Sometimes, when you try and build something new you end up looking for the perfect item to complete whatever your project is. Sometimes, you spend a lot of money on this item, taking a huge risk and hoping that it pays off. However sometimes the perfect item is right in front of your eyes.
This is exactly what has happened at Milan this summer, as they have tried to reconstruct their team, but the perfect player to build this team around was already in the squad. In fact, he’s been there for three years.
As the Europa League fixture against Craiova showed, Giacomo Bonaventura is the man to star in this Milan side. His goal opened up proceedings at San Siro and as he played in a midfield three with Franck Kessie and Manuel Locatelli, he was the creative force. Play went through him and he was the one who made things happen. It sounds quite simple, but he knew exactly what to do at the right time.
For the first half of last season, he was superb for Milan, being their key figure then as well, but a serious injury after the winter break was disastrous for the Rossoneri. It may have been easy for Milan to go out and pay top money for the likes of Federico Bernardeschi, for example, but a fully-fit Bonaventura is someone you can trust to make you a better side.
The 27-year-old’s versatility is also key to how this side wants to play, with Coach Vincenzo Montella switching between 4-3-3 and 3-5-2, two formations that are perfect for Bonaventura. Most see him as a central midfielder, but he’s also capable of playing on the left-hand side of a front three, where he actually had a better goal record.
The win over Craiova was further evidence, however, that in the centre of midfield, Bonaventura can be just as effective. Sitting next to a player like Kessie allows him to make late runs into the box, similar to what Frank Lampard used to do for Chelsea when paired next to Claude Makelele or Michael Essien. That’s something that would work if Milan plan on exploiting the wings this season, but he can also be dangerous when they have the majority of possession, against teams who will immediately sit deep.
This game was a perfect example of both situations. He scored his goal following a late run into the box, and tried to create chances for Patrick Cutrone once Craiova sat deep and invited pressure on to them. It was this kind of performance that shows why Bonaventura should be the player Milan focus on.
People may look at him and say ‘well, he’s not marketable across the globe. Milan need a superstar’ which may be somewhat true, but as Billy Beane said “we ain’t selling jeans here.” Who cares if he doesn’t look like a marketing machine, he’s a great player! He’s popular amongst Milan fans (he has the second most likes on the official Milan website, whatever that means) and is widely regarded across Europe as one of the most under-rated players around.
Jack Bonaventura should be the figurehead of this revamped Milan side. It makes sense, especially given the players he has around him to compliment his ability, to make him the focal point. No matter what happens, it is imperative that Bonaventura remains a vital part of this Milan machine.