Why Graziano Pelle Would Be a Great Signing for AC Milan

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2016

Graziano Pelle has earned his way onto the Italian national team over the last three seasons.
Graziano Pelle has earned his way onto the Italian national team over the last three seasons.Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

AC Milan's front line could see a significant shake-up this summer.

With the exception of Carlos Bacca and probably M'Baye Niang, there are questions about the future of pretty much every forward on the roster—and even the Colombian could theoretically move if another club offers Milan an obscene amount of money.

With so much uncertainty up front, it would behoove Milan to make some plans to cover for any departures that may happen this summer.  One of the options they should evaluate is Southampton's Graziano Pelle.

Bacca excepted, the team's forwards have been up and down this year.  Luiz Adriano started the season well but tailed off as Serie A defenses got used to him and an injury put him on the shelf.  Mario Balotelli started in encouraging form but was himself sidelined with an injury from September to February.  Niang's return from a foot injury saw him partner well with Bacca, but then he suffered an injury in a car accident and is out for the year.

Even Jeremy Menez, last year's leading scorer, spent the majority of the season out with a chronic back injury (there's that word again) and has only appeared in five games this season.

Adriano was bound for China until the move broke down.
Adriano was bound for China until the move broke down.Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

All that upheaval has seriously clouded the future of most of those players.  Team vice-president Adriano Galliani told Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia) that Balotelli "is not delivering what we had hoped," fueling speculation the team will allow him to become Liverpool's problem again after the season is over.

Menez's future could be in somewhere other than Milan as well.  He's reportedly been a target of one of the wave of Chinese offers that have been snapping up players into the Chinese Super League.  When queried about such offers by L'Equipe in his home country of France (h/t Football Italia), he replied that "it's only human to think about it."

As for Adriano, by now everyone knows of January's transfer saga.  Barely six months after signing him, the Rossoneri looked to take advantage of one of those Chinese offers to turn a profit, but his €15 million transfer to Jiangsu Suning FC fell through.  He's only played twice since.

All this upheaval, combined with the almost-certain departure of Stephan El Shaarawy this summer, means Milan could need some major reinforcement come transfer time.

In looking for that, Pelle could be a very interesting solution.

The big striker is the definition of a journeyman.  He's been owned by five clubs and has played for no less than nine.  But in the last three-and-a-half years, he's suddenly thrown himself onto the map.

In two years at Feyenoord from 2012-14, he scored 50 goals in the Eredivisie.  That attracted attention from England, and he's scored 20 times for Southampton since then, including twice at the weekend against Stoke City.

He's even worked his way onto the Italian national team.  Whether that's a sign of Italy's current dearth of strikers or of his quality is yet to be ascertained, but he scored three times during qualifying for the UEFA European Championship and stands a good chance of going to France with the team this year.

Pelle is not what you'd call a modern-day striker.  He's a classic, battering-ram No. 9—the kind of player most people will tell you is going extinct but that most coaches will secretly tell you no team should be without.

Whether Mihajlovic will be at Milan next year is anyone's guess.
Whether Mihajlovic will be at Milan next year is anyone's guess.CARLO HERMANN/Getty Images

His 6'4" frame makes him phenomenal in the air—having him on the end of a good cross from Giacomo Bonaventura or Keisuke Honda is an enticing prospect.  He's also a surprisingly good passer in the box and is a particular master of the oft-overlooked chest pass.  He's no Messi, but he'd be an asset to most teams.

Now Britain's Daily Star is reporting (h/t Football Italia) Pelle is growing homesick.  The paper has named Milan as a likely landing spot if he chooses to leave England this summer.

Whether Pelle would be a fit for Milan depends on a lot of factors.  Two of them loom biggest: First, which strikers are still around when training for the new season begins after the Euros?  Second, who will be the coach?

If the likes of Balotelli and Adriano are gone, the team is going to need depth.  Pelle certainly wouldn't overtake Bacca on the depth chart.  He probably wouldn't be a very good partner for him, either—they're too similar.  But as his backup, he would be an excellent buy.

Of course, whether he fits will also depend on who Milan's coach is next season.  At this point whether it will be Sinisa Mihajlovic or someone else is anyone's guess.  Owner and president Silvio Berlusconi has been critical of the coach this season, and on Sunday Sport Mediaset reported (h/t Football Italia) that after watching his team's goalless draw against Chievo from the stands—he was serving a touchline ban—Mihajlovic was allegedly heard to be muttering "With this team it's impossible to do anything more."

If he did say such a thing—the club denies it—it would seem to confirm last week's Sky Italia report (h/t Football Italia) that Mihajlovic was fed up with the team and was interested in leaving in the summer.

There are a lot of variables that go into what would make Pelle a good signing for Milan.  But under the right circumstances, the big striker can be an excellent depth signing behind Bacca.