According to FootMercato (h/t Football Italia), Milan are targeting Lyon's Clement Grenier as the club looks to bolster its midfield options ahead of the 2014-15 season.
Grenier, 23, has been with the Ligue 1 outfit since 2009 and, during his tenure at the Stade Gerland, tallied 11 goals in 87 league appearances.
An attacking midfielder noted for his set-piece ability, Grenier is a high-risk, high-reward passer and all-around offensive threat. In 28 matches last year, per WhoScored.com, he averaged 1.6 crosses, two key passes and 2.8 shots per game to go along with four goals and five assists.
Filippo Inzaghi's favored 4-3-3 does not include Grenier's preferred central attacking midfield position, leaving him to contend for one of the three central midfield spots. Via WhoScored.com's positional data, he made seven appearances as a central midfielder last season, so the position would not be completely unfamiliar.
He'd bring creativity to a midfield that, at times last season, could've been characterized as stagnant and lacking imagination. Add in the long-term injury to Riccardo Montolivo, the would-be resident playmaker of the midfield triumvirate, and Milan can definitely use a player like Grenier.
While he'd add plenty of attacking influence, Grenier is subpar defensively and averaged almost one foul per successful tackle, a very poor ratio. He'll require defensive cover unless he can improve his defending, but that doesn't disqualify him from being a viable central midfielder.
The role Philippe Coutinho plays at Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers provides a nice parallel to how Grenier could be utilized.
Coutinho was used in multiple positions last season, but he was arguably the most impressive—as was Liverpool on the whole—when deployed alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the center of the pitch.
Rodgers took an older Gerrard and parked him in front of the Liverpool defense, limited his work rate and turned him into a deep-lying playmaker.
Henderson was brilliant in the box-to-box role, providing defensive cover for both Gerrard and Coutinho, as well as supporting the attack with late runs into the box.
Fielding Coutinho as a midfielder gave Rodgers yet another creative force, creating an offensive juggernaut that also featured the best forward trio in the Premier League last year: Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
However, when Gerrard was operating in front of the centre-backs, the Reds defense was decidedly more vulnerable. Inzaghi can hardly afford to willingly expose Milan's unconvincing central defenders, but Pippo can still mimic Rodgers' strategy, albeit in a different manner.
Grenier would fill the Coutinho role, playing closest to the forwards, looking to thread a lead pass or confuse the opposition with perpetual interchanging.
Instead of using a player in the mold of Gerrard, Inzaghi can position Dutch destroyer Nigel de Jong in front of the centre-halves. De Jong is a brilliant hardman and his tackling and positional prowess would strengthen a defense that has, at times, looked like a sieve this pre-season.
The Dutch international is also an underrated passer as well, and while he wouldn't be counted on to play through balls over the top, given the space, De Jong can deliver.
Another option here would be impressive youngster Bryan Cristante. The 19-year-old would be a like-for-like swap with Gerrard as he's already shown expansive passing range and still has massive room for growth.
It wouldn't do the back line any favors, but giving Cristante playing time and facilitating his development is planning for the future.
If Cristante is the deepest midfielder, De Jong would play the Henderson role, but if Inzaghi opts for De Jong as the anchor—his best position—Milan does not have a player of Henderson's capacity.
The player who most closely mirrors his skill set is 24-year-old utility midfielder Andrea Poli. The former Sampdoria man is a willing runner and can do a bit of everything, though he excels at nothing.
Keisuke Honda is best as a No. 10, and asking him to play more defense won't help the transition he's yet to adequately make.
Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien are valuable rotation options, but relying on either Ghanaian international would be less than ideal.
When Montolivo returns, he can play in either Gerrard's or Henderson's spot, alternating with De Jong in whichever way Inzaghi deemed fit. But until then, the Rossoneri midfield will be a work in progress.
In the interim, Grenier would fill the creative void Montolivo's injury forced him to vacate. And going forward, the French international can become a special player. Valued at just more than £10.5 million by Transfermarkt, given his age and ceiling, he'd be a superb signing.
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