The recently concluded season greatly exposed AC Milan’s inadequate bench, proving that if it were not due to the individual brilliance of the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Kevin-Prince Boateng, Milan would probably have been fighting for a place in the Champions League rather than for the title. With transfer activities now in full swing, their worries have only worsened. Milan has sold their two most influential players in Ibrahimovic and Silva, leaving Max Allegri with innumerable worries.
Milan’s main reason behind the sale of these two players was their need to cut down on their wage budget and earn as much money from this sale in order to sort out their precarious financial situation. In order to help in their bid to reduce their wage budget, the club also released a host of senior players. This means that the club is most surely not going to chase the biggest names from across the world and will have to make do with some wheeler dealer signings, something which Adriano Galliani is proficient at.
Milan – The New Signings
Milan’s signings so far have been nothing more than satisfactory. Other than Riccardo Montolivo and Francesco Acerbi, Milan’s two other signings have left fans puzzled. Both Bakaye Traoré and Kévin Constant, are far from the quality that is normally associated with Milan and the idea of them filling in for the likes of Clarence Seedorf, Mark Van Bommel and Gennaro Gattuso seems blasphemous. And this is just talking about replacing all the players other than Silva and Ibrahimovic.
Then the question of whether Ibrahimovic and Silva can be replaced at all rises. Well, can they? If you look at the top defenders across the world, the only names that could possibly be uttered in the same breath as Thiago Silva are Mats Hummels, Gerard Piqué, Vincent Kompany and Pepe. Even amongst this list, only Hummels can match Silva in terms of his ball playing ability and versatility. So replacing Silva seems an almost impossible task, with the best that Milan can do being the arrival of someone of a similar mould and a lot younger, in other words, build for the future.
Unlike Silva’s departure, Ibrahimovic’s move to PSG was not surrounded by as much resentment amongst the Milan faithful. There is no doubt that he was most instrumental in the club’s last two campaigns, but his move out of Milan was surely coming. The fact that Ibrahimovic was a traveler was no secret and was crucial in cushioning the angst among Milan fans. Also, Ibrahimovic’s presence could have been a hindrance to the growth of younger attackers like Pato and Stephan El Shaarawy.
With Ibra’s departure and Milan’s current group of strikers, the question of whether he needs to be replaced at all comes to the fore. Antonio Cassano and Pato have shown their brilliance on a number of occasions, but their affinity to injury is a worry. If the two of them can remain fit for most of the season, the Rossoneri should manage just fine. Allegri’s other attacking options, El Shaarawy and Robinho, are not the most reliable and lethal option in attack, but can be used as backup. At best, Milan would require a young striker who will be expected to blossom along with El Shaarawy and Pato. Ibra will not be missed.
Defensive and Midfield woes at Milan
Some problems from last season will continue to hurt Milan, unless newer faces are brought in. The post-Maldini struggle at left back is Milan’s biggest worry and the names on their roster surely won’t help. With no talk of any player being brought in, it seems that Milan will continue to be haunted down their left flank for another season. Allegri’s next headache will be his embarrassingly poor backup options in defense. Right now, his options to fill in for Nesta and Silva are themselves very poor and Milan’s defensive future looks very bleak. Rebuilding for the future and patiently fighting through the unsuccessful years is the only realistic option.
Milan’s current midfield is the epitome of mediocrity. From a team boasting of players like Seedorf, Kaká and Andrea Pirlo, to one that uses a make-shift trequartista in Kevin-Prince Boateng and the likes of Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini behind him, the pain felt by Milan fans seems unfathomable. The club’s latest signings have by no means changed things. Mediocrity continues to be the middle name of Milan’s midfield.
So, can a club that is desperately in need of new faces and a huge makeover, really prove a force in the race to win the Serie A? Clearly the answer is no, but a fairly average Milan squad did manage to win the Serie A in 2011. So why can’t they now? Well, that would depend heavily on the state that the other teams are in.
A look at the competitors of Milan
Defending champions Juventus were clearly a step ahead of Milan prior to the transfer window and the past month has only seen Juventus move ahead by leaps and bounds. Catching the Bianconeri is undoubtedly an impossible task for Max Allegri’s side. Milan’s best hope is that they can catch up with Antonio Conte’s side in the next few years.
Closest rivals Inter are in a similar state, but have gone a lot further with the rebuilding process. Also, under the relatively new Andrea Stramaccioni, Inter seem to have a new-found belief and are also a step ahead of Milan at the moment.
Napoli and Udinese have lost players over the summer, making themselves less likely threats to Juventus’ crown. Lazio are also in the same league as Napoli and Udinese, having failed to make any drastic improvements to their squad. Under Zdenek Zeman, Roma will surely have new-found faith and strength, surely making them the dark-horses for the coming season.
To say that Milan are on par with Napoli, Roma, Udinese and Lazio would be a little too harsh, while considering them as a threat for the Serie A title along with Juventus and Inter seems an overestimation of their capability. Given their current situation, Milan’s most realistic goal would be to ensure that they qualify for the Champions League by finishing in third spot in the coming season.