Ante Rebic Has Been the Key to Milan's Surprising Resurgence

Lee Bushe
Ante Rebic is Milan's top scorer this season with 12 goals - despite barely featuring in the first half of the season
Ante Rebic is Milan's top scorer this season with 12 goals - despite barely featuring in the first half of the season / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

A bit-part player at the start of the season, few would have expected Ante Rebic to become the protagonist he currently is in Milan's resurgence.

The Croatia international joined I Rossoneri on a two-year loan after a successful spell with German side Eintracht Frankfurt, where he played a key role in their historic victory over Bayern Munich in DFB-Pokal final, scoring a brace as Die Adler won 3-1.

Rebic was initially unable to replicate that form with Milan, making just seven appearances in the first half of 2019/20, failing to find the back of the net or contribute any assists on each of those occasions. He was looking set to be a dud, another example of I Rossoneri's poor recruitment strategy in spite of his arrival to a fair degree of expectation.

Rebic took a while to settle in at San Siro
Rebic took a while to settle in at San Siro / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

As 2020 began, something changed. Whether he spent the winter break in deep reflection or whether manager Stefano Pioli finally figured out how to use him is unknown, but he wasted no time in demonstrating that he was a different player.

With Milan 1-0 down to Udinese at half time, Pioli substituted Giacomo Bonaventura for Rebic. Just two minutes after coming on and having made a brilliant sprint into the box, the forward met the end of Andrea Conti's pass to level for I Rossoneri.

Milan and Udinese would score one more goal apiece, before a brilliant last-minute goal from Rebic secured victory for Pioli's side. From there, he really kicked-on, scoring four in his next five as I Rossoneri rose from tenth to seventh.

His form even overshadowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man who was originally expected to lead Milan's revival following his return to the club in January.

Rebic celebrates after scoring against Udinese
Rebic celebrates after scoring against Udinese / MB Media/Getty Images

Pioli had a very useful player at his hands. Not only was Rebic in form but he was also one of the most versatile forwards out there, having been deployed as a striker, a supporting striker, a winger and an attacking midfielder during his time at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Indeed, he's been used on the wing and up front, being able to keep his prolific goalscoring exploits in both of those positions.

Rebic's form has coincided with Milan's somewhat inexplicable resurgence. Since football's resumption in June, the Croatian has scored four in eight, helping I Rossoneri remain unbeaten during that period which included commendable victories over Juventus and Lazio.

Milan now have a Europa League spot - either in the group stages or in earlier qualification rounds - something which seemed improbable during Marco Giampaolo's tenure and Pioli's early days.

Milan have been in red-hot form in recent weeks
Milan have been in red-hot form in recent weeks / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

With Pioli now set to remain at Milanello, Milan's primary objective should be to secure the signing of a player who has been so crucial to the 54-year-old tactician's success, for keeping him will be important to I Rossoneri sustaining their recent good results.

Recent reports have suggested that Milan are seeking to purchase him this summer - despite the fact he has one year left on his loan deal - meaning there is hope that he will be with the club for the foreseeable future.