There were not quite fireworks in the last week on the transfer market, which saw the minnows complete a fully of moves to try to bolster their squads. After selling Krzysztof Piatek, Genoa were one of the most active one, as they added Chievo centre-piece Ivan Radovanovic and Lukas Lerager from Bordeaux to revamp their midfield and Andràs Schafer to have one more alternative on the flanks. The first two could be regular starters, especially because Sandro was sent to Udinese. Boca Juniors long chased Atalanta’s José-Luis Palomino, but they had to settle for Lisandro Lopez. Continue reading
Talking about AC Milan competing for any championship these days sounds odd to hear. The Rossoneri are years away from becoming the force that once conquered European club football. And on the domestic front, it’s difficult to imagine them breaking Juventus stranglehold of the league, at least, not in the nearest future.
After last Sunday the 1-1 draw against Cagliari, Milan Legend Paolo Maldini Summarized the current status of the team in a very reflective statement. “Being the anti-Juventus? Let’s be serious, we’re still a long way off being that. We’re aiming to reach the top four in the league and have a great run in the Europa League. Projects are important, but you can’t yet compare Milan to Juventus.”
One big take out from this comment is the admission by the former Iconic Milan Captain that, the Rossoneri will not win the Europa League. Sure, Milan are looking to have a great run in the competition, but how far can they go, quarter-final or Semi-final? And will that be a prudent use of their current strength or a focus discussion on securing fourth place in Serie A should be the way to go.
Despite the improvement in key areas this season, Milan’s performance last season suggest they need to choose between the Europa League and fourth place in Serie A. And for a club of Milan’s stature qualification for Champions league should be the Holy Grail.
Milan started very well in the qualification round of the Europa League last season, before witnessing some disappointing results and insipid display during the group stage. However, it became a platform for players such as Andre Silva and Fabio Borini to make a case for a starting place in the team which did not quite materialised. The Portugal international, Silva, who is currently on loan at Sevilla could not translate his European form into domestic performance.
Gannaro Gattuso managed to take Milan to the round 16th of Europe’s second tier competition, but stumbled against English side Arsenal both at home and away grounds. Notwithstanding the Gunners ordeal during that time in their English Premier League, which read eight points behind fourth place, the chasm in quality, maturity and organisation was huge. Of course, Arsenal had a crop of players who had been together for quite a long time whiles the Rossoneri were going through what one will describe as a teething problem.
The Europa League could disrupt Milan’s domestic campaign, as it can put a strain on the squad. Compared to last season, Gattuso has got a bigger group of players must be tactful in how he rotates the lads whiles guarding against injuries. The inclusion of Samu Castilljo, Diego Laxalt, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Alen Halilović could provide the Diavolo cover in crucial moments. The team still awaits the return of right back Andrea Conti from rehabilitation after a long spell in the treatment room.
Milan kick start their campaign against Dudelange in Group F which also has the likes Real Betis and Olympiacos. They will qualify and possibly lead the group, but do they have the quality to compete against some of the big dogs who may fall from the Champions league. How would Milan fair against teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Sevilla or even Olympiacos and Real Betis in the group stage.
From an administrative perspective participation in the Europa league is a great call because it comes with some financial incentives, whiles from a supporter’s point of view, this an opportunity to witness European football at the San Siro, especially, when their rivals from the blue side of the City, Inter Milan, are involved in the bigger one, the Champion League.
It’s early days yet but, Milan’s domestic form isn’t that great and Maldini had some few words on how the team can develop “What to improve? We have to try to accelerate the growth of experience, we have an opportunity and the results of the other teams show it. The team is not yet aware of how strong it is, many guys have not realized how much they can give. Dialogue with us directors could be important for them”.
Certainly, having a discussion with the squad could do a lot for their confidence and provide them with a sense of self believe, but the bigger problem is, there are a few reliable players in this group.
Milan must choose between spending their energies in finishing fourth in Seire A or risk being derailed by their participation in the Europa League as they do not have the quality to compete against the big guns in the competition.
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Serie A is finally here after a compelling transfer market window.
Chievo-Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo will debut in Verona, a city where the Old Lady has had a lot of success, winning in the last six trips. There is obviously a lot of curiosity to see how Massimiliano Allegri will feature the Portuguese ace and whether he will be quick to adapt to the new scenario. Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa have looked good in pre-season, while Mario Mandzukic was late to the party. Continue reading
The transfer market formally opened this week and so a flurry of moves were made official. Gianluigi Buffon joined PSG; Inter signed Stefan De Vrij and Kwadwo Asamoah on free transfers and acquired Lautaro Martinez from Racing; Milan brought in Pepe Reina, Ivan Strinic and Alen Halilovic without paying anything.
Napoli announced the arrivals of Alex Meret and Orestis Karnezis from Udinese and Fabian Ruiz from Real Betis, for whom they paid around €30M. Sampdoria have bought Jakub Jankto from Udinese, who totalled nine goals and 12 assists over the last two seasons with the Zebrette. Continue reading
Barcelona’s attacking midfielder Alen Halilović has enjoyed a fantastic spell out on loan with Sporting Gijon this season, and could well be introduced to his parent club’s first-team in 2016/17 given how well he’s developed. The 19-year-old has made 28 La Liga appearances for Gijon, and has been a standout star at El Molinón, scoring and assisting eight goals.
He’s an able player in possession, who boasts fantastic trickery and dribbling skills to evade his marker, and Barcelona boss Luis Enrique will have been paying close to attention to his performances since the Catalans loaned him out to get regular game time. Halilović, the youngest Croatian international, has stood up to the demands of La Liga, and now needs to prove he belongs at the Nou Camp.
The Spanish giants are eyeing a long-term replacement for long-serving Andres Iniesta and they certainly had Halilović in mind when they signed him from Dinamo Zagreb in 2014. The young midfielder has been a regular of the Barcelona B team since his arrival, but was deemed good enough for a loan move to the Spanish top division, and he’s more than vindicated the faith from both Barcelona and Gijon’s managers
Despite still only being a teenager, Halilović made his international debut three years ago, and has made eight caps in total. On the pitch, he plays with an assuredness that belies his young age, and he’s only going to get better. The midfielder has brilliant vision and passing abilities, and carries the ball extremely well. He evades challenges with ease, and has brilliant balance due to his low centre of gravity.
Should he return to Barcelona, he’d likely be better fit to play in an advanced midfield role like Iniesta did in his earlier ears, as he likes to take risks on the ball that may not be better suited for a deeper starting role. Halilović does like to collect the ball from deep, but Barcelona won’t want their midfielders being wasteful in dangerous areas where they can help it. Regardless, he’s in for a bright future as things stand, and the Catalans have a real talent on their hands.
While Barcelona knew of his talent when they signed him, they have been left surprised at just how quickly he’s developed into an effective player in La Liga this seaosn, and he’s sure to be given a chance to impress in pre-season this summer when the squad embark on their annual tour as a result.