End of Days: Milan Player Exits

Today is June 30th, which means for a number of players at Milan, their contracts expire. This year, especially, there are more players than usual leaving. Some for whom we have been counting down the days until they are gone, others who we will miss more than words can say. But this year, there is no one at the club making clear statements, as this ownership has chosen to replace our technical and sporting directors with an amorphous "working group." Ironically, one of the members of that "working group" also has a contract that was due to expire today, and the club has not announced a renewal, either. So without any clear messages from the club formerly known as AC Milan, in more ways than one, today can feel like the end of days.

Saying goodbye to our out-of-contract players, big and small

The most impactful exit of all was Zlatan Ibrahimović. He not only left Milan, but actually retired from football, having announced it following our final match vs. Verona. The fans were definitely not the only ones crying, as he himself was very emotional, in addition to many of the players and staff. In his legendary second spell at the club, his presence was largely missed this year on the pitch. Not only without his iconic goals, but also without his influence in the dressing room. His sacrifice last season to help us win the Scudetto is also legendary, as was his table-turning dressing room speech and everything after during the celebrations.

A farewell to a legend.

Brahim Díaz returned to Real Madrid at the end of his loan spell. While there had been negotiations to try to get him to stay at Milan longer, his €20-30m price tag was prohibitive, and those negotiations effectively ended with Maldini's unexpected exit. (In fact, the price could possibly have been part of the reason Maldini was asking for more money for transfers and ended up getting sacked.) Whether leaving was by the player's choice or otherwise, this was a great move for the player. He got out as everything at Milan was going up in flames, and yet he gave us many memorable moments during his three years at the club.

Maximum grinta in a compact player.

Another player whose loan is up and will be returning to his club is Sergiño Dest. He had not been included in the Champions League squad for the knockout rounds, and had not even been called up to play since early March. In fact, he only made 14 appearances total for Milan, and had not played for Milan since January. He had the highest salary of any player at the club, €6 million per year, above the self-imposed salary cap, and his €20 million buyout clause was never seen as viable. Were it not for Florenzi's injury, he would have never come to Milan at all, having been brought in on loan from Barcelona at the ultimate last minute on transfer day last summer. He is one of those players that is stuck in an overpriced contract that prevents him from getting playing time.

A reminder that shopping last-minute to replace injured players rarely works out.

Speaking of overpriced players with no playing time, Tiémoué Bakayoko is finally gone. As are his weird hats. He has treated AC Milan like a gym membership, refusing to leave in the past three transfer windows, despite it being made very clear he would not play. His wages and roster spot have prevented us from bringing in other players when we needed them due to injury. He will not be missed.

Imagine this hat being your legacy at Milan.

Without any communication from the club, the situation on our goalkeepers is less clear. The plans as of January seemed to be to say goodbye to both of our backup goalkeepers, as Maldini brought in Devis Vásquez from Colombia as a young backup. However, with non-EU spots at the club at a premium, there have been talks of possibly letting Vásquez go, with rumors that he may not have been quite the talent he was expected to be, even if he only cost €500.000. However, those are just rumors. Again, we are not getting any actual news from the club itself.

Two out of three goalkeepers are out of contract.

One way or the other, it seems that we will be saying goodbye to Ciprian Tatarusanu, whose contract ends today. It is with both gratitude for exceeding expectations during Maignan's five months of injuries this season, as well as with a huge sigh of relief at not having to see him as our second keeper that I say goodbye to him. He has been a complete professional, a model of the club's family values. But I also will not miss his statuesque form of goalkeeping.

Thanks for the help, please have a good life.

Our third goalkeeper, Antonio Mirante, also has an expiring contract today. Pioli kindly gave him a cameo appearance in our 3-1 win over Verona by subbing him on in the 89th minute. This gave him one competitive appearance for Milan, and it seemed to be a way of allowing him to say goodbye. However, reports have surfaced this week indicating that he could possibly sign a one year extension and stay on as our third keeper after Milan completed the signing of new backup goalkeeper, Marco Sportiello this week. 

A token appearance... but will he be back?

One of the more mysterious exits is Aster Vranckx. He was given very little playing time under Pioli, although he looked promising in most if not all of those appearances. Particularly when we were dealing with injuries in our midfield, many of us were surprised not to see him get more time. His buyout clause was always a bit high for a younger player, as the agreement with Wolfsburg was €12 million to keep him. Whether Pioli did not want us to get too attached to him because of that cost, or he did not give him the opportunity to prove he was worth it, we will never know. 

Vranckx seemed solid, but perhaps not €12 million solid?

What we do know is that upon leaving Milan for National Team duty for Belgium, he was initially called up for the U21 side. But then he was promoted and given his first two senior caps, subbing on against Austria and starting against Estonia, which saw him assist their first goal. Meanwhile, Saelemaekers rode the bench for both Euro qualifier matches. Then, Vranckx went back to the U21 side, where he captained their final two matches against Georgia U21 and Portugal U21 in the EURO U21 Group Stage. He played well, again getting an assist with a fantastic cross in the opening goal vs. Georgia U21. Clearly, there is a reason he is not staying at Milan, but it is difficult to see a loaned player impress like that as he is leaving the club.

Vranckx definitely impressed for his country at both the U21 and senior levels.

The final contract renewal in question is that of Geoffrey Moncada. There have been renewal talks throughout the season, with whisperings of agreements, but then no announcements of any contract extensions or renewals. His current contract expires tonight at midnight that we know of. While it was announced that he would be given new duties when Maldini and Massara left, being a key part of the "working group" that is now our technical sector, the club has not made any official announcements. 

While I can only hope that this is just a matter of oversight, that they simply have not announced, we do know that they negotiated with Maldini and Massara up until the last minute of June 30th last year, too, which is not a good omen. He has been an excellent scout, and Milan can ill afford to lose any more qualified people in the sporting sector, lest they replace them with sales clerks and Uber drivers. I am not personally a fan of this new "working group" plan at all, I wish the CEO could stick to being a corporate douchebag, the head scout could stick to scouting, and the manager could stick to managing the team, because we need them all to be their best at those jobs. But again, we cannot afford to lose anyone else this summer.

Is he in or is he out? Or will the club even bother to tell us?

Obviously, there will likely be other player exits as well. However, it seems that we have seen most if not all of these seven players wear the Milan crest for the last time, with varying emotions for each one. Given the turmoil surrounding the club right now, the lack of direction or clear communication, as well as the hopelessness that fans feel, it would be easy to even forget that these players are leaving. Especially with the questions surrounding Moncada's contract as well. But it seems right to say goodbye and thank them for their contributions, whether they brought us more frustration or exquisite joy during their time here. As fans, it feels a lot like a Milan Armaggedon. But for these players wearing the Rossoneri colors, it literally is their end of days.

This post inspired by the music of The Cranberries' "When You're Gone"

End of Days: Milan Player Exits End of Days: Milan Player Exits Reviewed by Elaine on 1:00 AM Rating: 5
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