Picking an AC Milan Team to Include Kaka Alongside Balotelli and El Shaarawy
AC Milan just scraped into next season's Champions League with a last-gasp victory at Siena on the final day of the Serie A campaign, so it is imperative that they ensure that such fine margins are not repeated next season.
The return of one of the club's legends, Kaka, could be just the potion to propel the Rossoneri back into contention in the race for the scudetto. Juventus strolled to a second successive championship last season.
One of the rumoured conditions for Massimiliano Allegri to remain at the club—after much speculation that he would be fired—is that the Livornese manager will have to switch from his preferred 4-3-3 formation to a more attack-minded 4-diamond-2. That would appease Silvio Berlusconi.
The president also has a fondness for the Brazilian and appears to have pushed for the 31-year-old to return to Milan's shopping list, according to Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport (via Football Italia).
Fitting in the Real Madrid star alongside stars such as Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy might be tricky, but here's how Allegri might go about it.
Goalkeeper: Christian Abbiati
Abbiati will remain between the sticks for another season at Milan.
Somewhat underrated, but always lambasted due to the odd mistake, Milan appear to have realized that there aren't many better in Italy who can be bought at an affordable price.
Right-Back: Ignazio Abate
Back to full fitness and ended the campaign with Milan well enough to start for Italy at the Confederations Cup.
Abate's pace often bails him out of tricky situations, and he is gradually improving the way in which he reads the game.
His willingness to bomb forward on the right would be key to accommodating Kaka through the middle in a diamond formation.
Centre-Back: Philippe Mexes
Scorer of that crucial winner at Siena, Mexes was impressive towards the end of the season at the other end of the pitch.
The Frenchman overcome a series of fitness issues to give Milan a glimpse of the fine form that he regularly displayed for Roma.
Centre-Back: Cristian Zapata
Zapata signed a permanent deal from Villarreal this summer after an impressive loan spell with the Rossoneri last season.
The Colombian forged a fine partnership with Mexes towards the end of the season, preventing Daniele Bonera from returning to the lineup after recovering from his injury.
I expect Allegri to persist with Zapata initially, even if a new centre-back is signed.
Left-Back: Mattia De Sciglio
I expect Allegri to begin using De Sciglio regularly on the left due to the fact that he was developed at Milanello and the club will clearly prefer to promote youth prospects when possible.
With Prandelli willing to start De Sciglio on the left for Italy, Milan will feel that it is a role he can perform for the time being, even if he is more suited to the right, or even at centre-back further down the line.
Regista: Riccardo Montolivo
Montolivo flourished in the second half of the season after a slow start to his Milan career, having moved from Fiorentina last summer.
Now he is growing in personality to influence his team with growing leadership qualities too.
The transition between Montolivo at the base of the diamond and slipping passes into the path of Kaka to run onto will be key in making the Brazilian's return to the club a smooth one.
Centre-Midfield: Mathieu Flamini
The Frenchman really shone with Milan last season and had his best season since the move from Arsenal.
His future is not entirely clear though, with Corriere dello Sport, via Football Italia,reporting that Inter could make a move for the Rossoneri midfielder.
The point is that a midfielder of Flamini's ilk will be needed to tuck in close to Montolivo at times, while covering out to the wings to prevent Milan from being exposed in this diamond formation.
Centre-Midfielder: Sulley Muntari
Sulley Muntari, similarly to Flamini, does not have a clear route into the Milan midfield next season, but his battling qualities would be very useful to build a midfield platform for Kaka to shine.
Back where he belongs, tucked in behind a couple of strikers and pulling the strings.
Kaka has rarely been handed this role at Real Madrid and usually has to fill in out wide, which does not suit him. This is part of the reason why he has flattered to deceive in the most part for Los Merengues.
Kaka's physical gifts might have diminished somewhat over the last couple of years, meaning that his burst of pace might not be as sharp as it was in his prime for Milan.
However, with a central role and a license to do what he wants, Kaka can be influential once again.
Striker: Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli has everything as a striker and is beginning to fulfill his incredible talent after moving back to Italy last January.
Super Mario can spin in behind, hold the ball up and facilitate teammates or drop deep to allow the onrushing Kaka space to expose the opposition.
There is potentially a thrilling partnership that could develop between Kaka and Balotelli given the variety of ways in which they can hurt the opposition.
Striker: Stephan El Shaarawy
Stephan El Shaarawy will be used as a centre-forward as Allegri opts for a two-striker formation.
His left-wing role last season was perfectly suited to him, so it will be fascinating to see him rise to the challenge of playing centrally.
With Kaka and Balotelli in close vicinity, there is absolutely no reason why Il Faraone cannot continue to develop and look to force his way into the Azzurri's starting lineup in time for next year's World Cup.