There are very few consistent things when a club goes through a transition period. Things change quickly and players come and go faster than usual. Some players come and leave before even getting a proper chance. AC Milan are very thorough with the idea of transitions. But one constant through these transitions has been Alessio Romagnoli.

The Italian, surprisingly enough, isn’t a product of the Milan youth academy. It is often casually presumed that Romagnoli is one. He came to the club in the summer of 2015 from Roma for a fee of €25 million. At the age of 20, he was seen as a crucial part of the club’s future.

His loan stint at Sampdoria in the 2014-15 campaign had been impressive. It had a role to play in convincing Milan that he was their man. He was a regular at the blucercherati that season, playing 30 times in the Serie A. He also scored twice.

Since joining, he became a regular at the rossoneri too. Alongside Philippe Mexes, he learnt a lot and grew in stature in his very first season. He made 2.5 interceptions per game that season, winning 1.3 tackles per game too. He won 2.3 aerial duels per game too.

He was also a key player under interim boss Cristian Brocchi, as Mihajlovic was axed in April. Then came Vincenzo Montella, who also trusted Romagnoli.

In the 2016-17 campaign, Romagnoli had a new defensive partner in Gabriel Paletta under Montella. With another aging centre-half, Romagnoli was expected to take charge of the defence and improve. He was one of the club’s most important performers that season, even though the rossoneri did miss out on a top-four finish.

In the summer of 2017, Milan went on a spending spree. They shelled out €195 million on players, leaving Romagnoli with a new defensive partner in former Tottenham target Mateo Musacchio. Montella got the sack in November, with Rino Gattuso coming in.

The Romagnoli-Musacchio defensive partnership is still going. Albeit, it is is walking on thin ice. Since they first started together, Milan have had four different managers. Musacchio gets criticism, while Romagnoli’s status is quite the same.

Last year, Gattuso was full of praise for Romagnoli. He said (via SempreMilan): “I need everyone, Musacchio and Zapata are important, but I think that Romagnoli is one of the strongest defenders in Italy right now. I also think that at this moment Cutrone, Calabria, Romagnoli deserve to play for the Azzurri.”

As things stand, the pairing isn’t walking on thin ice because of Milan’s recent links with Jean-Clair Todibo and Merih Demiral. But because of Romagnoli’s recent links with the Madrid giants over the last few days. It is a completely different case whether he will be a good signing for either of them or not. But these reports aren’t new for Romagnoli.

Juventus links are never too far, considering Mino Raiola is his agent. But it was amidst interest from Juve that Romagnoli had signed a new deal last year. It came as a spanner in the works of many potential parties and a big boost to Milan.

This season, Romagnoli has played 15 games in the Serie A. In what has been an inconsistent season for Milan, he has been one of those players who have kept the club alive. The current club captain, Romagnoli is leading a group of players who young and still maturing.

Former manager Marco Giampaolo fielded a side with the average age of 23.6 earlier this season. It shows that the players in this team are still to reach their peak. A player who been through the transitions over the years will help them do that. More so if he’s the current captain.

Romagnoli is the best defender Milan have too. While Theo Hernandez has scored four goals, he is prone to defensive errors. Musacchio’s replacement is being looked at, while the right-back spot still isn’t nailed down for Andrea Conti. In a backline such as theirs, a defender like Romagnoli is very crucial indeed.

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Kaustubh Pandey