On the fringes at Roma last term, Bojan Krkic's chances of establishing himself at new club Milan depend on tactics, says Scott Fleming.
Who knows how Bojan Krkic planned to celebrate his 22nd birthday. However, unless the young Spaniard has been eating cheese before bedtime lately, he couldn't have dreamt it would involve being presented with a personalised birthday cake by a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Fester, with Serie A's most under pressure Coach grinning broadly in the background.
That was the scene on Tuesday night, when after a day spent travelling from Fiumicino airport to Linate airport, to the club's Via Turati HQ and on to a restaurant, the birthday boy was cordially welcomed into the Milan family by Adriano Galliani and Massimiliano Allegri.
The circumstances of the transfer aren't ideal for either party. While the club are hoping the player can give them a boost both in terms of PR and morale, the player is hoping the club can do precisely the same thing for him.
Having performed below even their staunchest critics’ expectations in Sunday's 1-0 loss to Sampdoria, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano gone, Robinho and Alexandre Pato injured and Giampaolo Pazzini not at optimum fitness after his defection from Inter, the Rossoneri need someone able to slot into Allegri's newly devised front three in Bologna on Saturday.
As for Bojan's perspective, his comments upon completion of the deal last night were enlightening. “I want to thank the Coach, who wanted me so much.”
At Roma he was unwanted, unappreciated by the new regime. No one at the capital club would have been rushing out to get him a birthday cake, put it that way.
Four yellow cards, one red, 13 starts, 20 sub appearances, seven goals and one assist. Those are the figures that tell the tale of his debut campaign in Serie A last year. Not a bad effort, but from someone who debuted for Barcelona at the age of 17, and scored 41 goals for the Blaugrana before he hit 21, rightly or wrongly, we expected more. The Catalan club's insertion of a buyback clause, to be enacted in 2013, hinted at a suspicion on their part that Bojan might explode into unstoppable form, but as of yet he hasn't.
Whereas on the opening day of last season he was a starter for Luis Enrique's Giallorossi against Cagliari, he spent this year's curtain raiser against Catania on the bench.
With Roma trailing their Sicilian visitors 2-1 on Sunday night Coach Zdenek Zeman made three attacking substitutions, and yet Bojan remained seated. Alessandro Florenzi, who spent last season on loan at Crotone, and Nico Lopez, an unheralded 18-year-old, were preferred.
On the one hand it’s not hard to see why Zeman would want rid of someone who is essentially an Enrique player, even if Bojan wasn't a guaranteed starter during the Olimpico reign of his former Barca colleague. But on the other it's curious that the Czech was willing to dispose one of the few members of his squad who, as a wing forward, looked a perfect fit for the 4-3-3.
Allegri's introduction of a 4-3-3 at Milan is therefore well timed for the Catalan of Serbian descent, but it does leave us with an interesting, chicken and egg type scenario. If the Diavolo boss reverts to his beloved 4-3-1-2, it’s hard to see where Bojan will fit, and he'll simply be swapping a burgundy bench for a red and black one. So his success depends on the 4-3-3 system. And the 4-3-3 system's success depends on him.