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Wednesday January 4 2017
Rossoneri reinforcements

Milan have won their first silverware since 2011, but Susy Campanale warns their squad is painfully thin for a full season.

Vincenzo Montella has already written his name in the Milan history books by lifting the Italian Super Cup in Doha, beating Juventus on penalties following a 1-1 draw. It is meant to be the last hurrah for President Silvio Berlusconi before the sale to Chinese investors Sino-Europe Sports finally goes through. The repeated postponements mean there will be no funds available for the January transfer window, leaving the Rossoneri wedged between ambition and reality.

This month was meant to be the start of a new era, when a huge war chest would be flown in from across the globe to begin building a world class team. Instead, Montella finds himself stuck with the same painfully thin squad that was put together on a tiny budget and is asked to hold on to a top three spot. It’s a recipe for disaster, as once again Milan fans see their hopes raised and dashed.

CEO Adriano Galliani made it very clear that this would be a ‘zero-cost’ transfer window, so any new signings must be paid for with sales. There is certainly some dead wood to be chucked out, including Luiz Adriano, Keisuke Honda and Jose Ernesto Sosa.

The real problem with this current selection of players is the lack of alternatives. It has been obvious that when some first-choice picks are missing or Montella tries to rotate the squad, the results are dismal. Gustavo Gomez may well need more time to adapt to Serie A football, but Leonel Vangioni hasn’t played at all since his arrival, so it’s safe to say the Coach knows something we don’t.

A perfect example of the issues affecting Milan is Andrea Poli. He is, in theory, the man who can fill in several different roles, from central midfield to winger or even full-back. Unfortunately, he does a pretty bad job in all of them. Squad rotation becomes a dangerous game in these circumstances and even newly-promoted Cagliari can say they have more options to choose from. We saw what happened last season when Fiorentina were flying high under a new Coach with emerging young talents, then the wear and tear inevitably took its toll and they plunged down the table. Milan are in a not dissimilar position.

There are some downright irreplaceables in Montella’s side: Gigio Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Gabriel Paletta, Suso and Jack Bonaventura. Andrea Bertolacci has finally put his injury problems behind him to give another midfield option, while it’s anyone’s guess which version of Mattia De Sciglio we’ll see in any given match. Ditto M’Baye Niang, who manages to be both a striker who can’t aim and a winger who refuses to cross.

Milan desperately need to bring in some reinforcements to give the squad more strength in depth than, say, Crotone. Most of the focus has been on finding a midfielder and the first choice is Fiorentina’s Milan Badelj, who would consolidate the ex-Viola colony at San Siro. If Mati Fernandez and Bertolacci do manage to avoid injury for longer than a week, then that might not be necessary.

My biggest concerns are at the back. Romagnoli and Paletta form an excellent partnership, but there are no reliable back-ups. Cristian Zapata has barely played for a year, Gomez is still acclimatising and Rodrigo Ely seems to be on the way out too. The choice of full-backs is also very limited, especially with Davide Calabria side-lined for several months. Udinese centre-back Thomas Heurtaux would be a great addition at an affordable price and bring his strength in the air too. At left-back, Italy Under-21 international Adam Masina of Bologna shows great promise and is still young enough to be snapped up on a bargain.

It’s amazing a club targeting a Champions League spot should be so utterly reliant on a 17-year-old goalkeeper. The plan is to bring in Marco Storari from Cagliari, but there’s a reason he was dropped by the side with the worst defensive record in Serie A.

An ideal addition in January would be Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez, as the Atalanta winger would do wonders in Montella’s system, acting as the counter-point to Suso on the left. He’d take some pressure off the ageing full-backs too, doing most of the leg-work, allowing Bonaventura to move back into midfield. Sadly there is a growing queue of clubs pushing for Papu and Milan’s lack of funds rule them out of a bidding war.

Instead, the Diavolo appear to be pushing for Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Everton, a right-sided winger who plays in the same role as Suso and one imagines won’t be too happy at being back-up to another Spaniard for six months.

If Milan are to qualify for Europe, they need fresh legs to maintain their early season momentum and start building a squad for next term.  

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Have your say...
For the life of me I did not understand the need to spend on Mati Fernandez, Vangioni and Sosa this summer window. At least with Gomez he is young, the others are already too old and paying fees for them is bad management.

Storari is a victim of Cagliari's woeful defence.

Given they will be doing things on the cheap and with only short-term backup solutions required, a couple veterans like a Moretti or Gamberini would be a strong backup CB with minimal spend.
on the 10th January, 2017 at 7:56pm
First of i would like to congratulate Milan on a great win in Doha i haven't had the chance to comment earlier but that was a great team performance and deserves full praise. With that said, Milan probably will have to wait until summer to reconstruct their team and that isn't really that bad Montella has shown that he can grind out CL spots as he did with Fiorentina so it's not really mission impossible for him. Now its important to work on keeping the feet on the ground and avoiding major injuries
on the 9th January, 2017 at 12:07am
I really like Susy and his articles (including this one as a whole) but some really horrible players and solutions were mentioned here. I mean, Heurtaux and Masina just don't make sense because 1) The 28-year-old Heurtaux is neither better nor taller than Zapata. And 2) Milan are covered in full-back position with Abate-Calabria-De Siglio-Antonelli. I don't understand why any team would need more than 4 very good full-backs, specially when there is no Europe.

Papu is a good idea though.
on the 5th January, 2017 at 8:40pm
I wouldn't be so opposed to dry loans anyway without money it is unlikely milan could bring in quality players anyway especially youngsters. i would be so quick to knock Deulofeu he would be much needed backup probably the best option milan could bring in on loan.

It is frustrating the new owners are either incompetent or manipulative to fail to close a deal for milan not once but twice. i find it hard to believe that someone didn't anticipate the Chinese government when spending 500 million e
on the 4th January, 2017 at 3:37pm
come on in terms of raising money honda if he does move want until feb and will probably go for nothing adriano will go for 1 million euros vangioni probably nothing or loan zapata no one wants him sosa the same poli heard nothing as yet. It is going to be down to selling bacca or niang which for side not scoring a lot of goals seems foolish. I am not opposed to the idea if a ridiculous offer comes in for bacca in the long term selling him is the best idea. It would screw milan season.
on the 4th January, 2017 at 2:38pm

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