Calling True or False on 4 Recent AC Milan Transfer Rumours
AC Milan has turned onto the homestretch along with the rest of Serie A. As the number of games left in the season dwindles, the specter of the summer transfer window grows ever larger.
Until recently, transfer season hasn't been particularly kind to the Rossoneri. Since their Scudetto triumph in the 2010-11 season, they've seen far more impact players leave the team than arrive.
In 2011, Andrea Pirlo decamped for Juventus after Milan deemed him washed up. He proceeded to drive the Bianconeri to four straight titles and a Champions League final. Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and center back Thiago Silva joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2012. Neither was adequately replaced until this past year. That summer also saw the loss of a slew of veteran leaders such as Gennaro Gattuso and Filippo Inzaghi. In 2014, they sold off promising young midfielder Bryan Cristante with absolutely no explanation.
Last summer saw Milan do better. They spent big money for the first time in five years and made a couple of stellar signings. Striker Carlos Bacca, a €30 million recruit from Sevilla, finally gave them a reliable striker up front.
Another €25 milllion was sent to Roma for center back Alessio Romagnoli, who has begun to stabilize a weak defense, and at 21 years or age, he could develop into the next in the long line of revered Milan defenders that includes Alessandro Nesta, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini.
They even had a few smaller successes such as Juraj Kucka, who has turned into a useful midfield hard man with the occasional touch of technique. But even then, they've had misses, such as the €20 million they spent on Andrea Bertolacci—a good player but not one worth that kind of fee.
A key to continuing Milan's rebuilding project will be to expand on the successes they had in the market last year with a few more good buys.
But which players will Milan get? Today we'll look at four rumored Milan transfer targets and see just how high the truth factor is for each proposed move.
Over the last two years, Graziano Pelle has earned his way into the Italy setup. While this may speak more to the dearth of quality strikers in the player pool, he's also put up some impressive numbers.
In two seasons at Feyenoord in the Netherlands, one on loan from Parma and one on full ownership, he scored 50 times, attracting the attention of Premier League team Southampton. He scored 12 times in his first season with the Saints last term. He had seven in all competitions through the first day of November this time around, but he hasn't scored since.
British paper the Daily Star is reporting (h/t Football Italia) the striker is homesick and wants to return to Italy, naming Milan as a likely destination.
This could well have some credibility to it. Southampton acquired Charlie Austin from Queens Park Rangers in January and could be moving on from Pelle in their plans. For their part, Milan may be looking for forward depth behind Bacca next season with the statuses of Luiz Adriano and the on-loan Mario Balotelli up in the air.
Pelle has shown a good nose for goal the last three seasons and could provide valuable depth. It's a move Milan could look into.
Truth Factor: Credible
This is a rumor that has popped up in the last few days, and its genesis is in several others.
On Monday, reports surfaced from Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia) that coach Sinisa Mihajlovic would leave Milan over the summer. That led to reports from Tuttosport (also via Football Italia) that Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco was among the leading candidates to replace him.
That, in turn, led to a final report by La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia), which reiterated the long-held belief Sassuolo starlet Domenico Berardi is unconvinced about a move to Juventus, who hold an option on him and that he would prefer to follow Di Francesco if he leaves the Neroverdi.
There are a lot of moving parts here. According to most reports, Juve's option on Berardi is a gentlemen's agreement and not a hard contractual option. Sassuolo president Giovanni Carnevali also acknowledged the agreement in an interview with SportMediaset (h/t Football Italia) but warned "nothing is decided."
The dancing around the 21-year-old has made for intriguing theatre over the last few years, and it could come to a head this summer. Whether because of his childhood love of Inter or because he's not convinced he'll get the playing time he wants at Juve, there has always seemed to be a reluctance on his part about moving to Turin.
That said, Sassuolo's relationship with Juventus is strong. The Bianconeri's most promising young players, such as Simone Zaza, have been farmed out to the Neroverdi in recent years, and Juventus basically bankrolled the club's recent move for Cesena star Stefano Sensi.
Sassuolo is a small but well-run club, and the kind of relationship they have with Juve is valuable. Regardless of approaches from other teams, they may not want to endanger it by sending Berardi elsewhere unless the player absolutely refuses to move to the Turin giants.
If Berardi were to turn down Juve, watching him follow Di Francesco would make sense—with the exception of a brief period two years ago when Di Francesco lost his job only to be recalled, he has been the only professional coach the player has known.
On Milan's side, of course, they would take one of the best young talents in the world—especially one who has savaged them in his three years at Sassuolo, scoring eight goals in six league games against the Rossoneri and coming up with an assist in the Neroverdi's 2-0 triumph over Milan on Sunday.
At the end of the day, it's hard to see Juve letting Berardi slip through their fingers. But if he does, and if Di Francesco succeeds Mihajlovic this summer, this move could happen. It would just need a lot of things to go right.
Truth Factor: Possible but highly unlikely
The season certainly hasn't gone according to plan. The 4-3-3 formation Sarri has used in Naples, combined with a career-resurrecting campaign by Jorginho, crowded the 29-year-old out of the starting XI.
Valdifiori started seven of Napoli's eight Europa League games—providing a pair of assists and, according to WhoScored.com, averaging three key passes per game—but with the Partenopei out of the competition, his prospects for playing time as the season progresses aren't good.
Valdifiori was considered a fringe contender to go to the UEFA European Championship for Italy before the season, but with only 15 games to his name in all competitions, that prospect is gone.
His lack of playing time is perplexing considering his quality and how shallow Sarri plays Napoli. He's never entered a game as a sub once this season despite the huge number of minutes logged by Jorginho, Allan and Marek Hamsik.
If this continues, other clubs could come calling, Milan being one of them. They have an extreme need for creativity in their midfield, and Valdifiori fits the bill. Valdifiori's agent, Mario Giuffredi, told Il Milanista on Saturday (h/t Football Italia) that the player was happy in Naples, but he also said "if a call were to come from Milan HQ, then it would certainly be appreciated."
Valdifiori would fill a huge need for Milan and needs playing time. A transfer is certainly a plausible scenario.
Truth Factor: Credible
Juan Manuel Iturbe
Two years ago, Juan Manuel Iturbe was one of the prizes of the mercato. When Roma undercut Juventus to claim him, it was a major shock.
Even more surprising, though, was what Roma got out of the deal. That is, very little.
Last season, he only scored twice in the league in 27 appearances. This term, he scored only one goal in 12—only three of them starts—before he was loaned to English side Bournemouth in January.
The Cherries have an option to buy the Argentinian winger outright this summer, but given he's only seen two sub appearances since, it's unlikely the Cherries intend to pay €22 million to do that.
It's not known whether Luciano Spalletti will include him in his plans next season—Iturbe was loaned out before Rudi Garcia was fired—but if he's not, he'll certainly be shopped around this summer.
According to a Calciomercato report (h/t Football Italia) Iturbe could be made a part of the negotiations between the two clubs for Stephan El Shaarawy.
The Italy international has been a hit since he arrived in the capital in the winter, racking up five goals and two assists in six games. The Giallorossi will almost certainly activate their option for him, and using Iturbe as a makeweight would make sense for both clubs, saving them money to use on other signings.
The attitudes of Spalletti and of any potential successor to Mihajlvoic, if he indeed ends up leaving Milan this summer, would affect whether this would happen, but it's a believable scenario.
Truth Factor: Very credible