About 15 months ago, Ante Rebic was playing in a FIFA World Cup final against France. Croatia did not win the tournament, but the then Eintracht Frankfurt man was one of their most impressive players, scoring against Argentina in the group stages. Today, he finds himself on the fringes at AC Milan.
In what was an unexpected summer move, Rebic joined the Rossoneri from Frankfurt on a two-year loan deal with the obligation to buy for 25 million euros. Andre Silva moved the other way for a similar deal.
Months after the move, the situations present a stark contrast. Silva is already thriving at Frankfurt – he has scored thrice in four games in the Bundesliga, while Rebic has played only 74 minutes of football in the Serie A with Milan.
Silva has formed a dangerous strike pairing with Bas Dost up front in Frankfurt’s 3-4-1-2 shape, while the Croatian finds himself on the fringes. He’s behind Rafael Leao and Krzysztof Piatek in the pecking order, even when Leao and Piatek have just four goals between themselves.
While that isn’t a pretty stat for Milan, it makes for a weird reading for Rebic. While Leao has been promising with his pace and acceleration, Piatek hasn’t had a good season by any means. The Pole has scored just one goal from open play, while Leao has scored only one overall. But Milan continue to move ahead without Rebic.
The Croatian hasn’t made a single start this season as opposed to how things were at Frankfurt last season. For the Eagles under Adi Hutter last season, Rebic had scored nine times and had assisted four times for the Bundesliga. He had made 23 starts too. His striking triumvirate with Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller had scored a total of 41 goals in the league.
The 26-year-old’s situation at the San Siro was recently mocked by Wolfgang Steubing- Frankfurt’s Chairman of the Supervisory Board. The German told BILD:
“Honestly, I don’t know what to say. He wanted to leave, because otherwise he would be the only one of the three strikers to stay at Frankfurt. Now, he sits outside. He took a gamble and lost. And it won’t get any easier for him.”
It can easily be said that Rebic would have played regularly if he hadn’t left Frankfurt. But he should be playing regularly for the Rossoneri too. Considering where Silva was in the pecking order, Rebic finds himself in the same spot as the Portuguese did.
Silva was loaned out to Sevilla last season, but it didn’t work out quite well. He could score only nine times and a permanent move to Monaco fell through this past summer, according to Football Italia (via MilanNews.it). The fact that he was considered sellable means that his replacement might not play much either.
But Rebic doesn’t deserve to not play for Milan- a club that was was initially meant to play in the Europa League. Frankfurt are playing in the Europa League as well. Neither are Milan a big Champions League club nor are they scoring for fun. That makes their take on Rebic stranger.
Last season, Rebic had scored as many goals as the Rossoneri highest-scorer in the previous campaign. Piatek arrived from Genoa in January and got nine goals in the Serie A. Young Leao found the back of the net only eight times for Lille last season- less than Rebic’s tally for Frankfurt.
It isn’t like the system doesn’t suit Rebic either. Marco Giampaolo played a 4-3-1-2 shape at Milan and that had a narrow front-three. Rebic played in Hutter’s 3-4-1-2 shape at the Commerzbank Arena with a narrow front-three too. The former Fiorentina man was impressive there but is frozen out at Milan.
New manager Stefano Pioli is also using a flat 4-3-3 shape. And Rebic has played in that system too, as evident from how Croatia played in the FIFA World Cup. It isn’t like the 26-year-old hasn’t played in the Serie A either.
It is likely that Rebic grows into the first-team as time goes by. But if his situation remains the same, he has to move on next summer. He has shown that he’s too good a player to not play first-team football, especially at a club like Milan.
It has to be seen as a poor piece of business if Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban had plans to keep Rebic on the bench all along.