat focusing on player sales. While their roster is arguably the strongest in Italy, there’s no denying it still has a few holes. For one, Danilo has to come good or they’re without a top class right back. On the other hand, the bianconeri could really use another midfielder. That being said, both positions are extremely unlikely and Juventus seem intent on going into the season with what they have.

Otherwise, if Juve are able to sell Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and those remain big ifs, they should go all out for Inter’s Mauro Icardi. After all, they could use fresh legs in the final third and have recently sold Moise Kean. You just feel if the Italian champions don’t sign Icardi, they’d have sacrificed Kean for nothing. A player like Icardi, while he comes with personal baggage, is extremely hard to find. As a result, Fabio Paratici should do all he could to be in a position to sign the Inter man come the end of August.

2) Napoli

At the time of writing this, Napoli have reportedly signed PSV’s Hirving Lozano. The Mexican is a versatile forward capable of playing anywhere across the front-line but will likely feature on the wing. Despite his signing, the partenopei are still lacking something in the final third. All too often last season, they dropped points as a result of their own profligacy in front of goal, costing them on their ultimate Scudetto objective.

While Icardi would arguably do wonders under Carlo Ancelotti, the player Napoli should be looking at is James Rodriguez. The Colombian remains on Real Madrid’s chopping block and would add some much needed creativity in the final third. With Insigne and Lozano on either wing and Rodriguez in the hole, Napoli’s front-line would be truly devastating.

3) Roma 

Where to begin with Roma? The giallorossi could arguably use another winger and right back but for the time being will have to settle for a new central defender. Right now, Roma’s centre-backs consist of Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Gianluca Mancini and the newly-acquired Mert Cetin.

Out of them, Mancini is of starting quality, but none of the other three names inspire confidence as regular starters. While Cetin is reportedly a top talent, it would almost be too much to ask of the 22-year-old. As a result, Roma would be wise to secure another centre-half. Recently, it’s been reported they’ve been in the market for Daniele Rugani or Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.

Either would frankly add some much-needed depth at the heart of defence, but what Roma need is a long-term solution. Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would be ideal. Before the end of July, he was available for just under 30 million euros, yet the giallorossi refused to meet the Belgian’s release clause. A decision that might come back to haunt them.

4) Inter

The truth is Inter, much like Roma, could use a few players: a left-back to challenge Asamoah, a right back in case Valentino Lazaro flops and another striker for depth. While they could use all three and will likely make a push for three more players, their most pressing need remains a vice-Lukaku. Currently, Inter only possess Lautaro Martinez that they can rely on besides the Belgian.

As Conte typically deploys two strikers and Inter will be competing in three competitions, adding another striker is vastly important. Recently, they’ve been linked with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and Fernando Llorente among others.

Of the three names Inter would be wise to sign the Chilean. Despite his struggles since moving to Old Trafford, moving to Inter could revitalize his career. Under Conte, Sanchez will have new-found motivation and will find a familiar partner in Romelu Lukaku.

Bonus: 

Milan: Angel Correa

Lazio: Bas Dost

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New Juventus away kit, De Ligt speaks and Rugani agent’s doubts

Juventus unveiled their away kit yesterday in Shanghai and this year Adidas went with a simple white kit with bright red details, which has been inspired by the buildings surrounding the Allianz Stadium.

Matthijs De Ligt talked with Gazzetta dello Sport: “We have many good players and everybody will have to compete for the starting job since only two out five can feature. I am surprised by the level, they are all focused. It will be hard to be a starter, but I will try to achieve that through my usual way of playing. My teammates are funny and we have few veterans. I learn every day here.” Continue reading

Juventus announce Sarri as their new coach

sarri

It took longer than anticipated, but Juventus finally have their new coach: former Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who has reportedly penned a three-year, €18M contract. Sarri is coming off a third-placed finish with the Blues and recently won the first trophy of his career by beating Arsenal in the Europa League final. It took a small financial compensation in order to release him from his deal with the English club. Despite the relative success of his tenure, Sarri butted heads with the players and the management and was never embraced by the fans during his time in London and at some point was at risk of being axed mid-season. Continue reading

Allegri takes a sabbatical, Rugani eyes extension and Barzagli talks

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Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed yesterday that he will have a sabbatical during an event in Milan: “I will take a break for a year because I need to regain control of my personal life. I have been in the whirlwind for the last 16 years, so I neglected a little my family, my kids and my friends. I will use this opportunity to recharge ahead of next season.” He had a year left on his contract and so far there have been no news about its conclusion with a severance package.

Daniele Rugani’s agent Davide Torchia spoke to Radio Bianconera about a potential new extension for his client that appears to be in the works: “We had the last one in March, but it was just a technicality, we had discussed it way back. Continue reading