AC Milan may have already captured the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup this season, however I am sure that Coach Carlo Ancelotti will (secretly) be the first to admit that these less than prestigious trophies cannot succeed in papering over the cracks currently present in the Rossoneri squad.At the beginning of the new calendar year, Milan are languishing in 12th position in Serie A, an incredible 25 points behind league-leading city rivals Inter.
They have still failed to win at home in the league this season, drawing five and losing two of their seven games (eight games and three defeats if you include the derby clash with Inter), and perhaps even more worryingly, scoring just a miserly three goals, two of which were penalties.
I personally believe that despite Milan’s struggles they are not that far away from being a great team. However in order to achieve this, and offer themselves a chance of retaining the Champions League in May, they simply have to make a few top-class transfer purchases.
Current Milan First Team Squad:
Goalkeepers: Nelson Dida, Zeljko Kalac, Valerio Fiori
Defenders: Daniele Bonera,Marcus Cafu, Digao, Giuseppe Favalli, Marek Jankulovski, Kakha Kaladze, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Oddo, Serginho, Dario Simic
Midfielders: Massimo Ambrosini, Ibrahim Ba, Cristian Brocchi, Emerson, Rino Gattuso, Yoann Gourcuff, Ricardo Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf
Forwards: Willy Aubameyang, Alberto Gilardino, Filippo Inzaghi, Ronaldo, Alexandre Pato
Let’s start with the biggest problem position of them all - and surprisingly enough I am not talking about Nelson Dida.
The reason Milan have struggled so badly at times this campaign has been their impotency up-front. I have lost count of the number of games where the likes of Pirlo, Seedorf and Kaka have controlled the midfield, but have had no one to supply in the forward positions.
Ronaldo has the quality but the truth is he is always injured and it may not be a bad idea to let him leave in January.
Alberto Gilardino is just not good enough – it is as simple as that. He is technically poor, cannot create chances for himself, and his movement and striker intelligence is abysmal. He really is the Italian version of Emile Heskey.
As for Filippo Inzaghi – well I think he is still of very valuable use to Milan, but at the age of 34 – this should only be as a substitute in a tight game. Using him as first striker, as Ancelotti has done on numerous occasions this campaign is just pointless. He just hasn’t got the attributes to play in this role.
So Milan need two strikers for certain.
Alexandre Pato could plug one of these holes. He has been described by some as the best young Brazilian talent since Ronaldo exploded onto the scene in the mid-1990s.
“Ancelotti has already placed a bet for the 2008 Ballon d’Or – and he thinks it will be Pato,” declared Vice-President Adriano Galliani recently.
If this proves to be the case, then all Milan would need is a target man striker to play alongside Pato. Palermo star Amauri would be the perfect choice here. He is at the right age of maturity at 27, has numerous years of Serie A experience and also has the technical ability to go with his physical qualities.
Another option could be Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, although he will certainly be unattainable until at least the end of the season, and by that time he will be 30.
The Rossoneri still undoubtedly have one of the best midfields in Europe.
Andrea Pirlo is the best deep-lying playmaker in the world, Kaka is the best attacking midfielder in the world, while Gennaro Gattuso, Massimo Ambrosini and Clarence Seedorf, despite the latter’s inconsistency, are no slouches either.
However it is clear that underneath these players there are no adequate replacements. Given the fact that Seedorf is 31, Ambrosini is 30, Gattuso will be 30 next week, and Pirlo is nearly 29, it is self-explanatory that these players cannot play every week – they need to be rested now and again.
However the options in reserve are Brocchi, Emerson and Gourcuff. If Brocchi’s effort matched his ability he would be the best player in the world – unfortunately this is not the case. Emerson was world-class during his Roma days, however now he runs around as if he is desperate to go to the toilet – and I will never understand what possessed Milan to purchase him in the summer.
Finally Gourcuff has been hailed as the ‘new Zidane’ in some quarters, however I have seen no evidence to suggest that he is even worthy of polishing the great man’s shoes.
The most obvious addition to Milan’s attacking midfield department could be Ronaldinho. This transfer certainly could take place in the summer, possibly even in January if the Rossoneri wanted it to, however I am not sure it would be a good idea.
I am not convinced at all that Ronaldinho and Kaka can play in the same team together. Never was this better exemplified than during the World Cup in Germany last summer when the duo repeatedly took up the same positions and as a result both had poor tournaments as Brazil crashed out in the quarter-finals.
Alessandro Rosina of Torino would be a great choice. A fantastically gifted winger, who could easily adapt into the Kaka or Seedorf position, he would also add a bit of extra pace to the team.
Milan certainly need an alternative for Andrea Pirlo. When he is out of the team they lose the player who makes them tick. Lazio’s Cristian Ledesma, who despite his poor season, could be a good reserve to have, as could Arsenal's Matthieu Flamini, whose contract runs out in the summer.
Luca Cigarini of Parma, who has been described by some as the “new Andrea Pirlo” is also another option. The Rossoneri are certainly an ageing team, with nine of their first-choice XI either over or soon to turn 30 years of age.
If Milan do not start introducing some young blood into the team, in a couple of seasons they will be in a simply disastrous position.
The likes of Cafu, Serginho and Giuseppe Favalli, who are not first-team players, all need to be moved on in the summer in order to make way for some youngsters.
In the centre of defence Milan have nothing to worry about. Alessandro Nesta proved against Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the derby that he is still one of the best defenders in the world, while Kakha Kaladze is a top-class partner for the ex-Italy international.
Daniele Bonera has shown promise as a replacement, however with Paolo Maldini retiring in the summer, another quality centre back is required, possibly a youngster with versatility, who can also play right or left back, and will eventually take over from Nesta in a few years.
Sergio Ramos, who is much admired by Milan would be the perfect man for this role, as he could also fill in at right back, which has been a troublesome position this season. Tomas Ujfalusi is available on a free at the end of the season, although he will turn 30 in the summer.
Massimo Oddo has been simply dreadful this campaign, however, for some reason or another, his poor showings have not been highlighted by the media. On the other side Marek Jankulovski has been steady, although I am sure that Milan would not hesitate to find a better replacement here.
The obvious choice is Gianluca Zambrotta, who is certain to join the Rossoneri, the only question being whether this takes place in January or June. I would urge Galliani and Berlusconi to sign him this month. Other possibilities are Bayern Munich’s Willy Sagnol, who reportedly is unhappy in Germany, and the brilliant Daniel Alves of Sevilla, although he would not come cheap.
Finally the second-biggest problem in the Milan team – Nelson Dida.
An Italian journalist said a few weeks ago that every time a team has a shot against Milan it results in a goal – and this really has appeared to be the case this season.
The Brazilian has made a huge catalogue of errors and he simply has to be replaced. Gianluigi Buffon has proved on numerous occasions that good goalkeepers win you matches, while Dida has demonstrated that poor one’s lose you them.
The three shot-stoppers heavily linked with the Rossoneri are Sebastien Frey, Artur Boruc and PSV Eindhoven’s Gomes. I would stay way clear of Gomes, and if I had to choose between Frey and Boruc, I would opt for Boruc.
The Pole is a phenomenon, he has impeccable positioning and brilliant reflexes and I am sure would be a big star for the Rossoneri. Frey has also proved himself to be a brilliant shot-stopper and he pulled off some miraculous saves in a match with Inter early in December. However for all his ability, his positioning and decision-making is sometimes a little suspect.