Ante Rebić: Unexpected Hero

Milan’s fortunes have risen considerably this season. Credit can be given to management for making a coaching change that was an unpopular decision. Credit can be given to that coach for digging in and stabilizing the team to produce results. Credit can be given to the re-signing of Ibrahimovic, who has improved the team’s mentality in addition to bringing his own incredible skills and experience back to the club. All of those improvements could have been predicted, but there is one factor that was completely last minute and completely unexpected: Ante Rebić.


At the very last day of the summer transfer window, Rebić came to Milan on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt on a two-year straight loan deal, while Milan sent André Silva the other way, even if the deals were not tied to one another. Fans seemed both surprised and disappointed, as the rampant rumors of Angel Correa to Milan never came through, and signing Rebić was viewed largely as a failure for this position.

For the first half of the season, many fans may have maintained that belief. Rebić made seven substitutions off the bench for Milan in 2019, with two yellow cards the only noteworthy stat. However, 2020 would change all of that for him when he came off the bench vs. Udinese and scored a brace. Unexpected.

Determined and effective, no matter what

Rebić began his youth career at the age of nine years old at Vinjani, not far from his native Split, Croatia. After six years there, he moved to nearby Imotski for two years. At the age of 17, he moved to RNK Split, where he also spent the first two years of his senior career, making 54 appearances and scoring 16 goals.

This success led to a five-year contract with Fiorentina beginning in the 2013-14 season, where he only made eight appearances in all competitions, scoring two goals that season. In his own words, "I wasn't ready for the big step, neither physically nor mentally." He was then loaned to German side RB Leipzig for the 2014-15 season, where he made ten appearances total, and infamously posted to Facebook a picture of him on the bench with the caption "This is my new position."

Maybe purple just wasn't his color

Upon returning to Fiorentina in 2015, he made six appearances in all, then was loaned to Hellas Verona in January. At Verona, he had zero goals in ten appearances, but at least he got on the stat sheet with a red card. Verona were relegated and he was sent back to Fiorentina.

He was sent to Eintracht Frankfurt the following season on loan, which saw him reunited with his Croatian U21 manager, Nico Kovac. Up until now, he had received more cards than goals each season at the senior level, and that season was no exception. He had ten yellow cards in 24 matches, while only scoring twice. He even had a fight with Kovac after being substituted one match. Kovac nicknamed him the Bull, but not for the cards, or even his speed and physical strength. It was because he was a “big personality.”

DFB-Pokal MOTM and hero for Frankfurt

He was not expected to return for the 2017-18 season, but on deadline day, was offered one more season with Frankfurt on loan with option to buy. This time, he made it work. He scored nine goals and had three assists in all competitions. He scored a brace in the DFB-Pokal Final to help overthrow giants Bayern Munich for the trophy. Frankfurt took up their option for the 2018-19 season and purchased him. That season saw him score ten goals and rack up six assists, and was also the first season that he received fewer cards than he scored goals since his youth days in Croatia.

A special relationship with fellow Croatian, Boban, may be helping him here

For his home nation, he made appearances at the U18, U19, U29, and U21 levels before being called up for the senior national team in 2013. He would end up being a sub several times for Croatia in the World Cup 2014 in Brazil before notably being sent off for a nasty challenge during the Mexico match. He would get another chance, however in World Cup 2018, which saw him score against Argentina in the tournament and also start in the final vs. France. He has a World Cup Runners up medal to show for it, and that experience helped make him the player he is today at the age of 26.

Scoring in a World Cup? Check.

That player today is a strong, fast, versatile forward. He is able to play as a support striker, a center forward, or a left winger. He was the second fastest player in the Bundesliga last season, and also joint fastest at the 2018 World Cup alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. His dribbling skills are strong, as is his ability to muscle off defenders. He is great at taking long shots, and his finishing skills are strong, as we have seen him score six goals in six games this calendar year so far. He is not as good at holding the ball, and crossing and passing are both weaker skills for him. But he is improving. Pioli’s 4-4-2 formation seems to favor him, and having a 6’5” Swedish champion to partner with also suits him well. He has played so well thus far at Milan, that amongst those six goals, he only has one yellow card in January, too. Unexpected.

Leading the way in a young team

Despite his World Cup pedigree and a couple of great seasons for Frankfurt, Rebic is the player no one at Milan saw coming. He is currently our top scorer, and his consistency is exactly what we needed. Even after his initial brace, he started from the bench without complaint. He has been a model player in terms of discipline, and is contributing to the experience and leadership for our young players. After playing at so many clubs, management are reportedly already looking at buying him outright after his loan is done. Some might have called him a diamond in the rough, but for Milan, he is our unexpected hero.

This post inspired by the music of the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero”

Our next match is
Serie A Week 26
Milan vs. Genoa
Sunday, March 1 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)

Ante Rebić: Unexpected Hero Ante Rebić: Unexpected Hero Reviewed by Elaine on 8:09 AM Rating: 5
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