Is Franck Kessie the missing link for all of the Big Six?

Franck Kessie is free, very good at football and free. All of the Premier League’s Big Six could and should come calling.

“I’m not afraid of running a lot. Sometimes my teammates ask ‘How do you do it?’ I reply that it’s natural for me. I’m earning way too much money to not sweat on the pitch. In Africa, there are people who walk 20 miles every morning just for a piece of bread.”

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie knows his bread will be buttered away from the San Siro come next season, possibly in January, and most of the Premier League big boys have been linked at one point or another. All of the Big Six should be interested.

He’s a creative, goalscoring, dynamic central midfielder who keeps possession and bloody loves running. He’s scored five Serie A goals this season, including a brace last time out in the win over Empoli, after 13 last term. He has a pass completion of 89.7%, bettered by just Rodri (93.1%) and Oliver Skipp (90.2%) among Premier League midfielders, both of whom are significantly less creative than Kessie. The Ivorian’s 2.95 shot-creating actions per game is on a par with Sadio Mane and Said Benrahma. A pressure success per game of 5.38 is better than Rodri (5.30) and Fabinho (5.19), and only slightly worse than N’Golo Kante (5.76).

Kessie is available on a free transfer this summer and thus currently free to hold talks with potential suitors.

Kessie has been the ‘Rice alternative’ for some time at Manchester United. Liverpool were linked throughout the Georginio Wijnaldum replacement obsession phase of the summer and continue to be named in most transfer reports. Arsenal and Spurs are said to be locked in a transfer battle for the 25-year-old. Chelsea were hinted at in summer rumours without seriously entering the fray, while a Google of Man City and Kessie produces articles from five years ago, when they were said to be courting him as a teenager.

Manchester United at one stage ‘dreamt of playing Kessie and Paul Pogba together’. They have now presumably woken up to the fact that Kessie will not be playing alongside Pogba, unless he too snubs them and moves to Paris Saint-Germain. But they should absolutely still carry an interest in the Milan midfielder. His position, as one of the two in front of defence, is the talent void in the United squad. They will struggle to get in the top four, let alone challenge for the title, without at least one signing in that role.

When Antonio Conte won the Premier League with Chelsea he had N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic; all of them close to their prime. At Spurs he has Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks and Tanguy Ndombele. They’re all fine, but none of the four would have been close to playing at the base of the 2016/17 Chelsea midfield that the title tilt was built on. Conte is said to be pushing for Spurs to pay to get Kessie through the door in January.

Thomas Partey finally seems to be coming to the shindig, but Granit Xhaka is infamously unreliable, Mohamed Elneny’s a good lad but not good enough at football, and Albert Sambi Lokonga is an excellent prospect, but should remain as such for a while. Known by his teammates as ‘The President’ because, as the head of state himself explains, “I’m the chief of the locker room”, Kessie is a leader and Arsenal will need more leaders until the end of time.

Jurgen Klopp doesn’t know who his third best midfielder is. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are clearly the top two, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Thiago and Curtis Jones are much of a muchness; Liverpool are muddling through this season in the absence of Wijnaldum without one of the midfield outsiders properly staking a claim. It feels like signing Kessie is almost too obvious – Liverpool don’t tend to get embroiled in transfer scraps – but it would be smart and Liverpool love to be smart.

Most people were drooling over Chelsea’s pivot options at the end of last season. Kante ran more than Real Madrid and Manchester City put together in the semis and final of the Champions League; Jorginho was passing his way to the two biggest trophies in European football. The fact that Mateo Kovacic was struggling to get in the team was testament to how brilliant the other two had been. And just in case that three somehow all lost form or got injured at the same time, the experienced head of Saul Niguez was brought in on loan. As it turns out, Saul is quite possibly the worst midfielder to play for Chelsea in the 21st Century; that’s going some. And the other three have been crocked, knackered or a combination of the two for most of the season. Chelsea will buy another midfielder in the summer, so why not Kessie?

And finally Manchester City. Rodri is the best midfielder in the Premier League this season and Fernandinho is a more than able back-up. But City, like Chelsea, will buy a central midfielder in the summer when Fernandinho is likely not to extend for another year. People will question whether Kessie has the style Pep Guardiola covets in that position, but he passes the ball with accuracy and at speed – the key in that role at the Etihad.

Let the Kessie-off commence.


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