Amidst a very busy summer market, CEO Giorgio Furlani and Milan have further signaled their intentions to transform the attacking identity with the signing of Samuel Chukwueze. As the lone unpredictable attacker, Rafael Leão’s innate ability to take on multiple defenders, dribble and cause unruly havoc while wearing a smile on his face has made him a priceless commodity for Stefano Pioli and Milan.
The Portuguese international had his breakthrough campaign in the 2021/22 season as the club rode the eventual, and undisputed, league MVP to their first Scudetto in a decade.
Since his rise to stardom, it has become abundantly clear that the Rossoneri rely heavily on their new number 10 to marshal them to victory, so much the opposition scheme to prevent the sole threat from running rampant into open space where he thrives. Over the years, the scarcity of attacking talent has held Milan back from being a more ruthless side and one that can thrash teams in the final third. This summer, a concerted effort has been made to change all that. American captain Christian Pulisic has joined from Chelsea as a versatile option capable of slotting in across multiple areas. Noah Okafor offers his own positional flexibility as a centre forward who can drift into wide channels, play off the shoulder, link play and even drop into the midfield if necessary. Chief among them all though is the arrival of Samuel Chukwueze from Villarreal for a €20 million fee plus bonuses, a move that could prove to be a bargain given the market for players of his caliber.
The Nigeria international had been a serious target for months now, pre-dating the exit of directors Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara. Earmarked as an ideal candidate to bolster the right wing, the prospect of Chukwueze in red and black seemed more fantasy than reality at the beginning of the summer. The squad required a lot of retooling and the reported budget appeared too light to allocate a significant sum on one player. Then the club made the difficult, and widely unpopular, decision to sell Sandro Tonali for a club record fee. From there the market was funded, paving the way for the squad revamp we have laid witness to.
There have been a bevy of fresh, new faces roaming the training ground at Milanello this summer, yet it is hard to argue against Chukwueze conjuring up the most buzz amongst the fan base due to the role he finally fills as an impact player.
A blisteringly direct winger who can run at defenders with conviction, the 24-year old is the exact profile Milan have needed opposite Leão. Perhaps Chukwueze is the prototypical left-foot dominant right winger and, in a sense, it makes him predictable to most; dribble, cut inside, have a shot on goal or swing a cross to the back post runner.
There will certainly be instances where Chukwueze falls in love with the dribble and take-on too much. But with his progressive runs and explosive pace, there is a violent, yet efficient, nature to his game that will elevate the attack, as well as help Pioli ensure his high-press remains enforced to win possession in advantageous areas.
Strong in 1v1 situations, Chukwueze meshes his dribbling with acceleration and strength to create both space and separation from his marker. Here, he can showcase his ability to be a chance creator for himself or those who can attack the space in behind he opens up as a result of defenders respecting him as a threat. On the ball, he is quite the carrier, ranking quite well in this category as well as other key metrics:
yea he looks good.. really good.
— chunhang 🇲🇾 (@chunhang7) July 1, 2023
Statistically, 2022/23 was Chukwueze’s best of his young career, with 13 goals and 11 assists in 3,262 minutes across 50 appearances. Quite clearly he is an immediate upgrade on Junior Messias and Alexis Saelemaekers on output alone.
Dig a little deeper at the more advanced metrics and you will find he blows the Brazilian and Belgian out of the water in the major categories - including key passes, shot creating actions, goal creating actions, successful take ons and progressive carries.
Introduced as an official member of the Rossoneri on Thursday, the new number 21 looks every bit the part as they dynamic , impact right winger fans have been calling for.