Club Focus – Milan – Ronaldinho, Nesta and Pato will be key to Rossoneri hopes

Milan will be looking to build on last season’s third place and perhaps challenge city rivals Inter for titles. It is quite difficult for the Rossoneri to win in Europe but challenging for Serie A supremacy might be more feasible than many critics believe.

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Coach Massimiliano Allegri will focus his attention on two talented players who can make or break the club’s season: Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato. To start with, Ronaldinho has shown commitment towards the club and has refuted all rumours linking him with moves to Major League Soccer, Brazil or English Premier League. The Brazilian playmaker was a delightful surprise last season as he led the Serie A charts in assists and contributed his fair share of league goals. When Ronaldinho hit top form during late 2009 and early 2010, the Rossoneri emerged as title contenders before gradually falling out of the picture after a short spell of below-par performances by the maestro along with two key injuries to Pato and Alessandro Nesta. Pato will turn 21 a few days after the opening weekend of Serie A action and has shown composure as well as an uncanny ability to find the back of the net on big occasions such as the Champions League clash with Real Madrid last season. While he relies on his pace and predatory instincts, Pato still combines well with Ronaldinho and often drifts to the right side of the attack leaving Marco Borriello as the central striker on the receiving of golden opportunities. Both Ronaldinho and Pato will be motivated to put behind a disappointing summer as former Selecao boss Carlos Dunga made the grave mistake of excluding both from the Brazil squad which underachieved in South Africa 2010.

Besides the Brazilian duo, all eyes will be on former Azzurri centre-back Nesta who had a decent campaign in 2009/10 after he missed all but 13 minutes of the previous season due to injury. Milan’s form stuttered and the defensive line looked shaky while the Italian was sidelined due to injury leaving the burden on Thiago Silva to shore up the back-line in his absence. While Silva performed admirably throughout the season, he was still short on the intangibles which made Nesta one of the best defenders since the late 1990s. Manchester United spearheaded by Wayne Rooney looked unstoppable and shredded the Rossoneri defence to pieces as Nesta was visibly bothered by injury and short on fitness. The other Rossoneri defenders were not up to his standard and were outclassed by their opponents from the English Premier League. It will be crucial for the Coach to have a healthy Nesta and the Italian will be hoping to have an injury-free season. Unfortunately, Nesta has undergone a minor procedure to his right hand to fix a broken bone and the former Lazio defender is expected to recover prior to Milan’s first game on August 29. The tifosi and Coach Allegri will hope this will signal the end of his health concerns following a few years marred by injuries.

The Rossoneri signed Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos who can play as a right-back or centre-back and while he will start season on the bench, he is likely to see action in the foreseeable future. Allegri will feel confident with the experience provided by his veteran defenders and the continuing maturity of Silva while his main dilemma will be choosing between Marco Amelia and Christian Abbiati to start in goal. Both keepers are experienced and are solid when it comes to performing saves and blocking out shots. They might not be as strong on crosses but they continue to be considered amongst the better goalkeepers in Serie A.

Allegri feels the Rossoneri remain thin in midfield indicating he wants to add a midfielder considering the decline of veterans Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso as well as addressing any fitness concerns surrounding the aging duo of Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf. One of the names being considered is Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng with the Rossoneri reporting the player was in Milanello on Monday. While the club’s management continues to insist no new signings will be made before other players depart, Boateng might arrive on loan which could ease any financial concerns.

The Coach will also have to address the status of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who could not establish himself as a starter last season. He will start on the bench if he remains with the club as Pato and Borriello will continue to form the attacking partnership. The next few days will see Allegri urging the squad to pick up the pace and get ready for the season’s start while speculation regarding transfers is unlikely to cease before the deadline for signing players.

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