Franck Kessie is living evidence that even the very best midfielders can be made to look average - or even below par - in a system that doesn't suit their particular set of skills.
Upon arriving in Milan in 2017, great expectations were placed on the Ivorian's broad shoulders. After his promising development at Atalanta, he was touted to become one of the most dominant midfielders in Serie A.
Two and a half years later, I Rossoneri supporters were absolutely sick of the sight of their midfielder, who was seen as more of a hinderance than a help to his club's efforts. But football refuses to stand still, and 18 months on from Milan's decision not to cut their losses with Kessie in the January 2020 market, he is now repaying their faith and fulfilling his destiny.
In fact, his journey to become one of Italian football's most admired central midfielders may meet a premature end, with the multiple reports in Italy suggesting that Premier League giants Liverpool are ready to make their move.
Kessie's current Milan contract expires in the summer of 2022, meaning he could follow in the footsteps of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu by leaving Milan for free next year, securing himself a lucrative contract with a patient buyer.
Liverpool are the team convincing the 24-year-old not to put pen to paper on a new deal in Italy just yet, and with I Rossoneri setting a precedent for refusing to be bullied by players and their agents, this one is more than just a mere rumour.
But amongst all the hype and the clamour - a word of warning: Kessie has been electric for 18 months, but he was left on standby for two and a half disappointing seasons in Milan. He needs to make the right decision over his future, and choose a club that plays to his strengths to continue his upward trajectory towards stardom.
Fortunately, a move to Liverpool makes complete sense for everybody.
Kessie has grown into an all-action box-to-box warrior in Stefano Pioli's 4-2-3-1 formation, sitting alongside Ismael Bennacer at the base of Milan's midfield. While Bennacer occupies the playmaking role from deep and rarely breaks forward, the Liverpool target is given the freedom to charge and maraud all over the pitch.
He's not a loose cannon, though. Kessie reads the game so intelligently and plays it accordingly. He is vital to Milan's pressing game, setting traps and then pouncing to win possession high up the pitch and spring lightning attacks.
And while he loves to burst into the box to get onto the end of crosses from out wide, he is also aware of maintaining the team's balance, even if it comes at the expense of his own goalscoring record.
Kessie often drops in and acts as a third centre-back when his full-backs bomb up the flanks, sensing the threat of a counter-attack and making sure his backline remains well protected in his defensive teammates' absence.
That awareness and natural understanding of the game could prove pivotal to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team.
Milan exploit similar areas of the pitch to Liverpool, using their rock and roll full-back Theo Hernandez as their main source of danger, whipping in crosses or getting on the end of them. Liverpool boast double trouble in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who'll need that protective forcefield putting up when they sense the chance to leave their post.
With Kessie in the midfield, Alexander-Arnold will never have to worry about being caught out of position again.
While he's excellent at denying attacks, he can also start them. Milan got a great deal of joy from their ability to switch play from one flank to the other from around the halfway line, and it was often Kessie dishing out those precise pings.
That accuracy and natural tendency would suit Liverpool down to the ground, sucking opponents over to one flank with neat interplay before smashing a rasping cross-field ball to a tireless Robertson or Alexander-Arnold.
And when he's not setting them up, Kessie is tucking them away. Although he is not the most natural finisher, he does possess excellent timing when arriving into the box, and that knack - along with his near-perfect penalty record - saw him rack up 13 Serie A goals last year.
In possession, he's a force to be reckoned with, and opponents stand little chance in shrugging him off the ball. He can run at speed with the ball at his feet, and Bennacer's willingness to sit allows him the chance to dash forward and add an extra body to the attack.
Both physically and mentally, he was built for the Premier League.
His partnership with Bennacer was the key behind Milan's eventual top-four finish, and if he can strike up a similar rapport with Fabinho or Thiago Alcantara, he could fire Liverpool back to the dizzying heights of a league title or Champions League triumph.
Use him wisely, and Kessie will carry you to glory.
Source : 90min