Monday August 25 2014
Milan hoping for Honda heroics

Keisuke Honda’s TIM Cup triumph could provide a real boost to Milan’s ailing squad, writes Sam Lewis. 

The exit of Mario Balotelli has cast a shadow over Milan, turning the remainder of the transfer window into a rat race, the Rossoneri desperate to fill the gap left behind by the controversial striker.

Although the Diavolo’s efforts are firmly focused on replacing Balotelli with another forward, the 24-year-old’s departure means the burden many expected SuperMario to shoulder will now be carried by the rest of the team.

“When a player leaves, it means all the parties involved took this decision. We are certainly losing a great player, but we gain something more in team spirit and hunger,” Inzaghi told media following Balotelli’s exit.

One player who should perhaps be hungrier than most is Keisuke Honda, who is beginning to show the form that had so many Milan fans excited upon his arrival in January.

Although a small sample size that becomes immediately worthless at the season’s start, Honda was the best player during the Trofeo TIM for Milan, scoring a terrific goal with a hooked finish against Juventus before registering an assist in the following match against Sassuolo.

As the man who gave the former CSKA man the famous No 10 shirt, Adriano Galliani was typically confident in the player’s performance.

“I was certain that Honda would return to being the great player that he has always been,” the CEO told Press. He may have been the only one.

Honda looked out of place last season in Clarence Seedorf’s 4-2-3-1, but the Japanese looks much more comfortable on the right side of Filippo Inzaghi’s 4-3-3, cutting in and delivering accurate passes across the pitch as well as drifting inside the box to cause trouble, as shown by his strike against the Bianconeri.

Milan and Honda will be hoping the new-found comfort in Italy will continue when the games that matter begin, as Honda’s presence as chief creator is much more obvious now that Balotelli is no longer around.

Without Balotelli, who tended to drift wide and deep to pick up the ball before looking to pass to a running mate, Honda’s responsibility to deliver the passes that his former teammate would have has been heightened.  With that responsibility however, comes extra space on the pitch for the midfielder to take a primary role. Watching Milan last year, it often felt like Honda and Balotelli were closer to bumping into each other than developing any real chemistry. Without the mercurial forward, that problem no longer exists.

Additionally, the replacement for Balotelli is likely to be a more traditional striker than the former Inter and Manchester City player was. With a player more in the mould of Milan’s new Coach Inzaghi, the 28-year-old may benefit from having a pure finisher to chase through balls and improve the midfielder’s statistics come this season’s end.

With the arrival of a wide player on the backburner as Milan chase Balotelli’s replacement, the likelihood is ever increasing that it will be Honda opposite Stephan El Shaarawy and a yet-to-be-named striker against Lazio on August 31.

Although that situation is not viewed as ideal by the board, Honda could provide a real lift to a squad that has become more bereft of creative talent as each transfer window passes. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
will get van ginkle so he gets game time. So we are now being used by clubs to train there players while cristante and saponara can be sold, or left on the bench! Disgusting! Soon we will have a team of loaned players having sold every other player and pocketed all the money. I beg and plead for berlusconi to set us free and sell up!
on the 1st September, 2014 at 10:14am
Funny what a team can do when all 11-men run and work together!
on the 1st September, 2014 at 8:56am
I would say if this season goes the way we all think it will ie milan doing worse than last season then I think this has to be the end for Galliani anyway.

I think we've all made our views known. Let's hope every single one of us except Viktor are proved wrong! Torres to return to Liverpool form, SES to re-discover his form, Menez to reach his potential, Alex and Rami to form an unlikely solid CB pairing and Lopez to be our best keeper since Rossi!
on the 30th August, 2014 at 12:31pm
@ Super Daddy Pippo I think it's for the reasons I mentioned below. I think this all started really around 2006 with the sale of Shevchenko. Since then Milan have become a selling club and I think Galliani has struggled. If we are to be selling club then we need to be clever and have a plan. This summer has been particularly bad. We have had no money to spend and the little money we had has been spent on the wrong players. It's time for Galliani and Berlusconi to move on.
on the 30th August, 2014 at 12:25pm
The more obvious problems come from the 'defence' which is actually no existent, how bonera, mexes, alex and rami are even classed as footballers is beyond me! We also own in excess of 10 midfielders each with their own special/unique way of being crap, a strike force that couldn't score against children let alone a proper team (even with the illustrious not so super mario). The 1 good bit of business Galliani did was get double figures for Balo, which he will undo by signing Torres! HELP US...
on the 29th August, 2014 at 3:06pm
@Super daddy pippo
The reason we are such a mess is thanks to Berlusconi, Galliani and the complete clearout of a whole squad. Then the pointless acquisitions like essien, honda, muntari to name but afew, mix that in with the propaganda that these players are 'stars' gives you a pretty clear picture of the situation! Sold and pocketed all the money brought in a few more freebies to try and cover things wasted 24mil on 1 player then blame the shambles on allergri! It's a massive pile of BS!!!
on the 29th August, 2014 at 2:58pm
@ Maldini's Heir

You seem to know alot about Milan & care for them very much just like myself I ask you this because I want to know your opinion:

Why do you think Milan are so poor at making transfers decisions this past 2-4 seasons? Where have we went wrong? Why don't we have any money?

It's killing me to see our beloved Milan struggle and become a laughing stock of the football world!! It is Galliani's fault? Is it time for him and Mr President to sell & move on?

on the 29th August, 2014 at 2:17pm
cause complete chaos. Out of squad of 27 odd players we have made 18 changes. That's nearly 2/3 of the squad. Imagine if you had a company with 100 staff and every 6 months they decided to change 66/100 staff. It's complete and utter madness.

And rather than signing the 8/9 players we should've been looking to sign just 1 or 2 players that actually make a difference e.g. for the same money (€8 m) we could've got Lopez, Astori and Cole.
on the 29th August, 2014 at 9:23am
If you take first team players and new signings then the last transfer window in January to the end of this transfer window he'll have made the following changes to the first team squad:

IN: Lopez, Agazzi, Alex, Albertazzi, Armero, Ménez, Niang + possibly a CM and CF (8/9)

OUT: Amelia, Coppola, Silvestre, Emanuelson, Kaka, Taarabt, Birsa, Robinho, Balotelli, Petagna (10)

That's 18/19 changes to the first team since January. Ignoring the fact that most of those signings are rubbish it must...
on the 29th August, 2014 at 9:19am
@ maf You've hit the nail on the head. Galliani needs to be seen to be kept busy that's why so many signings are utterly pointless. A signing should make a difference or else what's the point. If you look at the last number of seasons Galliani has been involved in approx 40 different transfers this summer (some are settling up co-ownerships, end of loans, exercising options to buy etc), last season approx. 80 and approx. 55 in 12/13. So he's been very busy doing something.
on the 29th August, 2014 at 9:10am
One has to wonder why Milan doesn't seem to leverage players from their youth system more. Is it because of Galliani? Does he feel that he needs to justify his position by making rubbish transfers in the market all the time instead of promoting growth from within the club? Would doing this concede some of his power somehow? Argue all you like about players and coaches at Milan but their problems lie in their management and policies.
on the 28th August, 2014 at 5:10pm
Matri could be our new Massaro (Serie A winner x 4 and CL winner x 2). If Massaro was playing today he'd probably be in Serie B or in the Bundesliga!
on the 28th August, 2014 at 9:55am
@ mm and Super Daddy Pippo You're both asking for Milan to spend the little money we have on a striker having called for our leading goal scorer to be sold for non-footballing reasons. You cannot have it both ways.

@ mm I'd have no issue with Matri coming back. The problem when we re-signed him was we didn't need him and so his confidence was shot. I'd take Matri or Paloschi over an overpaid and overpriced Torres. I think Milan owe it to Matri having messed him around so much
on the 28th August, 2014 at 9:53am

I 100% agree with you that we need to start using our youth players - Cristante is a good footballer who can pick a pass & has good vision and so is Saponara who can beat men dribbling & has a good touch! This season is the best time to give these youngs lads a chance as we're not in Europe so if they can get first team football in Serie A it will give them more experience, which is exactly what they need. We've no need to buy/loan more midfielders - we need better defenders & a striker!
on the 27th August, 2014 at 4:34pm
Saponara and cristante 2 excellent youngsters beimg pushed out of the team by yet another pointless signing which is also foreign and not very good, this maldini heir is my problem, im not saying no foreigners im saying bring in the best, van ginkel?? Essien??? Muntari?? Mexes?? My point is cristante and saponara are better than most and should be used and pushed to progress to first team and Italy. Good shout with ogbonna. But no more matri please!
on the 27th August, 2014 at 1:52pm





Let Honda play in the middle where he is most useful, get SES back up front again with Pazzini and he will score goals once more!!!
on the 27th August, 2014 at 1:36pm
Surely Galliani realises that our defence is in dire need of better centre backs...last season and this years pre-season proves this point. Fair enough - goals win games and all that jazz but if you have a solid defence then you won't concede any!! He's meant to be this big transfer wizard but yet he's done nothing worth talking about this transfer window so far :( Torres is past it lads - he's been embarrassing these last 3 seasons and yet because Galliani can get him cheap he loves him!!! :(
on the 27th August, 2014 at 1:32pm
(Part 2/2)

It's no use the Milan board saying they want great things for the club but they won't spend!! We have to be realistic here and make do with what we have...we have more midfielders but no enough 'GOOD' defenders and we need a great centre forward!! Milan have this policy of getting free agents, players who are past their best and cheap alternative options yet they have the balls to bitch about it when it doesn't pay off! I say this all with love as I am a Milan fan and it kills me :(
on the 27th August, 2014 at 11:20am
Why have Milan signed Van Ginkel? He's a midfielder. Why do we need another midfielder? So we now have De Jong, Muntari (renewed), Poli, Van Ginkel, Monty, Essien, Cristante, Saponara and Honda. That's 9 players for 3 positions in a 4-3-3 or 29 players in a squad that is not in Europe. Assuming we sell Essien (having signed him only in January) where does this leave Cristante? Is Honda now definitely being pushed out to the right? Where does Saponara fit in? What a complete and utter shambles
on the 27th August, 2014 at 11:13am
(Part 1/2)

It still baffles me how Bonera, Mexes, Muntari and Zaccardo are part of this Milan squad. If we are all being honest...they're all terrible yet they get paid thousands lol. The thing is (and it's been clear for some time now) Milan just won't spend the money for good players - all this talk from the Milan board/staff about getting Milan back to they way the were with great champions in the squad yet they won't spend the cash. SPEND THE CASH and we will get good players!!
on the 27th August, 2014 at 11:13am
who scored 30 goals in 54 games. By way of contrast the strikers we're linked with included Torres who scored 20 in 110 games for Chelsea. Do you see the difference? Right now the best of bad bunch is for Milan to call Matri back from loan and to spend 15m on signing Ogbonna. But again its not like we'll ever prioritise defence over attack is it.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 11:06am
failure it gave Galliani the perfect opportunity to do what he likes to do best: changing around our attack like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Therefore once again Milan prioritised changing around the attack over the defence. Anyone with half a brain or who is not completely prejudiced could see that Balotelli was not Milan or Italy's biggest problem when he did his job and others didn't. So we're stuck with this defence this season and we've taken out a striker who scored...
on the 27th August, 2014 at 11:03am
@ mm No you can't have it both ways. Just like you can't ban "foreigners" in Serie A while Italy is part of the EU. You see most people when they get past being angsty teenagers realise that in life you can't get everything your way and that there needs to be some compromise where you focus on your priorities. Milan's priorities this summer should have been sorting our defence. Because a relatively small group of very loud and obnoxious "fans" decided to scapegoat one player for an entire team's
on the 27th August, 2014 at 10:56am
It's depressing to see the dross linked with Serie A and shows just how much its declined.

For Milan to even consider someone like Torres says it all.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 10:23am
@maldini heir
You will recall that the defence was the 1 point we both agree on. I think you will also notice that since the departure of Balo milan won the TIM cup, minor I know but shows we officially have won more without Balotelli (as pointed out by another blogger). 18months and the day after the sell we suddenly win!!! Anyway he has gone good luck to him. Lets hope bonera, mexes atleast follow him away, a hope I know you share along with most of us. Astori or ogbonna would be great!
on the 26th August, 2014 at 8:16pm
Sorry mm when you were running your little hate campaign against our leading goalscorer the rest of us were looking at our defence. You can't have it both ways I'm afraid.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 6:55pm
We need to do something with this defence! My goodness it is shocking how bad they are.
I would also like to see us going for a striker like destro. Thankfully I can't see chelsea letting him go for less 30mil which is great as we wont spend that. I personally feel borini was part of the deal which saw Balo go, I think he is already a Milan man but Galliani is holding it until the last second to unveil him as 'mr X'. Whatever we do we must rid ourselves of bonera, mexes, alex ASAP
on the 26th August, 2014 at 6:31pm
PS 3-5-2 is another option. The problem is to make up the 3 we need to play 2 of Bonera, Mexes and Rami! I already don't like the idea of having to play Alex! Maybe playing 3 at the back would allow the CBs to cover when their mates inevitably make mistakes. The Juve 3 in fairness are pretty awful in a back 4 for Italy. Maybe Rami has some hidden defensive ability and Mexes can act really composed as a sweeper without getting booked. My god we're bad.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 4:38pm
@ Anonymous Its the best I can do with the options available! I didn't say it was the greatest team ever! I think its a choice between playing Menez and then a more all round midfield three (e.g. Poli-De Jong-Monty) or Abate to offset the creative flair of Honda/Saponara. Honda cannot play on the wing. We could go back to a diamond with Honda supported by Poli-De Jong-Monty. The problem is the squad is a total mess because there's zero planning gone into it.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 4:23pm
@Maldini's Heir
Abate has been terrible as a winger every time a coach tried him there.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 3:24pm

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