So the inevitable has finally happened. The prodigal son returns to the city of Milan but this time wearing slightly different colours representing the other half of the city. When Mario Balotelli left the peninsula to sign for Manchester City back in 2010 in what looked like a pretty lucrative move, there were instant suggestions that his stay in England is temporary and that it is only a matter of time for him to return where he belonged. Having made his love for the club apparent through various gestures, he was always expected to choose AC Milan over any other side in Serie A.
And now that the signing has been made official after a series of speculations over the last entire week, the pertinent question that arises is if this is the solution to this perennially conundrum ridden season that it has been for Milan. The answer straightaway is perhaps blunt but honest – No. With the marquee move that the management has made after nearly admitting their lack of muscle in the money driven sport that football has become today, Galliani & co. has surely brought the fans some reasons to smile. But what it imminently means is this signals the end of activities in this transfer window for Milan.
Going by the current financial standards and spending capacity of the club, this move should stall any other signing that involves big money at least for another year. Earlier this month, AC Milan were pretty strongly linked with Kaka to recuperate his dwindling career at the club where it all started. But that pretty much seems out of the reach now and the more important point to note here is that with Balotelli’s arrival, fans may even start to rationalize the club’s denial to spend heavily hereafter in the foreseeable future.
Going strictly by the performances delivered on field this season, it is more than evident that Milan lack that creative spark from the midfield – a player playing in the Pirlo mode from the deep who operates with great vision, ably allied by his passing range that finds the attacking players in good positions to attain greater levels of penetration. As of now, Stephan El Shaarawy is far too burdened to carry out all of the aforementioned single-handedly. Riccardo Montolivo is certainly a player with the required attributes to orchestrate the game from the midfield but the lack of defensive cover primarily out of the poor work rate from his peers has not seen him play to the best of his potential in this role.
And therefore, the urgency lies in addressing the problems in two positions – midfield and central defence. Milan need a versatile midfielder and a very well composed centre back who brings back the solidity that has gone for a toss since the days of Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta – it almost feels like it has been ages since the formidable duo parted ways with the club for reasons best not discussed for the umpteenth time. A few utility signings of perpetual mediocrity shall not address the real concerns and come the summer, this procrastination might even see Milan lose out on Champions League football next season – not to mention that should further stop the top players even consider playing for the Rossoneri.
But with the signing of Balotelli, now the ever so wily pairing of Berlusconi and Galliani has almost legitimized the couple of mediocre signings that they are expected to make in the next few hours. Apart from adding to the already troubling wage bills, those Zaccardo-esque transfers are not likely to help Milan by any means logically explicable. Some of those gambles might pay good dividends for the time being but Milan cannot afford to form a habit of signing the players far below the levels required to restore the club’s stature in European football.
Another misconception that is likely to be formed with the Balotelli transfer is that Milan are still able to attract the biggest of stars in Europe. This is best put, a self deceiving conjecture and holds no merit whatsoever. Balotelli was having far from a great time at Manchester City and was a third choice forward in the pecking order set by Roberto Mancini. His temperamental antics – that often reflect in his consistency on the field too – had certainly gotten the better of him and City would definitely not have been deeply hurt having offloaded an erratic figure in the dressing room for a handsome looking sum of money.
Even during his days at Inter, he was categorically ostracized by Jose Mourinho for disciplinary reasons and if Mourinho, of all people, fails to deal with the fickleness of the man in question here, you might very well want to ask yourself, who really will? To Allegri’s credit, he has so far been highly successful to maintain decorum in a dressing room consisting of characters like Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Cassano. But these are testing times where the club is undergoing a transition and right now the club needs the manager’s tactical expertise much more than his skills to help an impetuous individual feel at home.
On another note, a lot has already been said about Balotelli’s undeniable talent and admittedly, he has shown glimpses of what he’s capable of doing at every single opportunity. However, the fact of the matter remains that he is still not a proven player in either of the leagues he has played in and given the tactical complexities and a great emphasis on defensive organization even from the smaller teams in Serie A, Balotelli has certainly got a lot to prove before winning the fans’ confidence. He was expected to take the Premier League by storm by now but apart from an odd game or two, he has failed to do justice to this reputation media has bestowed upon him.
At this stage, exactly a year ago, Milan were in with an opportunity to sign Carlos Tevez at a discounted price from Manchester City and the Argentine was far greater a problem to the English club back then. Milan however, failed to materialize the deal that would have arguably won them the league last season which consequently would have ensured their stars stayed put and the team would’ve saved itself from seeing the days it did earlier in the season. Flash forward a year and Milan have successfully signed a player who has been as big a problem child in his career, if not bigger than Tevez and more importantly, is yet unproven.
Football is a funny game though and this entire argument might turn into a joke in a matter of months should Balotelli immediately explode on his return to Italy. But from the looks of the matter, this transfer might not exactly be an answer to the club’s current problems. Of course, a big name signing calls for celebrations at the club as the first half of the season has been anything but eventful save the glorious emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy. But this entire episode might seem to be a bigger deal than it actually is and if it takes Milan’s attention off the real problems that are much more deep rooted, then the troubles are only going to be multiplied.