4. Franck Kessié
The story starts at Stella Club d’Adjamé in Ivory Coast, where a 14-year- old Franck Yannick Kessié kickstarted his career in the youth team, with dreams of becoming a big time player at a legendary club. In 2014, his career took a positive stride, promoting to the first team as an 18-year- old midfielder for the Ivorian side.
On January 29th 2015, the teenager signed his first professional contract with Atalanta, on a three-year deal, joining the Primavera squad. After a couple of brief stints with the first team on the bench, the Bergamo side sent the youngster on loan to Serie B side Cesena, to develop and mature with more playing time. After spending a successful season there, Gian Piero Gasperini recalled and promoted him to Atalanta’s first team in August 2016. Gasperini, the genius tactician with youth
products, made the correct decision in giving the young Ivorian a chance to shine and prosper. After scoring six goals in Serie A in his first few months, including match winners against the likes of Roma and Torino, many around Italian football started to realize that this midfielder that came out of nowhere may be the real deal.
After impressing all season long in Bergamo, he also became a regular internationally for Ivory Coast, playing in the 2017 African Cup of Nations, showing he had the quality to take the next step. After impressing throughout his teenage years, it was time to move on, and the red side of Milano was the perfect destination.
The Rossoneri have had a problem in the centre of the park for several years, ever since the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and many others departed the club over five years ago. Milan fans have seen many midfielders come
and go, with the likes of Nigel De Jong, Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea Poli, Michael Essien, Jose Sosa, and the list goes on. One thing is missing from that list of midfielders is pure, technical quality. After the Chinese takeover of AC Milan took place last spring and more money was invested into the club and the transfer market, the Rossoneri faithful finally saw that quality arrive in Milano.
In May, the 20-year-old Ivory Coast international signed with the “new look” Rossoneri squad, choosing the seven-time Champions League winners over the likes of Roma, and even Chelsea in the English Premier League. The box-to- box midfielder
had a very impressive season with Atalanta in 2016-2017, helping them finish in a Europa League spot, which was an almost impossible goal for the club at the beginning of the year. Kessié can be described as a big, strong and physical midfielder that can control the match, create chances with key passes but also have the ability to dribble and beat opponents, as seen throughout his young career.
The Ivorian is your typical “workhorse” that will run for 90 minutes and also get a lot of touches on the ball. Courtesy of WhoScored.com, Kessié averages over 40 successful passes per 90 minutes, comparing him to Radja Nainggolan who only averages 35 passes. He also creates at least over a chance per game, providing assistance to the Rossoneri attack. The ex-Atalanta man can fend for himself too, successfully taking on several players, which is his strong suit, almost twice per 90 minutes. That’s not all the Ivorian excels at; his defensive contributions cannot go unnoticed, averaging 1.37 successful tackles per 90, and intercepting the ball more often than not. Fitting into the “box-to- box” role, Kessié is a special player that can be great for years to come.
It’s not just the stats that back up the technical ability that Kessié possesses. It’s the in-game ability he has that Milan have really lacked over the past six years. Grinta, passion, skill and the ability to make the fans at San Siro jump out of their seats is
the most effective way to describe Kessié’s presence at San Siro. He uses his body as an advantage to hold off opposing midfielders and strong Serie A defenders. In addition, another positive aspect of the Ivorian’s game is his tendency to draw three or four defenders in with his powerful, straight-line runs, which creates space for other attackers and gives him the opportunity to play a through ball to an open forward to find the back of the net. Milanisti have seen this already in the 2017/2018 season, as the Ivorian has netted two goals and added three assists in all competitions as of now. The statistics don’t tell the whole story, but Kessié is one of the most competent midfielders the Curva Sud has seen in a while, since they had to suffer through the Andrea Poli, Sulley Muntari and Riccardo Montolivo days.
Franck Kessié is also one of the top African players because of his versatility. The Ivory Coast National team has deployed him as a right wing back, as a defensive midfielder and also in more of a free roaming, box-to- box role where he is the most
comfortable. Vincenzo Montella has also shown the most trust in the young but mature player. Since July, Kessié has been his first-choice midfielder beside regista Lucas Biglia, playing an integral part in a squad that’s aiming for a Champions
League spot in Serie A and a deep run in Europa League, which will really test the abilities of the 20-year- old. The signing of Kessié for a fee of 28 million euros shows the quality the Ivorian possesses, and the Rossoneri will count on him to be an integral part of their project in rising back to the top of the football world.
By: Luca LaPorta/@Luca_Laporta