After winning last season's Scudetto, AC Milan's task so to make it two in a row, after Stefano Pioli's side won it last year for the first time in eleven seasons. It was a historic and unforgettable journey for Rossoneri fans all over the world, one which saw a team that only few believed could win celebrating in the streets of Milan after beating city rivals Inter Milan and winning the trophy on the last day of the season against Sassuolo. As all the players and club directors stated after winning the Scudetto, last season's win was just the first step of a new chapter. It certainly won't be easy to replicate the success, considering the fact that other teams such as Juventus and Inter Milan are still hungry for victory, but this will be the mission of Stefano Pioli and his team. One year ago only few considered AC Milan as a title contender, while this year they will have the eyes of everyone on their backs and Rossoneri have to be considered as the top candidate to win the Scudetto.
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Summer transfer business
It wasn't an easy summer for AC Milan. New ownership arrived at the end of May, with the American private investment firm RedBird Capital signing a preliminary agreement to purchase the 19-time Serie A champions. Gerry Cardinale, the firm's founder, took charge and he is putting his imprint on multiple aspects of AC Milan. The official announcement arrived at the beginning of June and the transition for new ownership will take place over the summer, with an expected closing of no later than September 2022.
This change at the top of the club slowed contract talks for both club legend Paolo Maldini and sport director Ricky Massara which expired on June 30. At first, the ownership change seemed to be only a formality regarding their futures, but as the last days of June crept closer, no contracts were signed yet. Eventually, howerve, those deals got done, and it was Paolo Maldini himself who announced the new agreements. This awkward situation had an impact on the transfer strategies of the club, and the Rossoneri started to improve the squad only later in July.
Samu Castillejo, former captain Alessio Romagnoli and, most importantly, key midfielder Franck Kessiè left the club as free agents this summer and AC Milan has had some trouble finding their replacements. The Rossoneri tried to sign center back Sven Botman from Lille for weeks, but ultimately the player opted to join Newcastle. Renato Sanches, who had an agreement on personal terms with AC Milan last May, picked Paris Saint-Germain after his mentors, Luis Campos and Christophe Galtier, joined the French side this summer.
It was a worrying start to the transfer season, until Paolo Maldini closed the deal to sign one of the most interesting prospects in European soccer: Charles De Ketelaere. Coming from Club Brugges for around €36 million, add-ons included, the attacking midfielder is one of the players to watch for the upcoming season as he's already making an impact in the pre-season tour. Then, Rossoneri signed free agent Divock Origi from Liverpool and triggered the buy options to sign Alessandro Florenzi from AS Roma and Junior Messias from Crotone. On another note, the club saw the comeback of midfielder Tommaso Pobega and also the arrival of Yacine Adli from Bordeaux after he was loaned out last season..
Then there's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish legend will stay at AC Milan for another season and has extended his with the club until the summer of 2023. The striker had his contract due to expire in the summer, but negotiations for a renewal began immediately at the end of the season. For the 40-year-old Ibramhimovic, this was the seventh time he's reached the mountaintop of Serie A football, and he'll get at least one more chance to repeat that feat. Despite suffering yet another knee injury, Ibrahimovic is not ready to call time on his storied career. He's now recovering from offseason surgery and for someone his age, that could certainly debilitate any chances of a comeback. But this is not the first time that Ibrahimovic has faced the prospect of a possible career-ending injury. Ibrahimovic is currently in the process of recovering and he's expected to be back right after the 2022 Qatar World Cup, at the beginning of 2023. For this reason he has signed a contract worth €1.5 million with bonuses related to performances as he will be coming back only for the last part of the season. Pioli will have to count on Olivier Giroud and new signing Divock Origi until the Swedish star returns in 2023.
What to expect from AC Milan
AC Milan need to improve, especially outside of Italy after failing to get out of the Champions League's group stage last season, and were eliminated after arriving fourth in the group of Atletico Madrid, Porto and Liverpool. That was a defining moment for their season because after that elimination they started their incredible run to the Serie A title. However, this year they need to make a step also on the international level and they at least need to go through the group stage and qualify for the round of 16 (on August 25th, we will know the group stages of the UEFA Champions League 2022-23, and you can catch all the Champions League action live on Paramount+). Domestically, AC Milan are expected to fight for the title alongside Juventus and Inter Milan but not winning the Scudetto should not be considered a failure. Last year their run was unexpected and being topped by a team like Inter Milan or Juventus wouldn't be surprising this time around. The Rossoneri are also expected to be contenders in the Coppa Italia, after last year they lost in the semifinals against Inter Milan, the eventual winners.
Three players to watch out
Fikayo Tomori: Last season he definitely was one of the best defenders in the competition and this year he will be called to make another step forward and become one of the best in the world. With Romagnoli leaving the club and Simon Kjaer coming off of a season-long injury, Tomori is now the leader of the defense that was the cornerstone of Milan's championship run.
Sandro Tonali: Despite a small injury that will keep him out for the opening match against Udinese, he was one of the most important players during last year's Scudetto win and there are all the promises to see another crucial season for the 22-year-old midfielder's growth.
Divock Origi: The former Liverpool striker will be an important addition for Stefano Pioli's squad and his role will be crucial considering that he will be the backup of Olivier Giroud, until Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be back from his injury in January 2023.
AC Milan predictions
- Serie A finish: 2nd
- Top scorer: Olivier Giroud
- Player of the season: Rafael Leao
- Something unexpected: Yacine Adli will become a starter towards the end of the season