Will Steaua's defensive star leave Romania in pursuit of better competition?
Tuttosport is reporting that AC Milan will battle Chelsea and Lyon for the signature of Romanian international Vlad Chiriches. However, the center back's price may be too high for the club.
Milan's defensive struggles have been well documented as they are still struggling to cope with the loss of their two starting center backs Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva. Milan's defensive woes have been so dire that Rossoneri legend Alessandro Nesta is considering a comeback to the San Siro when the MLS season concludes in January.
While the return of Nesta would bolster both Milan's squad and spirit, it will be little more than a stop-gap treatment, as the veteran defender doesn't have much in the tank after an illustrious career.
Chiriches could be the solution for the future. Milan is looking for someone to partner with new signing Francesco Acerbi as they build a new central defensive pairing.
Chiriches plies his trade in Romania for FC Steaua Bucuresti where he has established himself as one of the league's best center backs. He's not a physically imposing center back that relies on sheer strength to win possession, instead relying on positional sense and ball-playing to dispossess opponents. He's comfortable using either foot, which is invaluable for a center back.
Because of his skill set, coaches have tried to deploy him at right back and defensive midfielder, yet the Romanian did not look comfortable playing out of his natural position. He will need to bulk up if he wishes to cut it in Europe's better leagues, especially the Premier League which boasts the most physical brand of soccer in Europe.
Chiriches doesn't have much top flight experience- only 62 appearances in Romania's first division, which is far from the best competition that Europe has to offer. He's been capped for his country 14 times and will become an integral member of the squad as World Cup qualifying gets into full swing.
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Chiriches has failed to register a goal since his tenure at Romanian side International, almost 3 years ago, meaning that one should not expect him to be an aerial threat on set pieces. He's not as versatile as other Milan targets such as Dede, but Chiriches would be available at a fraction of the cost needed to coax Vasco da Gama into selling their prized center back.
The biggest flaws in Chriches' game are his aforementioned sub-par strength, and his difficulty in defending agile attacking players. While he doesn't lumber about the pitch, he's not quick enough to keep up with speedy forwards. Yet he uses positioning to great effect and avoids getting completely caught out.
Barcelona reportedly had a 10 million euro bid rejected, meaning that it will take a bid of at least 8 figures to convince Steaua to sell Chiriches. Milan will likely not splash that type of cash for an unproven player, remembering the mistake known as Sokratis Papastathopoulos, but it presents an intriguing prospect. Should Milan buy the Romanian, they will get one for the future and one that could form a successful partnership with Acerbi.
But if Milan are going to spend upwards of 10 million euros, it probably won't be spent on a player without experience in Europe's top leagues.
Look for Milan to continue to pursue Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa as the Frenchman is out of contract at the end of this season. Unless Steaua does a complete 180 and changes their valuation of the Romanian, Milan will likely bow out of the race for his signature, leaving Chelsea, Lyon and Barcelona as potential destinations.