On Monday, Alessio Romagnoli committed his future to Milan, and while it would normally be a cause for celebration, some fans have been hesitant to celebrate it. Rossella Marrai-Ricco looks at why it’s unlikely that he will end up like Thiago Silva.
Last year, AC Milan and its fans enjoyed an entertaining summer. It was filled with the introduction of fresh new faces at Milanello follow a cool €250 million spent in transfers. The new owners, it seemed, were shooting for the stars. With big aspirations, comes the need for big pockets.
Since day one, though, Younghong Li and his consortium have been the constant topic of speculation, with the media often trying to find a way to put out the Diavolo’s flame. And it hasn’t stopped…
Just over a year since their infamous takeover, very little has changed. In fact, the rumours have grown increasingly worse after Milan’s bid to end the Financial Fair Play investigation was rejected by UEFA, leaving many fans and Italian football worried about their potential fate.
Such headlines have followed: “AC Milan face possible eviction from Europa League.” “Mass exodus awaits Milan in order to balance the books.”
Such headlines are concerning, of course… Milan do very well stand a chance of being evicted from the Europa League should they not find a way to pay €30m to UEFA by the end of June. While few hardly forget the reason why Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both sold to PSG back in 2012. To this day, their transfers still leave a bitter taste in any Milanista’s mouth.
It’s because of the Brazilian and the Swede’s sudden farewell from Milanello that, perhaps, Alessio Romagnoli’s contract extension has left a certain percentage of the club’s supporters adopting a rather hesitant approach to celebrating.
Since his arrival to San Siro outfit back in 2015, the 23-year-old has shown glimpses of the incredible potential Thiago Silva had displayed when he first joined the Rossoneri at the age of 24. Having come in as a replacement to the outgoing Alessandro Nesta, Silva was largely considered to be the captain in waiting.
So much so, that in July 2012, he penned in contract extension until 2017 with the club. An official statement read: "Thiago Silva himself embodies the class and style of Milan, the charisma of a club that loves the game but also the result and behaviour. And so his stay with the Rossoneri, decided by president Berlusconi, preserves the Milan identity.” Twelve days later, he signed for PSG.
Similarly, to Thiago Silva, Romagnoli had also been tipped to become the heir to the great Nesta. Beyond their shared position on the field, there have been several interesting parallels between them. Like his counterpart, the Milan defender also grew up a Lazio fan. They both stand at equal heights of 6 ft 2, read the game well, are capable of making elegant tackles and are very confident on the ball. It’s because of this that the youngster chose to sport the former Lazio skipper’s iconic No.13 upon his arrival to Milan – something that pulled on the heartstrings of the supporters.
Despite the sluggish start to the Serie A season, where he had to overcome injury and adjust to his new defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci, Romagnoli proved why he’s one of the most promising centre-backs in Europe. With a pass accuracy of 91.4% last term and averaging 5.3 clearances per game – this, according to Whoscored.com – the former Roma man has seen himself become one of the most talked about transfer targets in Europe.
Chelsea, Juventus and Liverpool have all been linked with a possible swoop for his signature. And with the club’s Europa League status in a precarious position, the rumours started to come thick and fast. A bidding war was ready to be made. But before anyone could start, in true Marco Fassone and Massiliano Mirabelli fashion, they “passiamo alle cose formali” (We move onto formal matters), and surprised everyone with a contract renewal.
In an unexpected Facebook Live video broadcast, Milan sent fans into frenzy with a “special” announcement. The teaser? Live footage of someone walking through the Mondo Milan museum at Casa Milan, before following Fassone, Mirabelli and Romagnoli from behind to the trophy room where the big announcement was made.
The deal? A new and improved contract that would tie him down to the club until 2022.
“I hope to continue here for many years to win a lot and to bring AC Milan where they deserve,” he told Milan TV, before taking to his own Instagram to declare his intention with the jersey.
"Another important step in my career, thank you AC Milan for the trust. I will honour this agreement and this jersey every day,” he wrote.
It was a quick and genius way to put to rest some of the media reports, but it wasn’t anything they hadn’t done before. In fact, it was the second time in two years that Milan had acted swiftly upon protecting their assets in Romagnoli.
In August 2016, Milan took to social media to declare that they would not sell the former Sampdoria defender, despite receiving a “significant” bid for his services, and Monday’s declaration of extending his contract is once again proof in the belief and the vision they have in him.
Naturally, Romagnoli’s extension left many fans with mixed emotions. Seeing him commit to the club when their European status is that of a precarious one fills the room with buoyant optimism, but the fact that Thiago Silva’s contract extension was dealt with in a similar light has given the fans flashbacks of that disappointing day.
Still, there is a different feeling about Alessio’s deal in comparison to that of Silva’s. Regardless of what happens with the club owners, Milan’s new management has to be commended for instilling a transparent and communicative front when it came to important issues. Respect was given to the fans, and in turn, they garnered admiration from the supporters.
If Milan absolutely needed to sell players to ease the financial situation, things would have been communicated by now. In fact, the only thing Milan management has done is show they are determined to bring the club back to the top again and by doing so, locking down Romagnoli’s services would be one of the requirements. They’ve now done that. In fact, their ability to act quick on it rather than wait until the transfer window starts heating up, shows they are also trying to put the fans at ease too.
The defender’s extension is certainly a step in the right direction for the club and moves them one step closer in achieving their vision.