Predicting the Potential AC Milan Starting Lineup for 2013-14
Milan have salvaged what could have been a disaster, and the turning point was when the Rossoneri kept faith in Massimiliano Allegri when everything pointed to Max being fired.
Milan's season transition has been the making of Stephan El Shaarawy, who appears to legitimately be a top-class player in the making.
M'Baye Niang is on the verge of replicating Il Faraone next season and Mario Balotelli was signed from Manchester City in January, completing potentially one of the best attacking tridents in Europe over the next few years.
There are plenty of other holes to fill this summer though, especially if the Diavoli have ambitions of toppling Juve as soon as next season.
A new centre-back is a necessity for starters, and then there is the goalkeeper dilemma, while a creative midfielder would not go amiss either.
Here is my projected lineup for the Rossoneri next season, using a 4-3-3 formation that Massimiliano Allegri would likely field.
Having said this, I am working on the basis that the former Cagliari coach will remain at the helm at the San Siro, which is not a certainty but at least a probable scenario for Milan.
Goalkeeper and Defence
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Goalkeeper: Christian Abbiati
Milan are on the verge of a new era between the sticks, but I don't believe the Rossoneri are quite ready to change.
The situation regarding Mattia Perin is worth following, and although Milan might have ambitions to make the 20-year-old their No. 1 in the future, according to Forza Italian Football, the Diavoli might need to wait a little longer as the player's agent has stated that there is a "99% chance that he will be the Genoa goalkeeper next season."
Brazilian No. 3 Gabriel is likely to move up to the backup role before being able to challenge for a start, so I feel that Milan will offer veteran stopper a new one-year contract.
Right-back: Ignazio Abate
The speed merchant is still with Milan despite rumours of an exit in the past two transfer windows, which makes me feel that he will continue his journey with the Rossoneri, since it is always a positive for the side to have youth-team products in and around the first team.
Centre-back: Philippe Mexes
While the Frenchman is not having a sterling season, Milan will probably have to persist with the former Roma defender for the time being, with his contract not running out until2015.
Milan will surely buy a new centre-back, and Dede has been strongly linked with the Rossoneri, according to Football Italia.
The Vasco centre-back is tall and powerful and the perfect foil for an aging partner like Mexes.
Left-back: Mattia De Sciglio
While De Sciglio's future might be at right-back or even at centre-back, immediate first-team opportunities will come at left-back, a position that he has proven to be successful at.
Having broken through this season as one of the first team's most reliable performers, next season will be about consolidation and maintaining good-enough form to go to Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
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Holding midfielder: Riccardo Montolivo
The Rossoneri will build their side around Montolivo, who is blossoming with extra responsibility that he is being handed with Milan.
At the base of the midfield spraying passes short and long is where the 28-year-old is happiest, and that's where he will play from now on, no matter who the manager is next season.
Holding midfielder: Marco Verratti
While Milan's midfield target this summer is yet to be fully understood, there are rumours that the Diavoli could move for former Pescara regista Marco Verratti, with Sky Sports documenting comments from Silvio Berlusconi about the club's desire to sign the PSG starlet.
Attacking midfielder: Kevin-Prince Boateng
Massively frustrating at times, Boateng is often played out of his preferred position, and if Milan can add another creative midfielder to build the Rossoneri's play next to Montolivo, it would allow the Ghanaian to return to his attacking midfield role, which suits him best.
While Italian football is obsessed with fielding a trequartista, Milan do not necessarily need to play one when there is the electric pace on the wings and wonderful distribution from deep.
Boateng will bring lots of energy to be able to burst into the penalty area and score plenty of goals.
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This area of the side appears to be settled for the moment.
Left-wing: Stephan El Shaarawy
Il Faraone suits this formation perfectly, dashing inside from the wing and linking up like a dream with Super Mario.
If El Shaarawy can improve even more entering a World Cup year, Milanistas have a real treat in store.
Right-wing: M'Baye Niang
I am not as sure as many others that the Frenchman is a certain starter, but it certainly appears like the former Caen star will have an opportunity to make himself a regular for the coming seasons.
He has raw pace and power and the ability to slice open the opposition's defence with his directness. If the 18-year-old can develop a calmness in front of goal, he can be the real deal.
Centre-forward: Mario Balotelli
Who else could it be?
The maverick Italian striker has started his Milan career in sensational fashion, averaging almost a goal per game, and with the 22-year-old still to fulfill his potential, Super Mario can embark on a glittering career with the Rossoneri.
The 4-3-3 appears to suit him perfectly too, and with guaranteed minutes, Balotelli will be considered one of the very best strikers in Europe by the time that Brazil 2014 arrives.