Antonio Cassano's ability to make baffling decisions has never really been in question. He may have recently been usurped by Mario Balotelli as the Italian footballer most likely to make headlines for his outrageous behaviour, but he still runs Super Mario a close second.
But whilst Cassano's choice to make a transfer request has rightly been questioned in the media since the swap—surely Ibrahimovic's departure finally gave Cassano the chance he needed to make an impact for a major European club—the wisdom of Milan's negotiation also invites some debate (h/t ESPN Soccernet).
The current Milan side is one undergoing reconstruction - if they were any other kind of commercial business there might be a sign up saying "reopening in 2013/14"—and many Milan fans will wish they could fast-forward to the point at which development work has been completed (and financial fairplay rules enforced).
The signing of Ibrahimovic and Robinho two years ago seemed like the foundations around which the new structure could be built, but these were never likely to be anything more than quick patch jobs, neither of them sufficiently young or loyal for long-term growth. No, what was really required were major structural works.
OK, enough with the building analogy. But having enjoyed relative success during Massimiliano Allegri's first two seasons—a Scudetto and a second place to an undefeated Juventus followed years of playing second fiddle to their cross city rivals—in order to grow into the major European force they once were, Milan knew that they had to adapt to the current economic climate.
Gone are the days when they could outspend their opposition, but on the horizon looms an opportunity for them to compete, providing they get their financial affairs in order. Ibrahimovic's mega-wages were always likely to be a sacrificial lamb in such restructuring, and the money received for Thiago Silva represented great business for the rossoneri.
So with that said, if you're going to spend €7 million, you'd want to get something better than what you started with. It could easily be argued that Milan have done the reverse.
The obvious thing going in Pazzini's favour is youth, but the 28-year-old is actually only two years younger than his former Sampdoria colleague. Moreover, whilst Cesare Prandelli was desperate to not only include but start a less-than-100-percent-fit Cassano for Italy throughout the European Championships, "Il Pazzo" was excluded from the squad altogether.
Likewise, Cassano's major operation and subsequent protracted injury layoff was seen as a vital blow to Milan's chances last season, whereas, despite a lacklustre Internazionale team last term, Pazzini was still unable to get regular playing time.
All of which leads one to conclude that a straight swap would have worked well for Inter, and the extra €7 million payoff has Massimo Moratti laughing all the way to the bank.
Nevertheless, two things will have convinced Allegri (and, more likely, Adriano Galliani) that this deal made sense: the first is that there's no point having a disgruntled player, especially one as volatile as Cassano, in your team; and the other that Pazzini may be a better fit for the likely Milan formation. With Kevin-Prince Boateng proving an able "trequartista" and Robinho likely to hang back from the main striker, what Milan needed was a top-quality centre forward.
Stephan El Shaarawy is not yet the finished article, and the combination of Boateng, Robinho and Pazzini does compare favourably with most front threes in world football.
At the end of the day, time will tell how shrewd Galliani and co. have been. If Pazzini can strike up a good understanding with his new teammates and rediscovers his early form for Inter, we could look back on this as a turning point in the shaping of the Milan of tomorrow.
But many Milan fans will still wonder why a shaky back four is still left unbolstered whilst millions of euros are spent to trade Cassano for a less-proven model.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!