Borussia Monchengladbach's Granit Xhaka
AC Milan's 2012-13 season has, it's fair to say, started pretty poorly.
Eighth position in Serie A and numerous poor results both home and abroad have seen the Rossoneri slip a long way behind on all fronts.
Winning Lo Scudetto (the league) would now require a minor miracle—with Juventus a massive 14 points ahead—and first place in their Champions League group has already been taken by Malaga with a game to spare.
But there are signs of life at the San Siro.
A controversial 1-0 victory over Juventus (via Football Italia) this weekend has closed the gap to the leaders, as qualification for the next round of the Champions League is also secure.
Both will give this new-look Milan side confidence.
With a squad that was depleted by the departure of so many regulars during the summer, though, there are still areas of weakness. Fans will be hoping the January transfer window sees the arrival of some reinforcements.
Over the next few pages, we list some possible transfer targets for AC Milan that may see them make the step up to the very top.
First off, however, there's the issue of how this is to be achieved...
When Alexandre Pato made his goal-scoring debut for AC Milan, the signs were good that he was a new star in the making.
More than four years later, time looks to have run out for him to make good on that initial promise.
The fact that Pato is dating AC Milan owner and former Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi's daughter may have actually meant that he was given more time than was deserved.
Now, even the potential father-in-law has labelled the Brazilian "a problem" (via Football Italia).
Injuries have played a major part in hindering Pato's rise to the top. But, rather than being a factor that mitigates in his favour, the presence of so many fitness issues in such a young player is yet another strike against "The Duck."
Moreover, this year was supposed to be Pato's year.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic gone, there was room for him to become Milan's go-to guy. But rather than take that ball and run with it, Pato has seen the even-younger Stephan El Shaarawy abscond into the distance with it.
Therefore, patience seems to have run out for the Brazilian.
At 22 and with undoubted talent, Pato is still young enough to recoup a decent transfer fee for Milan—money that could be used for players in the more problematic areas of defence and in goal.
The duckling hasn't quite matured into a swan, and, in this world of financial fairplay, Milan would be wise to cut their losses now.
So far this term, both stalwart Christian Abbiati and understudy Marco Amelia have struggled in the Milan goal. Both have made costly errors, including Abbiati's two most recent mistakes that gave his side a mountain to climb in Naples.
Lazio's Federico Marchetti, on the other hand, has impressed.
Despite his somewhat-detached position, the goalkeeper can have a huge influence on a side's confidence, and Marchetti is just the kind of vocal presence Milan may require.
Athletic and a good shot-stopper, it's not surprising that he's part of Cesare Prandelli's eventual plans for the unenviable task of succeeding Gigi Buffon in the Italy goal.
Milan would be wise to build from the back.
Milan's exodus of major-name players in the summer was a necessary evil.
The upheaval was always going to cause a problem with continuity, but the squad has been in need of a major revamp for some years now.
Perhaps ever since 2007's Champions League triumph.
The new Milan will need to be based around a core of quality young players in order to stand the test of time. El Shaarawy, Mattia De Sciglio, Ignazio Abate and co. are already a decent start, and Granit Xhaka would be just the right kind of addition.
At just 20, the Swiss international has impressed since his summer signing with Borussia Monchengladbach. Having only moved so recently, the Germans would be reluctant to let him leave, but the suggested €15m fee may get their attention (via Football Italia).
That kind of money is not easy to come by, however, and further strengthens the argument for sacrificing Pato.
Pro - He's a lifelong AC Milan fan.
Con - He's on an unfeasibly high salary at Manchester City.
Pro - He may be becoming dissatisfied with the lack of first-team football in England.
Con - He's cup-tied for the latter rounds of the Champions League.
Some might also see the rise of El Shaarawy as another factor barring the way for Balotelli's return to Italy's second city—why disrupt the, so far, meteoric rise of one of football's brightest stars?
But there is also an argument in his favour: El Shaarawy's one vice may be a lack of physical strength; Balotelli does not have an issue in this department and could prove a good foil for the "Little Pharaoh."
It will be interesting to see how the two develop as partners in the Italian national side.
A run out against France recently was, generally, perceived as a success, and Milan may use this as a barometer to judge the wisdom of any future move.
Milan's greatest weakness is in the centre of their defence.
Whilst players like Balotelli might be the more glamorous potential signings, many Milan fans may see a defender as a higher priority.
Getting an Italian international in this position would be tricky—Juventus have the monopoly in this department and would be unlikely to sell to their rival at almost any price. If we look to many of Europe's other major national teams, there is no coincidence in the fact that the major clubs generally possess the country's finest defenders.
This makes it extremely difficult for Milan to poach one.
The best solution is to grow some of your own, but in the meantime, Milan would do well to consider Leighton Baines.
A fringe starter in the position for the English national side, Baines is unusual because his club side, Everton, are not one of those with the most financial clout.
English players' fortunes in Italy have been mixed in the past.
If, however, Baines was tempted to move, he could provide much-needed stability in the role for the Rossoneri.