The modern day football enthusiast has quickly become accustomed to weeks, if not months, of constant speculation and back-and-forth between respective parties before a transfer can be fully completed. That being said, when Cristian Zapata walked through the doors of Milan’s purpose built training headquarters several kilometres outside of Varese last week, followers of the game around the peninsula were thrown off guard slightly.
Milan have had a summer transfer campaign to forget following the mass exodus of legendary players last May. The Rossoneri’s concrete central defensive partnership of Alessandro Nesta and his apparent heir Thiago Silva has been shattered, with the latter’s money move to Paris Saint-Germain a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the team’s supporters.
After giving up on their pursuit of Montpellier captain Yanga-Mbiwa for the time being, Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani and his team quickly turned their attention to capturing the Colombian. The 25-year-old completed a medical and agreed personal terms before several influential media outlets had even broken the story of a proposed move.
Zapata’s career has stalled drastically following a switch to Villarreal from Udinese last year. After beginning the 2011-12 season in the Champions League, the Yellow Submarine sank with their relegation confirmed on the final day of La Liga last term. The defender’s agent, Massimo Italiani, immediately issued a statement confirming his client would leave, with Italy an unlikely destination. Whispers from Spain suggested the player was on his way to England and the Premier League at the very start of August, with Everton and West Brom battling it out for his signature.
In desperate need of reinforcements, the 2011 Serie A champions sealed the former Friulani man on a season long loan with an option to buy him outright next June. The transfer was certainly a shrewd piece of business, perhaps even rivalling the signing of the club’s second top scorer last season – Antonio Nocerino, bought from Palermo for just €500,000.
Zapata has all the attributes of a European pedigree centre-half, with an excellent eye for an interception and an imposing aerial battler. A stalwart of the Udinese side that qualified for the Champions League two years ago, the Colombian international has a history of endurance – playing the full 90 minutes of his last 10 Villarreal matches.
One from Francesco Acerbi and Philippe Mexes are lined up to start alongside him in Milan Coach Massimiliano Allegri’s rejuvenated side, spearheaded by a youthful attack. Zapata will have to act as one of the team’s leaders from the back, despite only recently joining up with the team.
Potentially replacing Silva would be a momentous task, but the man himself is not fazed by the challenge and only time will tell what he is capable of in a Milan shirt. “Being Thiago Silva’s ‘heir’ does not weigh on me. I’m not remotely frightened of the pressure that comes with that. I’m here to prove I am worthy of Milan.”
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