Milan Team News: Analyzing Milan's Options at Trequartista for 2013-14
Milan will head into the 2013-14 season with a new formation, switching from the 4-3-3 coach Massimiliano Allegri used last season to a 4-3-1-2 at the behest of owner Silvio Berlusconi. The system change means that Milan will now have to use a central attacking midfielder, or trequartista, a position not included in the 4-3-3.
In the Milan squad from last season, there was no natural trequartista. Because of that, the Rossoneri have been linked with multiple players in this summer's transfer window.
Let's take a look at some of the players Milan has been linked with already this summer, as well as a few internal options to play as the central attacking midfielder.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, 26, Milan
Boateng is not a natural attacking midfielder. He's best suited for a box-to-box role where his strength and energy can be properly utilized.
That being said, Allegri has constantly experimented with Boateng, fielding him in a number of positions last season including trequartista, winger and central midfielder.
The Ghanaian international struggled with consistency last term. After scoring nine goals in 27 matches in the 2011-12 season, Boateng's scoring numbers dropped considerably, netting just three goals in 37 matches. Some of that inconsistency has to in part be attributed to the incessant positional changes, but even so, he didn't impress last season.
He has a flair for the fantastic and can score some amazing goals, some of which can be seen here.
He's a decent passer who will look to play an incisive through ball to the forwards, a requisite ability for a trequartista. He can generate tremendous power on his shot. The pockets of space he'll find around the edge of the 18, behind Balotelli and El Shaarawy, will be good shooting areas for the dynamic midfielder.
If Boateng stays with the Rossoneri, Allegri would be wise utilize him as one of the three central midfielders in the 4-3-1-2. A consistent role could do him a world of good, and his athleticism would be vital for the Milan midfield.
He's included in this list because of Allegri's decisions to use him at the position in the past, but should the Italian tactician field him out of his natural position again, his poor form from the 2012-13 season could continue.
Alessandro Diamanti, 30, Bologna
Vice president Adriano Galliani is said to be an admirer of the player, and after the kind of season he had last year with the Rossoblu, Diamanti could be a great option for Milan.
In 34 Serie A matches last season, he scored seven goals and provided seven assists for a Bologna team that he captained. Football statistics website Whoscored ranked the Italian international as Bologna's best performer.
He's an extremely energetic player with a ton of technical ability. A left-footed player, Diamanti loves to shoot from distance, is a great passer and a gifted dribbler.
Diamanti is also very adept at set pieces, and Milan could use a left-footed set-piece practitioner. They currently lack such a presence in their starting XI. You can see one of his goals off a free-kick here.
Unlike Boateng, he's a natural trequartista and has all the skills to excel for Milan. If Milan are interested in the player, they must strike a deal before the July 15th deadline that was set by Bologna, according to La Repubblica (h/t Football-Italia).
Milan's strategy in the transfer window has been to buy young players. At 30 years old, Diamanti does not fit such a requirement. The Milan brass has dismissed claims that the club is truly interested in the player, calling the links rumors, according to ESPN FC.
Nevertheless, past interest and his ability makes him a viable option. Diamanti would likely cost around €10 million.
Keisuke Honda, 27, CSKA Moscow
According to Tuttosport (article in Italian), Milan is interested in signing Japanese international Keisuke Honda.
Honda has flown under the radar during his time in Russia, but he's a sensational player. I was previously critical of the player since Milan hadn't officially changed formation and I felt that he wouldn't have been the best fit as a central midfielder in Allegri's 4-3-3.
Now that Milan will play with a central attacking midfielder, a position perfectly suited for Honda's skill set, he would be a fantastic pickup.
Like Diamanti, Honda has a dynamite left foot and is a very good set-piece taker. The CSKA Moscow man has the vision to pick out a killer through ball as well as drill a shot from distance.
He's scored 17 goals in 56 games over the last two seasons for the Russian club and has collected a number of assists, including six last year.
Honda wouldn't only improve the team's play on the pitch. He would bring a huge fanbase with him; along with Shinji Kagawa, he's Japan's best player. Milan is an international club and would relish the opportunity to expand their popularity in Asia.
Another major plus about Honda is his current contract situation. His deal with the Moscow outfit is set to expire at the end of December, meaning he should be available for a significantly lower fee.
He likely could be had for perhaps around €10 million, a mere half of his actual worth, because there is just six months left on his deal.
Master of the free transfer, Adriano Galliani could attempt to wait until Honda's deal expires and sign the player in January on a Bosman.
Riccardo Saponara, 21, Milan
The Italian starlet was signed from Empoli in January and subsequently loaned back to finish out the season with the Serie B club.
In 40 matches last season, Saponara scored 13 goals and provided 14 assists, some of which can be seen in this compilation. When he joins Milan next season, he's confident he can have an impact as a trequartista, the position he played at Empoli, according to Sky Sports Italia (h/t Football-Italia).
Saponara was a part of the U-21 side that finished runners-up to Spain in the 2013 UEFA U-21 European Championships, scoring a half-volley in Italy's 4-0 dismantling of host nation Israel.
Allegri is not against bringing young players into the squad. He gave El Shaarawy his debut when he was just 18 and Mattia De Sciglio his at just 19. Both players have since gone on to earn a first-team role and are considered amongst world football's best young players.
Saponara is another youngster who could flourish under Allegri. He's a solid passer with an eye for goal, and his ability to make intelligent runs into space would be magnified by Balotelli's hold-up play.
The former Empoli man is the only natural No. 10 in the Milan squad. If the Rossoneri don't sign a trequartista in the transfer window, the opportunities should fall to Saponara.
He has a good deal of potential. Giving him consistent playing time should cause him to progress quickly. Considering the frugality of Milan, internal options should be the preference. Saponara ranks as the best one.
Milan are in a good position right now. They'll have Mario Balotelli for the whole season, which will hopefully mean they can avoid that horrible start that saw them languishing in 16th place at the beginning of last season.
The only notable departures so far are Bojan, Mario Yepes and Massimo Ambrosini.
Yepes will be missed, but youngsters Bartosz Salamon and Jherson Vergara will be given the chance to take the veteran Colombian's place should no defensive reinforcements be brought in.
With the return of Nigel de Jong and introduction of Bryan Cristante, Ambrosini's appearances will be made up for.
Bojan featured predominantly as a substitute, and with the change to a 4-3-1-2, M'Baye Niang will be dropped to the bench, meaning the Spaniard's chances could now fall to the French starlet.
Along with finding his first-choice central midfield triumvirate, Allegri will need to make a decision about what to do at trequartista.
Whom do you want to see Allegri play as the No. 10 next season?
Comment below with your thoughts.