Milan’s injuries woes have been well documented and depleted what was already a thin squad at the start of the season, putting Coach Gennaro Gattuso in unexpected predicament. Giacomo Bonaventura, Lucas Biglia, Mateo Musacchio, Alessio Romagnoli, Davide Calabria and Mattia Caldara are among the many sidelined for substantial time, throwing a wrench into the Rossoneri’s plans for a top four finish.
Gattuso and his Milan are now tasked with seeing this injury spell out and finding solutions to battle through to January when the expected reinforcements can arrive. However, for the time being, the fiery Italian boss must get a bit creative in how he manages this current situation and afford minutes to those fringe players with little to no minutes to their name this 2018-19 season. Yes, including Riccardo Montolivo.
The former captain turned outcast had been, for all intents and purpose, banished by Milan supporters for years, yet still seemed to get a run in the squad despite less than adequate performances. In recent years Montolivo’s lacklustre play, compounded by his injury record for club and country, has slowly seen his role diminish, all while still remaining on the club’s books. Over the summer, Gattuso made it clear the Italian international was not in his plans, and he hasn't made a single appearance since the first pre-season friendly.
With the sale of homegrown youngster Manuel Locatelli this past summer and the primary ‘regista’ Biglia shelved indefinitely though, Gattuso may be forced into affording the ex-Viola standout another opportunity to win over the fans before his contract expires in June.
Montolivo is one of several fringe players in the squad who have either been sparingly used or not at all, joining Jose Mauri, Andrea Bertolacci and Alen Halilovic in being categorically frozen out by Gattuso – mostly for technical reasons. But with the injuries piling up by the week, it’s all hands on deck for Milan when you consider the stiff competition to meet both their coveted league objective and travel deep into the Europa League, as they're fancied to do by many betting on football.
Running out the same group of players each domestic and European fixture is risky business for Gattuso, and even increases the probability of others joining their teammates on the sidelines. Chelsea owned Tiémoué Bakayoko has deputised in Biglia’s absence, and has slowly but surely begun winning over the initial critics with an admirable run of form.
But the ebbs and flows of a long season suggest the former Monaco man will drift in and out of form, meaning Gattuso must have options to work with. Even if it is understood that Montolivo will never come close to replicating the form early from early in his Milan career that “earned” him the captain’s armband, the Italian could be worth an occasional shift in an emergency situation – and one could argue that is exactly what the Champions League hopefuls are confronted with at this time.