Giroud’s replacement and competition for Calabria: What do AC Milan need in the summer transfer window?

With Paulo Fonseca now officially the new AC Milan coach, attention turns to which players they will sign to close that huge gap to Inter next season.

Emerson Royal, Alessandro Buongiorno and Joshua Zirkzee

After the conclusion of the 2023/24 Serie A season, the next big focus for clubs will be their summer recruitment and AC Milan could be in for yet another busy transfer window.

The Rossoneri have entered a new era, one without Stefano Pioli at the helm. Paulo Fonseca has been announced as his replacement and that could ignite the summer transfer window for Milan.

Looking at the tactical styles of both on paper, there won’t be a huge change within the squad when it comes to personnel given the Portuguese coach also prefers to use a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation. That being said, some positions could be upgraded.

Striker Olivier Giroud has already departed for the MLS, and defender Simon Kjaer has also left for a new challenge. However, investment in both areas was needed before the news of their planned departures.

The need to sign a quality striker has been clear for some time now, and the defensive crisis that plagued the first half of the season showed the need for extra reinforcements in that area. As the season progressed, the need for a more defensive-minded midfielder showed, whilst investing in a new right-back also became a desire.

The heir to Olivier Giroud

With Luka Jovic not showing enough to be the starting striker for the Diavolo next season, there is a blatant need for a new No.9. Looking at RedBird Capital Group’s model of moving in the transfer market, we can guess it will be a younger striker who has a high ceiling in terms of footballing potential and profit.

It is evident that the club have a massive admiration for Joshua Zirkzee and they have pursued his signature since the end of 2023 at least. Milan are working very hard to bring the Dutchman in, although Sky Sports in the United Kingdom claim Arsenal and Manchester United are doing the same (via Sempre Milan).

With Rafael Leao and Christian Pulisic on the wings, having someone who can create opportunities for others whilst also being able to finish the product himself could be the best move Milan make, and given he has similarities with Jonathan DavidFonseca’s most-used striker at Lille – it is understandable that Milan are ready to go ‘all-in’ for him.

Joshua Zirkzee celebrates a goal for Bologna. (@BolognaFC1909en)

An upgrade on Simon Kjaer

The real low point of Milan‘s season came when their defence was decimated. They were without Malick Thiaw, Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu, and Simon Kjaer could not be relied upon fully from a fitness perspective. They have to avoid a similar situation again next season.

It’s likely that Fikayo Tomori will be the man the upgraded defence is built around, so a new partner is desired. Whilst Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu both can play alongside the Englishman, Milan want another quality option to compete.

Alessandro Buongiorno is admired, and attempts were made in January to bring the Torino star to the club, but Granata president Urbano Cairo refused to make a sale in the middle of the season. His price has risen even further since, and Antonio Conte sees him as a must-have for his Napoli defence so other targets are being followed.

Two players are dominating the links outside of Buongiorno and they are Lillian Brassier of Stade Brest and Arsenal‘s Jakub Kiwior. There has been interest in both players since before the January window. Union Berlin‘s Diogo Leite has also been linked.

Italy Men’s National Team players, including Mateo Retegui and Alessandro Buongiorno, celebrate. (@Azzurri)

A midfielder to help the defence

Ismael Bennacer has struggled for consistency since making his return and does not seem to be the sort of defensive midfielder that Milan obviously need to protect that fragile back four.

During 2023/24, Tijjani Reijnders was often used at the base of a midfield three and Yacine Adli also featured there when Bennacer was not fit. The reality, though, is that neither are natural to the role and were temporary solutions to a growingly obvious problem. The switch to a 4-2-3-1, which Fonseca is expected to stick with, increased the need for a quality defensive midfielder.

Technical director Geoffrey Moncada has been looking to France for the solution, as Milan so often do, and Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana is the preference. He is a physical, defensive-minded midfielder who can also play a more advanced role when needed. The Frenchman is available for €20 million as he has one year left on his deal.

Monaco Fofana

Competition for Davide Calabria

Finally, Milan need a right-back who can provide some genuine competition for Davide Calabria and perhaps even replace the Italian in the future. There is little pressure coming from Alessandro Florenzi and Calabria did not set the world alight this season.

One of Fonseca‘s Lille prodigies, Tiago Santos, is being followed closely. He would cost around €12m, a reasonable fee for a player with his potential who is only 21 years old.

Alternatively, there is serious interest in Emerson Royal from Tottenham. The Premier League side are likely to accept a €20m offer and this deal could move quickly now that Fonseca has been appointed.