Can Alex Help Milan Return to the Champions League?

Christopher AtkinsContributor IAugust 1, 2014

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 27:  Alex Rodrigo Dias da Costa #33 of AC Milan heads a ball in the first half against Matija NastasiÄ #33 of Manchester City during International Champions Cup 2014 at Heinz Field on July 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The signing of former PSG and Chelsea defender Alex by Filippo Inzaghi's AC Milan this summer slipped somewhat under the radar. Alongside Michael Agazzi, Adil Rami and Jeremy Menez, though, the experienced defender is one of four summer arrivals at the San Siro.

Under the management of both Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf last campaign, the Rossoneri limped to a disappointing eighth-place finish that sees them outside of European competition this time around.

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 07:  Alex of PSG in action during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Stade Rennais FC at Parc des Princes on May 7, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

For a club with the tradition and recent history of success that Milan boast, it is a point of major dissatisfaction.

The question is, then, whether the new arrivals will do much to change the club's fortunes. Given evidence thus far in pre-season, the only answer can be no. The club have sunk to convincing defeats against Manchester City and, more worryingly, Olympiacos, suggesting there is much work to be done.

In Alex, though, they have at least one player who can make a real difference, and indeed it was only the arrival of £50 million defender David Luiz that saw his time in Paris come to an end.

Against Manchester City, in spite of the magnitude of the 5-1 defeat, Alex came out of the clash with his reputation enhanced—which is no mean feat. A goal was his outstanding contribution, but it was simply a reflection of his continued prowess in aerial battles.

While he has never been particularly fashionable, his rugged approach to defending has seen Alex enjoy success across Europe, and there is no reason why he should not continue to be a favourite of Inzaghi in Milan.

Indeed, on paper his partnership with Rami should provide a major improvement upon the defensive options with which the club started last season. However, there are major issues that need to be resolved.

While the likes of Menez and Keisuke Honda are talented and Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli are potentially excellent forward options, none have performed to their full potential in some time.

In midfield, meanwhile, Sulley Muntari, Nigel de Jong and Riccardo Montolivo are well below the level of player that Milan have traditionally boasted. For all that Alex can add to the squad, there are significant weaknesses across the board.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 27:  Mario Balotelli #45 of AC Milan handles the ball against Jack Rodwell #17 of Manchester City during International Champions Cup 2014 at Heinz Field on July 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty I
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The difficulty Inzaghi will face for the season ahead is that Serie A—while lagging behind its major rivals—would appear to be stronger than it has been over recent years. Roma, Juventus and Napoli look to be improving upon their squads from last season, while city rivals Inter are in the midst of an extensive and far-reaching overhaul.

Of all the major sides in Italy, Milan's recruitment strategy appears the least effective. As good a buy as Alex may turn out to be, he is one of a group of arrivals that does little to inspire—made worse by the side's terrible pre-season thus far.

Inzaghi has a major task on his hands to get Milan to a Europa League place, yet alone a Champions League berth.

Alex's addition is a step in the right direction, but it must be the first of several such deals if the Rossoneri are to return to Europe's elite.