Their defence crumbled almost immediately when Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta left in 2012. Two pillars that held up the foundation—gone.
It has been a struggle for AC Milan to reinforce that shaky ground since.
They tried Philippe Mexes, then Cristian Zapata. Daniele Bonera has always been that stopgap—never good enough to start but ironically good enough to captain the team last year. All three were prone to error—and in the case of Mexes, prone to danger. Mexes would tackle wildly, punch players and test the referee's reflexes to give a red card. He was never the solution.
But now, there may be one. Maybe now, there is a partnership in the making quite like the one between Nesta and Thiago Silva, master and apprentice, Thiago Silva studying his partner and Paolo Maldini in training, per The Guardian.
Alex came on a free transfer; Adil Rami cost only a few million euros—and he reportedly paid a bit of the fee, too. It's a cheap combo that could prove worthy.
Last season, the 32-year-old Alex was a starter for Paris Saint-Germain, where he managed to complete 93.9 percent of his passes. According to WhoScored.com, that was higher than any other player in Ligue 1.
Rami spent half a season on loan with Milan, and at times, he looked a little like Thiago Silva, stepping into action, pushing forward, striving for a goal and scoring one or two. Sometimes, Rami stood still in the middle of chaos just before Milan would concede a goal of their own. He was not consistent.
But there is enough here to strike a balance, and there is help on the flanks. Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio can contribute defensively. Abate is not a good crosser of the ball, and despite his speed, he often goes nowhere. But he can rush back and make a key tackle. Abate is best served in relief of his centre-backs, not in attack.
De Sciglio knows where to be. He is not as quick as Abate, but he doesn't have to be. De Sciglio can shadow wingers and play the long ball. His game is well-rounded, and he offers more than Abate. The two will have to battle for a spot on the right side if new arrival Pablo Armero, whose arrival was announced by the team on Wednesday, starts on the left.
Armero is the kind of player who will run up and down the left side endlessly. He can break on the counter-attack. His tendencies are offensive. Defensively, the 27-year-old Colombian is little faulty. He can give up penalties and leave defenders in bad situations.
At coach Pippo Inzaghi's disposal is a combination of centre-backs and full-backs with attributes that complement each other. Eternal liability Kevin Constant is gone, and young Italian defender Michelangelo Albertazzi is back home. Albertazzi is versatile, and he can play as a full-back or a centre-back. He is 23 years old, and like the rest at the back, he will have to learn on the go.