Club Focus – Milan – Growing optimism with Robinho joining after Ibrahimovic

Milan took advantage of the transfer deadline over a week ago to complete a dramatic swoop for two important players. Robinho’s unhappiness in Manchester was to the advantage of the Rossoneri who managed to sign the Brazilian forward in the nick of time, shortly after the addition of Barcelona’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Rossoneri management has taken a major step to silence not just the critics but the tifosi, eager for at least one major signing this summer. By signing two established names, Milan have appeased their faithful for at least a while, but more importantly has provided Coach Massimiliano Allegri with enough ammunition up front to strike fear into quality opponents.
The addition of both Ibrahimovic and Robinho should offer a major boost to the Rossoneri in terms of ticket sales, season ticket demand and merchandise requests. For the Coach, this provides the opportunity to field one of the most talented forward line-ups in not just Serie A but across Europe as well. Allegri could even start an exclusively Brazilian attack with Ronaldinho, Robinho and Alexandre Pato leading the line against opponents. The Brazilian trio can complicate the strategies and formations of the biggest of clubs as they possess a great set of skills and an extraordinary array of tricks and moves. There is even talk of the rejuvenated Ronaldinho receiving a call up to the Selecao after he missed out on the World Cup in South Africa. The main concern for Allegri is how to fit all the attacking talent at once, as Ronaldinho and Pato appear to be near certainties for the starring role, while recent signings Ibrahimovic and Robinho will have to fight it out for the remaining spot in first team. After all, there is little doubt that to change the formation to accommodate both might end up jeopardizing the balance of the whole squad.

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This could become an even bigger problem considering the current starters in midfield are all over 30-years-old, unless Allegri begins to integrate Kevin-Prince Boateng quickly into the starting XI. Azzurri captain Andrea Pirlo and Dutchman Clarence Seedorf are quite talented but both are on the wrong side of 30 and are not exactly renowned for their defensive acumen. Even their fellow starter Massimo Ambrosini has lost much of his pace and physical prowess as he enters the twilight of his career. The club management seems to be aware of this aspect and has not taken a step back despite the two major signings. In fact, the Rossoneri have begun to assess some of the available options to be added to the squad during the January transfer window. One possible target is Sampdoria’s promising midfielder Andrea Poli, who seems destined to stardom and has already caught the attention of a number of big clubs across the peninsula. Milan are set to bid for Poli and considering Boateng will have featured enough by then to learn the system, the Coach could be relying on two younger midfielders by the end of the season, with veterans offering experience when needed, either from the bench or by playing alongside the younger players.
With the inbound players garnering much of the media coverage, the departure of two of the club’s strikers received minimal attention. It must be said the sale of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar comes as no surprise since he was not expected to stay at Milanello, following a disappointing first season when he failed to establish himself as a starter. Huntelaar joined Schalke 04 where he will team up with veteran striker Raul Gonzalez who signed from Real Madrid. The other departing Rossonero is Marco Borriello who moved to Roma after he recognised his playing time will be greatly diminished after the arrival of Selecao forward Robinho and Sweden’s Ibrahimovic.
Borriello was a loyal servant to the club and despite his spell being hindered and interrupted by injuries, he still managed to impress ahead of Huntelaar last season. The Azzurri striker does not have the allure of the new signings, so, the tifosi will not be disappointed and will not make a fuss following his signing with the Giallorossi. The Coach must now turn his attention to the starting line-up to figure out who will bask in the spotlight at the expense of the other and to make certain he can keep the rest of the squad both happy and productive despite limited playing time. Allegri must integrate both Ibrahimovic and Robinho but should also consider giving Boateng more minutes, which could cause friction as that is likely to affect seasoned veteran Seedorf. In the meantime, the rest of Calcio and some of the European contenders have begun to ponder the lingering effects from the major signings last week. Azzurri forward Antonio Cassano has already labeled Milan as the favourites for the Serie A title, while others have pushed them ahead of Inter for the Champions League race.
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