Since Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sold in the summer of 2012 to Paris Saint-Germain, Milan have failed miserably to replace him with a prolific No 9 capable of scoring goals by the handful. From Mario Balotelli to converted winger Jeremy Menez, Carlos Bacca and Nikola Kalinic, it’s quite clear the Rossoneri desperately lack the presence up front their domestic competition luxuriate in.
Last summer, sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli splashed roughly €65m on two strikers in Kalinic and Portuguese international Andre Silva, who scored eight Serie A goals between them. Ironically, 20-year old Patrick Cutrone, who Mirabelli appeared ready to loan out to Crotone before former Coach Vincenzo Montella blocked the move, ended the campaign as the club’s top scorer with 10 in the league.
While Cutrone is highly regarded and set to pen a new deal until 2023, the Como-born bomber is still very young and cannot possibly be expected to shoulder the responsibility as the lone source of production up front.
According to multiple reports, super-agent Jorge Mendes is working up a possible exchange between Milan and Monaco for Silva and Radamel Falcao. But is this the right move for the Italian giants?
The 22-year-old struggled to kick on and find his footing in his first year at Milan after the €38m switch from Porto last summer, scoring just twice in 24 league appearances. In Europa League competition however, Silva managed an impressive eight goals in 14 matches.
Still, something must be said about Silva failing mightily under both Montella and Gennaro Gattuso to earn the lion’s share of the minutes ahead of Cutrone and Kalinic, despite being more tactically flexible and supportive in the build-up.
Silva exhibits the make-up of a modern No 9 in that he isn’t tied to the penalty area and can be effective in multiple ways, whether it be with the ball at his feet pushing forward to create for either himself or others, or off the ball as a target in the box. We have seen this firsthand for Portugal where he has 12 goals in 21 appearances to date.
The reality is the suave striker still requires time to demonstrate these qualities - something Milan do not have the luxury of granting him, considering Gattuso’s urgent need to pick up the slack. Hence, this is why Falcao becomes a possible candidate, as his body of work proves he can bury the ball into the back of the net with regularity.
In 2017-18 for the former Ligue 1 champions, the 32-year-old Falcao bagged an impressive 24 goals in 36 matches across all competitions, showing no signs of slowing down.
The Colombian captain acts as an example for many in the current Monaco side who, like Milan, are still very young and could benefit from his experience which spans continental Europe. On the other hand, there is the possibility of buyer’s remorse.
Falcao is teetering between his prime and confronting the final stage of his career, so to give up prematurely on Silva after just one season presents a risk for Milan who will want to avoid yet another kneejerk decision that ends with them selling a potential star in favour of an ageing striker.
You can look at this possible swap move from all angles, dissect it and find reasons why it makes sense for Milan and why is does not. Jorge Mendes, who represents both Silva and Falcao, is only looking out for the best interest of his clients, so certainly a change of scenery for the two at different phases of their career isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
From Monaco’s perspective, sporting director Michael Emenalo would love nothing more than to refer to the principality club’s proven playbook of investing in young players as a source of future profits, and snag Silva to partner with recent recruit Pietro Pellegri while offloading a veteran like Falcao who has diminishing value. But if you are Milan who need immediate support and may not be in the position to delve into the market for a top striker like those mentioned earlier, then this swap deal becomes a possibility.
At first glance, it’s Monaco who seems to have little to lose should this deal come to fruition, unlike Milan who – if Silva impresses in Russia at the World Cup, is sold and becomes a star in France – will have to live with regret.