Adriano Galliani could hardly contain his excitement. After confirming to reporters that the arrival of Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez was ‘99 per cent done’, he also let slip a hyperbolic boast. He couldn’t resist. “He’s the strongest goalkeeper in Europe,” the Milan CEO announced.
That statement may not be quite true, as many will agree Germany’s Manuel Neuer and that Gianluigi Buffon guy in Turin may be more worthy of that claim than Diego Lopez, but it’s understandable why Galliani would be so enthused by his latest acquisition.
Simply put, Diego Lopez is Milan’s best goalkeeper for a decade.
Since Dida’s decline from the penalty saving hero at Old Trafford in 2003 to the fumbling man between the goalposts during Carlo Ancelotti’s last years in charge, Milan have struggled for a high quality, reliable shot-stopper. Christian Abbiati has been solid at best and worrying at worst, with a steadily declining athleticism draining what were, at best, modest gifts.
Michael Agazzi was intended to be the goalkeeper of the future but a horrifying pre-season performance against Manchester City all but ended his Rossoneri career in 90 minutes. The former Chievo and Cagliari man may now be an expensive back-up, or a makeweight in the market.
However in Lopez, Galliani has found an excellent, experienced goalkeeper in the form of his life. Although there appeared to be more than just footballing performance dictating Jose Mourinho’s coaching tendencies at Real Madrid, Lopez’s success in essentially replacing perhaps the greatest Spanish goalkeeper of all time in Iker Casillas and keeping him on the bench was no small feat. The fact that Mourinho’s successor Ancelotti opted to stick with Lopez instead of making perhaps the easiest PR move of his career in reinstating Casillas is another impressive note in the former Sevilla player’s resume.
Lopez arrives as an instant starter at Milan with a four-year-deal that will provide stability in a position that has never been one of strength, helping solidify a defence that was in dire need of assistance at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Although the pair have had a shaky pre-season, the experience of centre-backs Alex and Adil Rami alongside Diego Lopez provides a dramatic improvement over Cristian Zapata, Daniele Bonera or Philippe Mexes.
Joining him will be wing-back Pablo Armero, who has arrived on loan from Udinese. The 27-year-old is fresh from a positive World Cup an attacking presence for Colombia. His arrival fills the gap left by Trabsponzor-bound Kevin Constant and Urby Emanuelson, who now plays for Roma. Armero will offer a more consistent offensive threat than Constant but his defensive ability is below average at best – as shown by his inability to break into Sam Allardyce’s hard-nosed West Ham side while on-loan at the London club in the second half of last season.
Milan’s work in the transfer market is yet to be completed and with over two weeks still remaining until the window closes, there is still time for Galliani and company to bring in additional players to prepare the squad to push for Champions League positions. With that in mind, if Milan’s future signings are as shrewd as the Lopez one, a top-three objective may be more realistic than first thought.