Welcome back to Italy where the Regionnaire save continues as we proceed with transitioning AC Milan to a local-only club culture and transfer policy in Football Manager 2023. When we last left off, we had narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification on the last day of the season, finishing 5th in our first Serie A campaign at the helm of the Rossoneri which all in all was a decent finish considering we had already sold the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leão and Ante Rebic as part of our Regionnaire project. The board didn’t seem to be in agreement however; having earlier been knocked out of our Champions League group, showdown talks were held but eventually they agreed to trust the process and give us more time to prove our worth at the San Siro.
That takes us into the Summer 2023 Transfer Window with a €62m budget however with one important decision having been made: we will spend the next 3 months completely overhauling the squad until the only players contracted to the club are those who were born or developed within 50km of the city of Milan – so rather than wait two seasons as was the original plan, we will kick off Season 2 with a fully “Regionnaired” squad and backroom staff. That means we have a hell of a lot of work to do, starting with selling all remaining non-local assets including the likes of Ismaël Bennacer, Alexis Saelemaekers and Mike Maignan. It’s going to be a busy summer…
Transfers Out 👋
In real life, Sandro Tonali is said to be Milan’s record sale after his €70m move to Newcastle, just pipping the €68m fee they attained from Real Madrid for Kaka way back in 2009. After that the fees start to get considerably lower, so one would imagine that the €65m we received from the sale of Mike Maignan to Manchester United will largely please most fans considering Milan paid €16m for him just 12 months ago. He is followed out the door by Alexis Saelemaekers (€50m), who joins former teammate Rafael Leão at PSG who themselves have been busy picking up the likes of Evanilson and Thiago Almada in this window. Next on the chopping block are defenders Pierre Kalulu (Arsenal – €22m) & Malick Thiaw (€10m – Union Berlin), while we raise over €30m through the sales of Krunic, Adli, Messias, Florenzi and Origi who is simply awful in FM23.
As the end of the window approaches we are left with just two first-team players on the books for whom we are struggling to command any form of reasonable transfer fee. Despite repeat interest from Man Utd and Newcastle, Ismaël Bennacer doesn’t attract any bids with the latter opting for another Regionnaire-eligible player in the form of Franck Kessié instead; after several persistent attempts, we manage to secure a deadline day loan for Bennacer to Atletico Madrid with a mandatory fee of €45m payable at the end of the season; we take a hit on his wages but it will be worth it once we can offload him permanently. Charles De Ketelaere also proves to be equally difficult to find a new home for with most clubs not willing to come close to his €54k p/w salary; it takes us all the way to deadline day to seal a similar loan move to Roma (now led by Gennaro Gattuso after they sacked José Mourinho so take from that what you will) – they will pay €15m to make it a permanent move next season.
Time to say goodbye…
There is one set of final farewells to be made which warrants a paragraph on today’s blog post. The end of the 2022/2023 season sees the departures of not one but two club legends in the form of Olivier Giroud and ZlatanIbrahimovic. We opted not to renew Giroud’s contract knowing that he has no future with us in this save (a tough decision after he scored 25 league goals last season), and he remarkably signs for rivals Inter Milan on a free transfer – a knife through the heart of Rossoneri fans 💔. He is followed out the door by that man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was injured for most of the season and finally hangs up his boots at the ripe old age of 41 years old.
Relief! That means we have finally completed a full clear-out of our squad with the likes of Sandro Tonali, Davide Calabria, Matteo Gabbia and Tommaso Pobega the only players that remain from the original Milan squad we inherited at the start of this save. This brings our overall transfer income to €178m for the summer and gives us the bones of €250m to spend rebuilding this squad accordingly.
Transfers In 🤝
Unfortunately some of the biggest-name local-born / locally-produced players remain unattainable for another while yet – the likes of Manuel Locatelli and Dejan Kulusevski both signing permanent deals with Juventus and Tottenham respectively following successful loan deals, while Alessandro Bastoni (€142m-€191m) and Gianluigi Donnarumma (€326m-€355m!!) are simply too expensive to even consider approaching at this stage in the save. We had identified GK, LCB, DM, AMR, AMC and STC as the main positions in need of filling, and that’s exactly what we did.
Goalkeeper – Stefano Turati & Michele Di Gregorio
The departures of Mike Maignan and Denis Vasquez mean we need not one but two goalkeepers, and as we were unable to decide which would be first choice we end up signing Turati (€20m – Sassuolo) and Di Gregorio (€1.5m – Monza) who are both Milan-born and can happily compete for the #1 jersey.
Central Defender – Caleb Okoli & Zinho Vanheusen
Without an obvious left-sided centre-back available in the market (apart from Bastoni, sigh), we decide that Scalvini will move across to the LCB role having spent most of last season training him on his weaker foot. That opens the door for not one but two right-sided defenders to arrive in the form of Caleb Okoli (€20m) who has been in the Atalanta system since age 14, and Zinho Vanheusden (€12m) who joined the Inter academy at aged 16 but never made a first-team appearance either side of spells at Standard Liége, Genoa and AZ Alkmaar.
Having let go of Bennacer and knowing that we generally play with two players in the DM strata (an Anchor and a Segundo Volante), we need to not only replace Bennacer but add quality and depth to ensure we are covered across all competitions next season. Tonali and Pobega featured predominantly in the Volante role last year but looking at Pobega’s impressive goal output (along with the eligible AMC options available in the market), it’s likely we will deploy him in a more advanced role next season which frees up space for two defensive midfielders to join the ranks: Segrate-born Nicolò Rovella (€12m) who signs from Juventus to be our likely first choice for the Anchor role alongside Tonali, and Italian international Matteo Pessina (€6.25m), who arrives from Atalanta after a season-long loan at hometown club Monza.
Attacking Midfielder (Right) – Amad Diallo
Replacing Saelemaekers was never going to be an easy task, especially with a seemingly scarce flow of local-born wingers available on the market. The aforementioned Kulusevski is a long-term target for this role, however in the meantime we turn to his former Atalanta team-mate Amad Diallo who joined the Bergamo academy aged just 13 and subsequently rose through the ranks to join Manchester United, albeit struggling to break into the first-team side after loan spells at Rangers and Sunderland. Their loss is our gain, it takes €34m but Diallo looks the perfect fit to unlock the Inverted Winger role on that right-hand side with last-season’s young signing Valentin Carboni offering competition and backup in the same position.
Attacking Midfielder (Centre) – Cesare Casadei
As discussed on the 5 Star Potential podcast, we have been looking at Chelsea’s former Inter academy graduate Cesare Casadei for many months now with a view of signing him to be retrained as our #10 at Milan. In real-life, Casadei originally operated in a slightly deeper role however he has shown his attacking prowess not least at the U20 World Cup where he scored 7 goals and won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards as he helped Italy go all the way to the final only to lose out to a late Uruguay winner. This combined with his FM attributes make want to deploy him in a much more advanced role (16 Off the Ball, 14 Finishing, 14 Composure, 15 Long Shots, 14 First Touch & 14 Technique 🤤), however that’s not the only option we have for Casadei if we decide to deploy Pobega as the #10 in this side (more to follow below 👀). It takes a big fee but €54m later, Cesare Casadei is officially an AC Milan player 🔥.
Striker – Federico Bonazzoli ??
Who? My thoughts exactly. Remarkably, for a region that has produced the likes of Giuseppe Signori, Giuseppe Meazza, Marco Delvecchio and even Mario Balotelli, the volume and quality of local-born / locally-produced forwards is extremely thin at this moment in time. Potential options include Andrea Pinamonti and Andrea Petagna however both completed post-loan deals to Sassuolo and Monza respectively, while the likes of Patrick Cutrone and Roberto Piccoli haven’t really come close to their earlier FM potential and simply aren’t good enough for the club.
That leave us with..Federico Bonazzoli, the former Inter Milan academy player who joined the Nerazurri at age 7 and was very much hyped up to be the next Christian Vieri, having played and scored at every youth level for Italy from U15 all the way to U21 level. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to make the grade at Senior level for Inter, featuring just 5 times either side of a host of mixed-success loan spells before eventually making a permanent move to Salernitana in 2022. Though not exactly rocking the goalscoring charts in real-life or in FM, his attributes are actually quite decent for an old-school centre-forward and €3.2m is all it takes to bring him in permanently as an option.
Why do I say option? Well – now that we have seen all that the market has to offer, a big decision is made which could make or break this season. While we toyed with the idea of a Strikerless formation which I have never used in Football Manager, I can’t get away from the idea that Cesare Casadei could potentially be retrained and deployed as a Striker if given the right support and guidance, which would at least give us another option should Bonazzoli prove to be unable to score regularly at this level.
We top off the window with a few signings to bolster our squad depth (Raoul Bellanova, Filippo Mané, Roko Simic, Kevin Zefi to name a few) and all in all, it’s has been a pretty solid transfer window considering our save rules and Regionnaire ambitions for this AC Milan side.
Forwards: Musa Barrow, Federico Bonazzoli, Manolo Gabbiadini, Valentin Carboni.
The big question remains – will the board be happy? Will this side be good enough to challenge at the top of Serie A next season? At least one fan thinks so…
Thanks for reading – be like Liam 😄.
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