Wednesday September 4 2013
Milan’s Matri-mony

Alessandro Matri’s Milan return was met with uncertainty. Luca Cetta charts the path to his return and wonders where he fits in.

Adriano Galliani promised action post-PSV. A lean summer to that crucial Champions League play-off was filled mostly with talk surrounding Keisuke Honda and Adem Ljajic. The former remained in Russia, the latter chose Roma. Galliani urged fans to sit tight and wait until progression was confirmed. In customary fashion, the Vice-President left big moves until late in the window.

In adding to the squad, Galliani looked to the past. One player stole the headlines. The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner and Rossoneri favourite son Kaka was released from Real Madrid to ensure a smooth passage back to Milanello. Galliani was coy on whether he could land the Brazilian, but then he usually is. And so, Kaka returned amid much fanfare.

Before Kaka was another return, one met not with enthusiasm, but apprehension. Nine seasons after leaving the San Siro, with stops in Prato, Lumezzane, Rimini, Cagliari and Turin, Alessandro Matri wears the black and red again.

News of a potential move was met negatively during the PSV qualifier. A banner reading ‘Matri, no thank you’ was unfurled, amongst others. Fans perceived the signing as unnecessary given their attacking strength in comparison to that of the defence, highlighted during the opening round defeat at Verona.

Yet Massimiliano Allegri claimed the €11m move was required given Giampaolo Pazzini’s knee injury. Galliani and Allegri deduced their last pieces of the summer puzzle lay in attack, not defence. There, Milan’s main signing was Matias Silvestre, arriving on loan from Inter as cover for the injured Daniele Bonera. Regular central defender Cristian Zapata has struggled through the opening fortnight this term.

Adding a dimension to the Matri switch is his understanding of Allegri and his tactical system. They both enjoyed a fruitful time at Cagliari towards the end of the last decade. In his first season Allegri guided the Rossoblu to ninth. In Matri’s second season he notched 13 goals in 38 games. It opened their paths to Milan and Juventus respectively.

In Turin, Matri became an Italian international and won consecutive Scudetti. Antonio Conte admitted he wanted the player to stay, calling the sale a sacrifice. “Matri is the striker who has scored the most goals here over the last two years. Technically speaking, I wasn’t expecting his sale or that of Emanuele Giaccherini. But Milan made an offer. I would never have sacrificed him if we were not in an economical crisis.”

Matri scored 27 Serie A goals in 69 appearances for Juve. The goals were instant following his January 2011 switch. Nine in 16 games was a good return, even if it was felt he arrived overpriced at €18m.

Matri was leading scorer with 10 strikes in 2011-12 as Juve pipped the Rossoneri to the championship, plus a further eight in their title defence, generally as a reserve. He netted a goal every 125 minutes last term, the best of any Juventus player. As a comparison, the player he replaces, Pazzini, scored 12 goals at a rate of every 136 minutes.

Despite his penchant for goals, the welcome home was mixed at best. Galliani evoked memories of Filippo Inzaghi’s 2001 Milan switch last week. Since then, only Nicola Legrottaglie has moved directly from Juve to the Rossoneri. Matri joins illustrious company in making such a move – Fabio Capello, Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio amongst the names. He also takes Pippo’s No 9 shirt. That furthers the narrative, but we are talking about two different strikers, even if they share a fox-in-the-box instinct.

Allegri sees his role as a critical one: “Matri played a crucial role for Juventus and he is the player we were looking for. Mario Balotelli, who is extraordinary, needs someone of Matri’s characteristics by his side. They make the perfect partnership.”

It’s a reunion for the pair. Both Matri and Balotelli wore the Rossoblu shirt of Lumezzane in 2005-06. There, Balotelli made his professional debut aged 15. He featured twice, although Matri did not take the field on either occasion, out injured. When Matri returned, Balotelli was off to Barcelona for a trial. It didn’t work out and once back at Lumezzane, Mario resumed in the youth sector.

Gazzetta dello Sport suggested on Sunday Matri and Stephan El Shaarawy will contest for the starting position alongside Super Mario in a 4-3-1-2 formation. This was pre-Kaka. On Monday the pink paper opted for a Balotelli-Kaka frontline, with Riccardo Montolivo behind. That could also be the role the Brazilian takes. Allegri has a week to figure that out.

Allegri was steadfast in his desire to land Matri, whom he believes can aid Milan in the upcoming months of the season. Conte’s words after the sale were also telling. But the fans must now be convinced he is worth the price-tag and the fuss in gunning for his capture compared to a defensive reinforcement.

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Have your say...
I cant believe Cesare is considering playing Gilardino. Not only playing him but playing with him up front on his own. Where are the goals coming from against Bulgaria? Rossi, Di Natale and Cassano should all have been called up. Also anyone who thinks Matri is international class is clueless. If Quagliarella had gone to us or the enemy Lazio he could have forced is way into the squad. I rate him, he is a top player just needs regular games.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:52pm
This is once more a damning example of Italian clubs attitudes to young players, SES, Niang, Petagna, Sapanora were simply not trusted to be good enough to get goals for Milan. So we end up with as much as i like kaka an over the hill wreak and an above average striker who has never scored many goals, what about Paloshi at Parma, i think milan still own half his contract and he is as good as Matri and younger. As for the Defence Mexes is an overpaid donkey.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:50pm
Milan once again solidifies its position as Italy's bin dipping club.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:41pm
how about a 4231 formation when honda arrive

de sciglio - zapata - mexes - abate
montolivo - de jong
honda - kaka - el sharaawy

also allegri could replace honda and kaka positions with eachother
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:34pm
Spending the money on Matri was a waste. I would have preferred to give more time to Niang and since it's a world cup year, Binho.

The defense is weak.
RB - Abate/DeScig/Zaccardo - OK
LB - DeScig/Constant/Urby - OK
CB - Mexes (good in some games, error prone in others) & Zapata (good for a backup, but not Milan material as a starter right now),
CB backups - Bonera, Silvestre, Zaccaro, Verghara (as bad as the starters are, the backups are even worse)
Sakho would have been a HUGE improvement.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:21pm
I have to say i wouldnt have signed Matri either,12M.
That would have gotten Ogbonna or Astori,both would be younger and better Upgrades than Mexes who is thw=e weakest link but our most paid defender. Its hard not to be happy at kaka comin bak but according to the so call youth policy,Milan would have rather a younger Eriksen.
All in all the market couldve been better,personally id have sold like 5 players and brought in 3,Let the Likes of Cristante and Petagna play and develope
on the 4th September, 2013 at 6:10pm
@ Viktor I agree (although would probably struggle not to watch). What a horrendous way to treat SES who at 19/20 carried us through the first half of last season.

Also good luck to KPB he got us into the Champions League and Allegri had him playing in every position except goalkeeper!
on the 4th September, 2013 at 5:16pm
@ Fabrico I agree I was gutted to see Antonini going. He is Milan through and through and while he is not good enough to start he is definitely better and more reliable than Emanuelson. I was him all the best.

@ Dan Giambrone it seems Saponara is out until November. Therefore hopefully it was injury that kept him out. The story re Niang being kept out is an utter farce!
on the 4th September, 2013 at 5:14pm
One thing tho...just because a guy is a striker doesn't mean anything in regards to movement. Most "false 9's" don't move much anyway. They're just quick and mostly static in their positioning.

Matri shouldn't start next to Balotelli because he's not good enough to start ahead of the other guys. He would have scored more if not rotated at Juventus, but he's not good enough to not be rotated at a huge club.

And Inzaghi was a super-sub half the time...unfortunately it wasn't all the time.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 4:30pm
Matri would do well as a super-sub, sometimes starter...then again, Pazzini is on the squad on does that...and is a much better player (and I like Matri). He's injured for a couple more months? So what? Their defense sucks for the whole year. And what about Niang? What about SES and Robinho? Robinho looks like he wants to play and he has Kaka there. For Allegri to take Matri, when their forward line is STACKED, is do it at the expense of defense or a DM? He should be fired soon.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 4:23pm
If he starts playing matri instead of ses I'm seriously going to consider stop watching Milan till allegri leaves.

de sciligo/mexes(sadly)zapata(sadly)abate. De Jong/montilivo/poli/kaka/ses/balo

Do not use muntari or noccerino.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 1:43pm
didnt milan play shevchenko, inzaghi and kaka in a trident? could the same not be done for balo, matri/ses and kaka?

Monty can play in centre mid or right. im not even sure kaka has got it any more so he may just be a flop like shevchenko part 2.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 12:54pm
I'll take a 11m good cb over matri any day and I bet allegri don't even know how to use kaka
on the 4th September, 2013 at 12:41pm
If Matri is chosen instead of El Shaarawy, then it'll be yrt another indication of Italian football's fear of using youth.

Why not spand that 11m on a proper centre-back?
on the 4th September, 2013 at 12:10pm
Yet to be convinced by this signing. I was happy with the Kaka deal until I found it it seems to mean El Sha won't be a first team regular anymore. Would of been nice to see Astori signed. Also disappointed with Lazio and Roma who both need top quality strikers but failed to get anyone in. Roma could of also done more to sign a center back to partner Benatia as Castan isn't good enough. Otherwise, it wasn't a bad transfer market for the top Italian sides.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 12:04pm
I believe Matri is a victim of the irrational rotation policy Conte has adopted with regards to the strikers.It'll be hard for any striker playing under Conte's system to bang in the goals regularly.Obviously Milan have good stikers and it's not a guarantee that Matri will succeed.But since he was bought at the request of Allegri he should get a fair run.Every Juve fan will hold you dear in his heart.You certainly made us happy and we wish you all the best.Grazie Matri...Forza Juve
on the 4th September, 2013 at 11:09am
Thanks for that,

Have you seen the proposed formation and line up for the Bulgaria game? Come on Prandelli!
on the 4th September, 2013 at 11:01am
IMO Matri was an unnecessary signing. He is a good player, but I would rather Milan had focused on developing Petagna, & put the 11 mil towards a cb.

I don't know if it is because he is injured, but I am disappointed to see that Saponara is not included in Milan's CL squad.

As for Italy, it seems that CP will only use 352 vs Spain. The potential line up is ok but I would rather see Insigne start ahead of Giaccherini, especially as we are the home side.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 11:03am
Great to see Kaka back as he's much better than KPB behind the strikers.

I don't see the need for Matri though, he's a decent player but we have lots of forwards.

The money would have been better spent on Astori.

Also, sad to see Antonini go - should have sold Urby instead.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 11:03am
Matri will be of use to Milan even if they need defenders. Matri will run hard both ways, he is a very smart forward that makes great runs and plays well off the shoulder of the last defender. With some confidence he will be a very solid player for Milan. I wish Juventus had kept him...
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:41am
Matri will be of use to Milan even if they need defenders. Matri will run hard both ways, he is a very smart forward that makes great runs and plays well off the shoulder of the last defender. With some confidence he will be a very solid player for Milan. I wish Juventus had kept him...
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:41am
As a Milan fan I was, and am totally perplexed by this transfer. 11 million for Pazzini's stop gap? Outrageous. He's not a proven, consistent goal scorer and the reason is that he wasn't good enough at Juve to command a regular starting place. End of.
Anyone with an ounce of sense after watching Verona and Cagliari saw a Milan centre back pairing akin to that of my local village team. I guess facing Messi and Neymar in the CL will no doubt rub that fact right in.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:33am
As a Juventus fan I'm sad to see Matri leave. Despite what others might think I believe after Tevez he was the best forward on our books. Nonethless I think he'll play more at Milan so I'm happy for the player (same thing with Giach). Conte's tactics didn't bring the best of Matri but I think he'll do better with Allegri. Hopefully he'll develop a strong partnership with Balo at Milan which can only be good news for the Azzuri. Thank you Matri, it was a pleasure having you at Juve and good luck.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:32am
We should've cashed in on the bycicle kick last year and sold him to Monaco for 10m and bought Astori or Ogbonna or Sakho or any other defenders other than Mexes. All in all it's hard not to be happy that Kaka is home but I would not have signed those players. Nonetheless Allegri has collected more points than any other manager (including Conte) in the last 3 seasons and so I'll back him (for now).
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:26am
I bet you we'll end up having to re-sign Petagna for 25m in 10 years time when he's passed his best and has been loaned out to death! As for our defence clearly we need defenders. I don't agree with the focus being on Zapata. He has made mistakes but so has Mexes who got beaten 2 - 3 times against Cagliari. For me, ignoring the problems with Emanuelson(???) and Abate at full back and hoping De Sciglio stays fit, Mexes is our weakest link and highest paid defender.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:24am
And what happens if all the strikers are fit? We have 7 strikers (including Kaka). How are we going to accomodate SES, Balo, Robinho, Niang, Matri, Pazzini and Kaka. And I don't necessarily agree that Matri and Balo are the ideal strike partnership. Surely in the modern game with "False 9s" it about pace and movement i.e. SES and Balo? And the really irritating thing is that we have just spent 12m on a player we used to own which we could have had one time for free.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:18am
Not that I want to be seen pontificating from the sideline but I have to say I was lost by this signing and I really hope it does not spell the end (at Milan) for SES. It already seems to have impacted Niang. The main reason for signing Matri it seems is to replace Pazzini (at a cost of 12m when apparently Milan don't have the money). Surely the signing of Kaka (who could play further forward), keeping Petagna and giving Niang more playing time in a central position would have covered that
on the 4th September, 2013 at 10:12am
Matri is the type of player who is lovable. It reminds me of Pippo Inzaghi who was fan favorite everywhere.

Now, this same applies to Matri leaving Juve for Milan. I can only wish him good and I hope he finds his way to the Azzurri. Likes of Giabbiadini, Osvaldo, Gilardino are no better than him.
on the 4th September, 2013 at 9:34am

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