What Are AC Milan Missing from Being Genuine Champions League Contenders?

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistMarch 30, 2014

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 16:  Head coach AC Milan Clarence Seedorf (R) and Mario Balotelli talk during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Parma FC at San Siro Stadium on March 16, 2014 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The firing of Massimiliano Allegri has not had the impact the management at Milan might have hoped, with Clarence Seedorf unable to instantly transform the Rossoneri back into title contenders. Under the Dutchman, they have continued to lose domestic matches and been eliminated from Europe at the hands of Atletico Madrid.

There are many caveats to their current form, with perhaps none greater than a significant injury list that would hamper any side. For example, Stephan El Shaarawya player who is vital to the style of play Seedorf is seeking to implementremains absent with a foot injury that has kept him out of action since December, per UEFA.com.

It is clear the Milan attack misses the dynamic presence of the 21-year-old striker, while, in defence, Mattia De Sciglio has picked up another knock. The club’s official website revealed this week (via Football Italia) that the full-back has “suffered a sprain to his right ankle and he will be reassessed in two weeks.”

Without the youngster, the coach has been forced to rely on the likes of Urby Emanuelson, one of many players in the current squad who are simply not good enough for a club like Milan. In order to once again compete with the European elite, the Rossoneri must first replace these sub-par players with more gifted ones.

They need not look far for a blueprint for the path they must take. Reigning champions Juventus have steadily replaced their poorer players with solid back-ups who are able to step in when first team regulars are missing. The recent performances of Daniel Osvaldo—who has two goals an assist in ten appearances—and Martin Caceres only serve to reinforce the importance of having a deep pool of players to choose from.

Of course, there is one major decision the Milan hierarchy must first take—whether or not to continue with Seedorf on the bench. If he is to continue as coach, they must tailor their acquisitions and sales around his tactical ideas.

Only by making a dramatic leap domestically can the Rossoneri even re-enter the Champions League, with a quick glance at the current table showing them to be an incredible 22 points away from third place. With Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Fiorentina and even neighbours Inter improving constantly, this will be a difficult task, and one Milan must overcome before they even think about challenging the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

Another major problem for Milan is the goalkeeping situation. Christian Abbiati is clearly in decline and has kept just six clean sheets in his 21 league appearances this term. And, though the defence ahead of him has been porous, his own form has been hugely disappointing.

GENOA, ITALY - JANUARY 19:  Mattia Perin of Genoa CFC celebrates after his team-mate Luca Antonelli scored the opening goal during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on January 19, 2014 in Genoa, Ital
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

According to the Fox Soccer website, the number 32 has made just 57 saves in 2013-14, conceding a goal for every 3.1 shots he faces. In comparison to Gigi Buffon (5.1), Morgan De Sanctis (5.4) and even Pepe Reina (4.29), Abbiati is way behind the standard expected by one of Italy's greatest clubs.

One outstanding candidate to replace him could be Genoa’s Mattia Perin, a man whose current form earned him a call-up to the latest Italy squad. Perin has kept nine clean sheets for a side who find themselves two places below Milan in 13th, making 111 saves and only conceding a goal every 4.11 shots faced.

Speculation has already linked Perin with a move to San Siro, and his agent Matteo Roggi has told Radio Mana Sport he sees the 21-year-old as perfect for the Rossoneri. “I think that Perin is ideal for his human and technical qualities,” said his representative (h/t ForzaItalianFootball). “From here he could become the new Milan goalkeeper, but the road is long.”

That signing alone would make a huge difference, as would getting injured players back in the line-up. The form of Mario Balotelli is also an area to be addressed, while longer term issues—such as their push for a new stadium—take a back seat.

In short, there is much work to be done on and off the field in order for this once-great club to once again mount a genuine challenge for honours.