After Silvio Berlusconi told coach Massimiliano Allegri to revert back to a 4-3-1-2, a formation change that has since been confirmed by Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani, Milan has found themselves in the market for a trequartista.
Multiple names have emerged as potential targets, but perhaps no rumor currently has more traction than the one linking Milan with a €10 million move for Bologna man Alessandro Diamanti. Considering Milan's current options in the attacking-midfield, Diamanti, who enjoyed a fantastic season for Bologna last term, would enter the squad as the first choice to occupy the "1" in Milan's 4-3-1-2.
Allegri's current options at trequartista are very limited. Kevin-Prince Boateng has played the role before, but his future is far from certain and should he remain at the San Siro, the Ghanaian should be moved back to his natural central midfield role.
Riccardo Montolivo is another option as he's played the position in the past, including for the Italian national team, but his performances as a centre-midfielder last season were brilliant. He has the incisive passing and shooting ability required of an attacking-midfielder, though Allegri would do well to leave him in the middle of the park where he is better equipped to control flow of the game.
21-year-old midfielder Riccardo Saponara joined Milan in January and while he impressed for Empoli last season, he could still be a little too green to be thrust into a first-team role immediately. Saponara, who recently drilled a half-volley for the Italy U-21 side against Israel, looks to have a promising future and Allegri would do well to ease him into the first-team, utilizing him predominantly off the bench at least for the early part of the season.
Other than those three options, Milan has Antonio Nocerino, Bakaye Traore, Sulley Muntari, Mathieu Flamini, Kevin Constant, Massimo Ambrosini and Nigel de Jong on the books. However, all of those players are either too defensive-minded or lack the requisite attacking acumen expected of a trequartista.
Robinho, who has traditionally operated on the wings for Milan, is a potential fit, but like Boateng, he could be wearing a different jersey next season as reports constantly link him with a return back to Brazil.
As one can see, a new attacking midfielder is required. Galliani is apparently a fan of Diamanti and the 30-year-old could likely be had for a fee in the region of €10 million. Diamanti, who has also been linked with Juventus and Inter, will be on international duty with Italy at the Confederations Cup starting June 15th and could be in Brazil until June 30th, depending on how far the Azzurri make it in the tournament.
The Football-Italia report states that Bologna wants the situation resolved no later than July 15th so they have ample time to find a suitable replacement for their dynamic midfielder. Any move for Diamanti will likely come after he returns to Italy following the Confederations Cup, so Galliani will have to strike a deal quickly as to not conflict with Bologna's deadline.
Milan employs the transfer philosophy of targeting young talent and developing them, and while the 30-year-old Diamanti does not fit the bill of being young, he's certainly talented. The formation change and lack of players to occupy the trequartista position means that the best options lie in the transfer window, and Diamanti could be the perfect fit.
He's an energetic attacker capable of threading a pin-point through ball or blasting a shot from outside the box. He's got a dynamite left foot that has unleashed some cracking free-kicks and will give Milan a left-footed free-kick practitioner, something they currently lack.
He made 34 appearances for Bologna last season, scoring seven goals and providing seven assists. He does have the tendency to accumulate bookings as he received ten yellow cards last season, but he won't be leaned on as much to defend in this new Milan system. Nevertheless, like El Shaarawy, he has shown the work-rate to get back and defend, something that will surely delight the Rossoneri faithful.
Belhanda, who currently plays for Ligue 1 side Montpellier, is valued at €15 million. The 23-year-old has played quite well during his time in France, scoring 25 goals and assisting 11 times in 66 appearances over the last two seasons. Belhanda is criticized for being erratic and is prone to the occasional on-field outburst, however his skill is undeniable.
Honda plays for CSKA Moscow in Russia and could be available on a drastically reduced price, considering his contract only runs through December 2013. I was critical of Honda before because I felt as though the 4-3-3 that Milan was playing did not align well with his skill-set, but the change to a 4-3-1-2 would allow Honda to excel.
Honda has played incredibly well in Russia, putting up impressive goal and assist totals for the Moscow outfit, and like Diamanti, he has a thunderous left-foot. The Russian top flight isn't widely televised across the world so the 2013 Confederations Cup will give Milanistas the opportunity to watch Honda in action, when he'll suit up for Japan.
All three players are great options— Diamanti has considerable Serie A experience, Belhanda could become something special and Honda, who is perhaps the best of the bunch, will be available for a small fraction of what he's actually worth.
In other news, Milan has been linked with Chievo striker Cyril Thereau to provide reinforcements up front and help fill the void the injury to Giampaolo Pazzini left. Pazzini could be out until October and the 30-year-old Thereau was in a torrid run of form at the end of the season, scoring four goals in his last three Serie A matches.
Centre-back is an area that still needs to be addressed, but Allegri has a solid nucleus of talent and a few new additions would make the Rossoneri serious title contenders in the 2013-14 Serie A season.