For the first time since late 2011, AC Milan have won five straight Serie A fixtures. A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Livorno courtesy of goals from Mario Balotelli, Adel Taarabt and Giampaolo Pazzini continued this fine run over the past weekend.
While speculation of discord between manager Clarence Seedorf and upper management has been floating about, the team has proved their unity with some excellent performances on the pitch. Under Seedorf, things are finally beginning to show signs of progress at the San Siro.
As the players have had ample time to adapt to Seedorf's attacking formation, progress would seem natural given the talent in the ranks, but the miserable start to the season dampened the mood of the club considerably entering the second half of the season.
New arrivals Adil Rami, Keisuke Honda and Taarabt have played large roles in the turnaround in form recently, with Rami and Taarabt especially impactful in their performances.
Taarabt in particular is an intriguing case, given his well-documented history of misbehavior prior to arriving in Milan on loan this January. It seemed yet another example of general manager Adriano Galliani pursuing cheap deals in the hopes of finding a bargain for the once financially mighty Rossoneri.
Yet, Taarabt has performed admirably, combining well with Balotelli, Honda and Kaka in the attacking ranks of the squad. Beyond the good form, he has displayed model behavior and seems to be clicking with his new teammates.
As such, a once-unimaginable scenario has arisen: Milan have a serious decision to make regarding making Taarabt's loan deal from QPR permanent. A reported fee of €7 Million has been mooted, via Jack Davies of Goal.com, which would not be terrible value—if Taarabt can keep his performances steady.
The question with Taarabt remains the same even after his impressive first months in Milan. His talent is undoubted, his attitude and commitment is still not proved to be a thing of the past.
It is one thing to be at your best when pursuing a new deal or a permanent move from a second-division English side to one of the most famous sporting clubs in the world, and another thing altogether to prove you belong once you have earned that move.
It may be in Milan's best interest to begin to experiment with both Taarabt and Stephan El Shaarawy on opposite flanks in Seedorf's 4-2-3-1 formation. El Shaarawy played his first minutes in months over the weekend and seems set to finally make his return to the senior squad.
With El Shaarawy on the left wing, Taarabt on the right and one of Kaka or Honda in the middle behind Balotelli, Milan will finally have their best attacking players together for the final weeks of the season.
Given Taarabt's stellar form and his surprising levels of defensive commitment, it is looking increasingly likely that Milan will pay the fee and bring him to the club on a permanent basis.
Before that decision is made, Seedorf will surely continue to play him over the stretch run as Milan look to book a place in the Europa League and, hopefully give him game time with El Shaarawy. Should Taarabt continue to impress, the decision will be an easy one.
As the final weeks of the season approach, Seedorf will be looking to determine which players he deems necessary for Milan to compete for one of the top three spots in Serie A once again.
With each passing match, Taarabt is making the case to keep him around easier and easier.
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