It was probably the headline move in Europe over January, and at €20m certainly one of the most expensive. But Mario Balotelli’s arrival at Milan is one that fans of the Rossoneri have been clamouring for since the summer. President Silvio Berlusconi may have called the 22-year-old ‘a bad apple’ earlier in the month, however come the 31st supporters at San Siro were hailing the controversial striker as a Milan Messiah. The only question now is have the trouble and provocation stayed in Manchester?
Why did they sign him?
In a relatively quiet window for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, one signing stood out as a genuinely left-field purchase. Cristian Zaccardo’s arrival from Parma was greeted with bafflement in Lombardy, and goes completely against the club’s initial strategy of bringing in young players they can mould the Milan Way. Admittedly, the 31-year-old is a versatile defender, but with the likes of Mattia De Sciglio and Bartosz Salamon vying for a first-team spot, the move really makes no sense.
Why did they sell him?
Injuries blighted Alexandre Pato’s time at Milan, and when he was sold to Corinthians at the start of the window it was with a real sense of ‘what if?’ The Brazilian striker was touted as a world-beater when he joined back in 2007, but a whole raft of hamstring strains and muscle pulls curtailed his career in Serie A - as Seleçao medic Jose Luis Runco said though, “Milan got his treatment wrong.” Perhaps with a less stubborn approach from the Milan Lab and with a tad more patience, Pato could have been firing the club to European glory?
There have been a few nonsensical rumours this month swirling around Milanello, but perhaps none more so than those linking David Beckham with a move to the Rossoneri. The former England international was the subject of constant speculation in the Italian media, but thankfully those reports were nothing more than hearsay. The 37-year-old would have given Serie A extra gravitas around the world, but in footballing terms, it would have been an absurd move.
Thank God he’s gone
Urby Emanuelson couldn’t cut it at the highest level - that much was clear when he signed at the start of the last season from Ajax. So 18 months later, and a half century of appearances down the line, the 26-year-old still isn’t anywhere near good enough. His lack of assurance on the ball, poor delivery and non-existent decision-making made him an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, Allegri has finally seen the light and shipped him off on loan to Fulham.
Pack your bags
The arrival of Balotelli, the emergence of M’Baye Niang and the goalscoring capabilities of Stephan El Shaarawy seem to have pushed Giampaolo Pazzini out of the starting XI at San Siro. The 28-year-old’s move from Inter to Milan last season was never popular with supporters – especially as Antonio Cassano went the other way. And from the off, it just hasn’t worked out for the former Fiorentina man. His record this season of 10 goals in 20 games does look respectable, but scratch at the surface and you’ll see that half of them have come against Bologna alone. It’s time for the club to cut their losses, move Pazzini on and take a punt on the young triumvirate.
It’s been a real mixed bag for Milan over January. Every move they’ve made has the potential to be either superb or absolutely shocking. Everyone knows how good, and how bad, Balotelli can be. Salamon and Riccardo Saponara are clearly ones for the future, and Zaccardo just adds not necessarily needed depth at the back. Seeing Emanuelson leave can only be a good thing – and the same has to be said for Djamel Mesbah. But Pato’s departure at the start of the window leaves a bitter taste. It’s been a big month for the club and only the League table in May will tell us if it’s been a successful one.