Why Chelsea outcast Tomori is an ideal fit for AC Milan

Fikayo Tomori Chelsea AC Milan GFX
The Blues defender has featured in just four matches in the past 11 months but he has the talent and the character to succeed at San Siro

Fikayo Tomori's loan move from Chelsea to AC Milan has raised a few eyebrows, especially with a £26 million ($36.5m) option to buy included in the deal.

Of course, it's a noteworthy transfer simply for the fact that Tomori is the first Englishman to join the Rossoneri since David Beckham made the move to San Siro in 2009.

However, of greater interest is the fact that Milan have snapped up a player overlooked by Frank Lampard for almost a year.

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After a poor display away at Bournemouth last season, Tomori was effectively ostracised by the Blues boss, playing just four matches in 11 months and not making a single start in the Premier League during that time.

It may have seemed strange from the outside looking in. Tomori was Derby County's Player of the Year at the end of Lampard's season in charge at Pride Park, before becoming a regular starter during the first half of the 2019-20 season.

However, when Thiago Silva arrived last summer charged with taking control of the defence, Tomori was effectively left competing with Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma for the one remaining centre-back berth.

The fear, even then, was that he would struggle for game time this season and other clubs were aware of that, including Milan. Along with Rennes, West Ham and Newcastle, the Rossoneri tried to sign Tomori last summer.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that they revived their interest in an England international who has seen just 45 minutes of Premier League action in 2020-21. Technical director Paolo Maldini believes that Tomori remains a perfect fit for Milan.

“If we followed him and tried to take him a few months ago, in the summer, it means that we have glimpsed the right characteristics in him to coexist with our defenders,'' the legendary left-back told Sky Sport Italia.

Paolo Maldini Fikayo Tomori AC Milan Chelsea GFX

Tomori had been reluctant to accept a loan move at the start of the season because, at the time, it was anticipated that Rudiger would be the defender to leave, only for the German's numerous potential transfers to collapse.

Tomori also had a late chance to join West Ham on loan but he didn't want to be pressured into a move at the tail end of the transfer window.

However, Tomori's thinking was also influenced by Milan's interest. It was always hoped that the Rossoneri might return to the negotiating table, and now they have.

Tomori's decision to bide his time has been vindicated, as he now has an opportunity that few English defenders will ever get: challenge for a Serie A title. It is a chance to be part of a remarkable renaissance.

Milan are one of the game's fallen giants, having gone from perennial Champions League challengers to a club struggling to even qualify for the Europa League.

From a financial perspective, they are still suffering from the effects of years of gross mismanagement, but their rebuilding project is now well ahead of schedule thanks to a succession of shrewd signings made by club legend Maldini.

Indeed, a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired team presently top the Serie A standings, two points clear of Inter, and 10 ahead of reigning champions Juventus – two sides with vastly bigger budgets.

Milan's squad is full of players like Tomori, talented individuals who have lost their way. 

Manchester United loanee Diogo Dalot was labelled the next big thing to come out of Portugal ahead of his move to Old Trafford but is now hoping to kickstart his career at San Siro.

Ismael Bennacer didn't get a game for Arsenal but has established himself as a key player for Milan, after a successful spell at Empoli.

Brahim Diaz was highly regarded by both Manchester City and Real Madrid but he is finally getting a chance to show what he can do on a consistent basis at the top level.

Theo Hernandez, meanwhile, was deemed surplus to requirements by Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid but is currently regarded as one of the most exciting full-backs on the planet.

Serie A table GFX

They all form part of one of the youngest squads in the league but they are being brilliantly guided by not only the outspoken Ibrahimovic but also Stefano Pioli, a humble, respected coach who is willing to give youth a chance.

The only problem Tomori might have at San Siro is dislodging either Alessio Romagnoli and Simon Kjaer from the defence, as their pair have formed a formidable centre-back partnership since the latter's arrival last January.

Still, Milan's financial weakness means that they lack strength in depth at the back. Sheer grit and determination has got them through many games during the first half of the season but, as Saturday evening's loss at home to Atalanta underlined, they need more quality in reserve, which is why their move for Tomori makes perfect sense.

He should see plenty of game time, too. The option to buy incentivises Milan to use Tomori as they know they can sign him at the end of the season.

The fee set by Chelsea is high but within reach for Milan, who at least look set to secure a lucrative return to the Champions League at the end of the season.

Tomori has six months to convince Milan of his worth. It won't be easy. It's a new team, a new league, a new country and new language. However, Tomori will relish both the challenge, and the experience.

While other footballers spend much of their time on TikTok or playing Fortnite, Tomori chooses to educate himself, and he is presently studying leadership in business at the Open University.

It is worth pointing out that he also had an offer from Newcastle. He could have stayed in England. Many of his peers certainly would have made that choice.

Tomori, though, has made the more difficult move. Luckily, he has both the talent and the character to make a success of it.

And, unlike Beckham, he may even end up with a Serie A winners' medal at the end of his loan spell at San Siro.