AC Milan have announced Paulo Fonseca as their new coach, with the Portuguese replacing Stefano Pioli and signing a three-year contract.

The announcement comes after a whole host of coaches were linked with the job, including Antonio Conte, Roberto De Zerbi, Domenico Tedesco, Julen Lopetegui, Sergio Conceicao and many more.

It became clear towards the end of the 2023/24 season that Pioli would not be seeing out the final year of his contract with Milan, meaning the hunt for a new coach has been unofficially going on for months.

Paulo Fonseca’s work at Lille

Paulo Fonseca joins Milan after spending two seasons as the coach of Lille in Ligue 1. He signed a two-year deal at the French club in June 2022, meaning Milan have not had to buy him out of a long-running contract.

Lille had finished down in 10th the season before the 51-year-old arrived, but he secured a fifth-placed finish in the 2022/23 campaign which provided access to the Europa Conference League.

He took his side to the quarter-finals of that competition where they were narrowly knocked out by Premier League opposition Aston Villa. At the same time, he made further steps in Ligue 1 by finishing fourth, which is now a place worth of the Champions League qualification stage. There is no doubt that Fonseca has left Lille in a better place than he found them after two years.

Paulo Fonseca career: Teams coached

Paulo Fonseca as AS Roma coach. [@OfficialASRoma]

Paulo Fonseca was actually born in Mozambique and he started coaching immediately after his playing career, which was spent entirely in Portugal.

Fonseca spent seven years coaching small Portuguese clubs, slowly working up the ladder until he was in charge of Pacos de Ferreira in the top flight. He led them to an incredible third-placed finish and Champions League qualification. That led to becoming FC Porto‘s coach, but poor results meant he was not given the chance to see out the campaign.

Having returned to Pacos and and then making a move to Braga where he impressed again, Fonseca left Portugal for the Shakhtar Donetsk job. He replaced the legendary figure of Mircea Lucescu who had been in charge for 12 seasons, so there was pressure. He won the double in all three seasons at Shakhtar and also reached the Champions League round of 16 on one occasion.

The next step took him to Italy in June 2019, where he became AS Roma coach. His highest finish was fifth in Serie A and he took Roma to a Europa League semi-final, but then left the club in May 2021 after a spell that could be looked at both positively and negatively.

It is fair to say that Milan will be the biggest club that Fonseca has coached.

Paulo Fonseca formation

Whilst many have raised an eyebrow at Fonseca‘s appointment in terms of his stature within the game and the ambition of the fanbase, he does seem to be a tactical fit for this modern iteration of Milan.

RedBird Capital Group want their team to play attacking and entertaining football, and that ended up being in short supply under Pioli as his tenure progressed. The Italian switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ruben Loftus-Cheek as the No.10 and that will certainly suit Fonseca.

His Lille team primarily played in a 4-2-3-1, with a 4-3-3 also occasionally being used, so there will not be a total overhaul of shape at Milan this summer. Whilst attacking football is Fonseca‘s strength (he was overlooked for the Tottenham job in 2021 as they wanted a more defensive coach), Lille conceded 10 less goals in Ligue 1 in 2023/24 compared to his first season in charge.

The hope for Milan is that he will get more out of Rafael Leao and the midfielders from a goalscoring perspective, whilst also ensuring the Rossoneri are not a soft touch.