The Ivorian midfielder is out of contract in 2022, and would interest all the leading lights in English football if the Rossoneri can’t tie him down
Having promised an opening, exciting title race for the first time in recent memory, there was a tinge of disappointment in the ultimate fate in Serie A.
Inter claiming their first Scudetto in 11 years with four games to spare seemed a tad anticlimactic, especially considering the fact that the diminution of Juventus’ might appeared to presage a true democracy. Antonio Conte’s side winning at a canter was impressive, yes, but it does in the end feel like swapping one sovereign for another.
There was a time, however, when it was AC Milan who looked like they were primed to end a lengthy title drought.
The Nerazzurri were the standout team in Serie A for the first half of the campaign, and actually led the table for longer than any other side: 18 matchweeks from Week 4 to 21.
To then fall away like they did – now down in fourth – has been quite disappointing, especially in light of such a historic opportunity. It also seems to affirm the perception of manager Stefano Pioli as a poor finisher, forever getting to the cusp of success but never able to close the show.
It immediately raises a lot of doubt within the project, as it now seems like, having gotten over the hump, city rivals Inter are primed for a period of dominance.
Conte has previous in this respect – it was he, after all, who kick-started the Juventus dynasty with a run of three straight early in the 2010s. Quite where that leaves a Milan still riding the coattails of 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović is anybody’s guess.
Is it any surprise that, in these circumstances, midfield lynchpin Franck Kessie is holding off on appending his signature to a new contract at San Siro?
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international enters the final years of his contract this summer, and while reports seem to indicate a deal can be done, there is said to be a significant gap in valuations between the club and the player.
It would be a wrench for Milan to lose a player who has not only pitched in with 11 goals this season in all competitions, but is the club’s most reliable penalty taker. While negotiations continue behind closed doors, Kessie will not be short of interest from home and abroad.
His all-action, box to box profile will doubtless impress a number of suitors in the Premier League especially.
The likes of West Ham United and Tottenham have been linked, but perhaps the biggest admirer of all is Champions League finalist Chelsea, whose boss Thomas Tuchel has been described as a fan of the player.
In truth, the case can be made that he ticks all the right boxes for pretty much every member of the traditional ‘Big Six’ bar Manchester City and Arsenal (who already have their midfield colossus in Thomas Partey).
Manchester United may yet claim Europa League glory, but all season long they have cried out for a genuine midfield enforcer: game as Fred is, the Brazilian lacks the required poise, and Scott McTominay’s impressive development does not quite mask his limitations in possession.
The same can be said for Tottenham, who could do with a proper partner for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the heart of midfield, especially as doubts over Tanguy Ndombele’s intensity and defensive application persist.
Chelsea have three for two midfield positions in their 3-4-3 system, with the ubiquitous N’Golo Kante the only real dynamic presence of the lot.
The France international has struggled with injury over the last two seasons, however, and fulfils such a vital function within the side that, going into the new season with stated title ambitions, the Blues can ill-afford to not have a back-up ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Even Liverpool, in search of an emotional and cultural revival, would make for a good fit.
Their midfield has always been premised on energy and verticality, both qualities Kessie brings to the table in abundance. With Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner set to leave the club, the Ivorian midfielder seems a natural replacement, another in the same vein and mould to light Jurgen Klopp’s side afire again.
As is clear, should Kessie and Milan fail to reach an agreement, it could very well ignite a war in the transfer market for the player’s services. With the concentration of wealth and resources in England, there would not be the same hang-ups around his salary and agent commissions as there are in his ongoing contract negotiations, and the Rossoneri’s loss could end up being the Premier League’s gain.