By Milan standards it’s been a relatively quiet week in the San Siro. There has of course been the customary transfer links and the deepening of shadows cast over the future of Carlo Ancelotti’s future at the club.
This week the Milan Coach has been quoted by the Italian Press as saying he will only stay in the peninsula if the Rossoneri make two major signings in the summer. Despite Vice-President Adriano Galliani officially announcing the club must make severe financial cutbacks, it seems likely that the cash will be made available only for the right players. Rumours aplenty are flying around linking il Diavolo with all and sundry.
It is no secret that Milan are in desperate need of a commanding central defender. With Alessandro Nesta’s long-term injury problems and the imminent retirement of talismanic captain Paolo Maldini at the end of the season, a gaping hole will be left at the heart of the Rossoneri defence. Ancelotti is thought to be interested in Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Alex, Liverpool’s unsettled Danish youngster Daniel Agger and another name that repeatedly crops up – Roma’s Philippe Mexes. The Frenchman has a reputation as one of the finest defenders in Europe and the audacious swoop for the 27-year-old would set Milan back somewhere in the region of £15m, a price tag one expects to be out of their range, although a £13m swap deal involving Yoann Gourcuff and the co-owned Ignazio Abate going the other way will be used as bait. Even so, the likelihood of landing Mexes is remote with the Giallorossi defender expressing a desire to stay with the capital club and become an icon.
Mexes Roma teammate Cristian Panucci is also linked with the Rossoneri and seems a safer bet to make a move. The former Rossonero could be persuaded to return to his old club following the rift with Giallorossi Coach Luciano Spalletti earlier this year. Although the pair appear to have patched up their differences, the veteran defender becomes a free agent in the summer which would suit Galliani’s tactic of doing deals on a shoestring budget.
Inter left-back Maxwell is another name strongly linked with a move to Milan. Having only been on the peripheries of the team, the Brazilians agent Mino Raiola announced: “I think that Maxwell’s Inter adventure is over” and has not ruled out a switch to the Rossoneri. A more unlikely candidate reported to make the switch from the Nerazzurri is striker Adriano. The Brazilian’s contract with Inter expires in 2010 and it would be no surprise to see the troublesome forward shipped out of the San Siro in the summer, but Massimo Moratti will be irked to hand over one of his prized assets to his close city rivals.
Adriano is not the only striker Milan have been linked with. Emmanuel Adebayor, Samuel Eto’o, Amauri and Freddie Kanoute have all been short-listed with moves to the San Siro, suggesting Ancelotti is in search for a big forward to partner his young star Alexandre Pato. Milan has certainly performed admirably since the Tactician reverted to a two-pronged attack which resulted in eight goals in three games, but bringing in the right player for an affordable price could prove to be a major stumbling block. Unfortunately the former Tottenham player is the most likely and inexpensive option.
Landing players may not be the only challenge the Rossoneri hierarchy have to face this summer. Keeping star players already in the squad may prove just as difficult. Ronaldinho for one is not happy playing second fiddle and with Kaka unlikely to be lured to the Premier League, it may just pave the way for Ronaldinho to be offered a money-spinning deal with Manchester City. The classy Brazilian clearly wants first team football that he will not be guaranteed if he stays with il Diavolo and Milan would welcome an injection of cash to help bolster areas they are looking to strengthen.
David Beckham is another name that could potentially slip through their hands, but after all the furore of extending his loan deal to stay at the San Siro, this seems unlikely. Still, newspaper reports suggest a return to La Liga for the England star could be on the cards with Real Madrid making a surprise £10m swoop. A move of that nature will clearly not bode well with LA Galaxy and having paid £2m of his own money to play for Milan, Becks is unlikely to renege on the deal he has thrashed out over the last few months with his two current clubs.
In the last round of Serie A games, Milan were fortunate to come away from the Stadio San Paolo with a point after a goalless draw with Napoli. I Ciucciarelli
should have taken the lead in the first half when Marek Hamsik nicked in front of Dida to nudge home Marcelo Zalayeta’s header, but the striker was incorrectly ruled offside. Zalayeta missed a glorious chance himself midway through the second half when he broke into the box to get on the end of a wonderfully flighted cross by the inspirational Daniele Mannini, but the Uruguayan somehow steered his effort wide when it looked easier to score.
For their part Milan was disappointing and other than a few flashes of brilliance from the lively Pato, never looked in contention to grab a goal which is testament to Roberto Donadoni for getting his tactics spot-on against his former club. In the second half Ancelotti introduced back-from-injury duo Kaka and Ronaldinho in an attempt to inspire his side’s attacking prowess, but the tactic proved to be as ineffective as it has been all season. With Juve’s emphatic 4-1 triumph over Roma in the Stadio Olimpico, the Rossoneri slipped to five points behind the Old Lady in their attempt to clinch second spot. They also have to be wary of the teams behind them after Genoa’s win against Udinese brought them to within four points of the Rossoneri.
Next week is the international break so Milan do not play again until April 5 when they entertain struggling Lecce at the San Siro. In the meantime, their stars will report for international duty when Italy travel to Montenegro on March 28 for a European qualifier and the Brazilian contingent fly back to South America for a date with Ecuador. Beckham is included in Capello’s England squad to face Slovakia and Ukraine.