For the first time in years, Milan are mounting a serious assault on the Scudetto. With Inter greatly weakened, they simply cannot afford to waste this golden opportunity to add to their glittering trophy cabinet. A few key signings in the coming January transfer window could see them sit proudly atop Serie A once again.
Massimiliano Allegri has little to worry about between the sticks. Christian Abbiati, although prone to a few clanging gaffes, has been an impressive shot-stopper thus far. His understudy, Marco Amelia, is talented but has barely muddied his gloves this season. In truth, the Rossoneri haven’t had a top-class keeper for years. So, taking into account the departure of the bumbling Nelson Dida, things have greatly improved.
Milan’s starting back-line is impressive. Alessandro Nesta is a true general and his partnership with the energetic, elegant Thiago Silva is ideal. A rejuvenated Gianluca Zambrotta may no longer be as cavalier in attack as he once was, but he has found good form as a reliable and versatile full-back. On the opposite flank, it’s clear that Luca Antonini’s positional sense leaves much to be desired. However, the 28-year-old’s boundless energy and courageous running often makes up for what he lacks in natural defensive ability.
Should Milan really wish to cement their position at the top of the pile, they might consider pepping up their defensive cover. While Marek Jankulovski, Daniele Bonera and Massimo Oddo are all pretty much run out, Oguchi Onyewu, Mario Yepes and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are not realistic replacements for any of the starting XI. So, a robust, versatile defender similar to Chelsea’s Bransilav Ivanovic would certainly strengthen their position.
In midfield, Milan are, as ever, very strong. Andrea Pirlo remains unique in world football – slow, ponderous but brilliant. Mathieu Flamini, Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso offer, between them, fierce energy and bite. Driving forward, new signing Kevin-Prince Boateng has been surprisingly effective.
One cause for concern is the consistently indifferent form of Clarence Seedorf. Undoubtedly a Rossoneri legend, his apparent decline must be addressed by Allegri. Boateng’s current form is remarkable, though whether it can be sustained in the long-term is questionable. Milan have never adequately replaced Kaka, but now it is critical to do so. A barnstorming, box-to-box midfielder in the style of Milos Krasic or Wesley Sneijder really could make the difference in the final, crucial months of the season.
In attack, Milan are one player away from one of the best forward lines in European football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Robinho offer, in turns, a ruthless, flamboyant and potentially devastating offense. Problem is, Robinho has never been a consistent footballer, Pato is always injured and Ronaldinho – the only quality reserve – seems determined to party his way out of top-flight football.
Although it is not the intention of this column to indulge in speculation, in this case it is irresistible. If the rumours of Adriano Galliani’s interest in Antonio Cassano prove to be true, Milan could be in position to land one of Italy’s most consistently effective attackers – for free. Cassano would be a brilliant addition to a team who are at present dangerously reliant on Ibra for goals and inspiration. It would also mean playing Cassano in the fantasista role he was born for.
Should Milan dip into the transfer market this coming January, a few key signings – particularly in midfield and attack – could mean the difference between sucking sour grapes and sipping sweet champagne. It’s arguably their title to lose.