3 Areas for Carlos Bacca to Improve on to Become an AC Milan Great

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2016

Carlos Bacca has the chance to stamp his name in Milan's history books.
Carlos Bacca has the chance to stamp his name in Milan's history books.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Carlos Bacca has been one of the most successful transfer buys AC Milan have made in the last three or four years.  It's arguable that only Giacomo Bonaventura has been a better find.

The Colombian filled a need that had been festering at Milan for years.  Since the 2012 sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint-Germain, the Rossoneri has lacked a dependable goalscorer.  

The likes of Giampaolo Pazzini, Alexandre Pato, Rubinho, Bojan Krkic, Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Matri, Mario Balotelli, Fernando Torres, Jeremy Menez and Mattia Destro have all tried to fill that need in the intervening seasons.

Of those strikers, only El Shaarawy, Balotelli and Menez had any real degree of success, and even then there were caveats.  

El Shaarawy's explosion of goals in 2012-13 came almost entirely in the first half of the season before he tailed off, ground down by experiencing the rigors of a three-competition season for the first time.  Balotelli exploded as El Sha burned out, scoring 13 times in the second half of that season before returning to more ordinary form the next season.

Menez led the team in scoring last season, but half of his goals were from the penalty spot, and as the season wore on, he started killing as many attacking moves as he finished.

Bacca has mostly cured those woes.  He's scored 17 times this season, tied for second in the league with Juventus' Paulo Dybala.  It's a sparkling record, the best total in the league for Milan since Ibrahimovic won Capocannoniere honors with 28 in his final year at the club in 2011-12.

Ibrahimovic is the closest Milan have come over the last few years to generating a striker of legendary status.  Had he stayed a few more years, the big Swede may have added his name to a list that includes the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi.

Can Bacca make that list?  He certainly can, but there are things he needs to do in order to get that.  Here are three of them.

 

Stay

Bacca's success, combined with Milan's struggles, have already spurred rumors of his departure.
Bacca's success, combined with Milan's struggles, have already spurred rumors of his departure.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

To be considered legendary at any club requires a long stay.  Andrea Pirlo stayed for 10 years, as did Clarence Seedorf.  Gennaro Gattuso and Inzaghi stayed for 13 years.  The legend of legends, Paolo Maldini, was a Milan player for 24 years.  All of these players are firmly in the pantheon of Milan's greatest players.

Bacca is only in his first year with the team, and if he is to join that kind of list, he needs to stay a while.  Given Milan's struggles over the last few years and their recent financial struggles, any player who does well will naturally be talked about when transfer rumors fly.

The 29-year-old is no exception.  In January, the Daily Mail linked Bacca with Chelsea.  The Daily Star relayed another report that month from Spanish media outlet Don Balon that Manchester United were looking into a bid for the striker.  In March, ESPN FC reported on interest in the player from Bayern Munich.  

If Bacca wants to see the same rarefied air as Gattuso or Seedorf, he has to resist any overtures from outside forces.

Given Milan's struggles this year, that may not be easy.  The team is in serious danger of missing out on European competition for a third consecutive year.

It was a mild surprise that Bacca, who had helped Sevilla win the last two UEFA Europa League titles, came to Milan in the first place, considering he was leaving a team that was guaranteed a space in the UEFA Champions League for a team that wasn't in Europe at all.

If he isn't convinced that Milan can be competitive at the highest level, he may decide to leave.  Corriere dello Sport reported last month (h/t Football Italia) that Bacca had such concerns and would demand a big wage hike if the team misses out on Europe.

But if he can resist these overtures, he has a chance to carve out a special place at Milan.

 

Assists

Bacca's assist numbers are down compared to his years with Sevilla.
Bacca's assist numbers are down compared to his years with Sevilla.OLIVIER MORIN/Getty Images

One thing that Bacca has not done this year is provide goals for his teammates.  He's only recorded two assists in 37 games.

Bacca isn't the kind of striker that can create his own shot on a regular basis, but over the course of his career he's made a decent number of assists.  He combined for 11 in league play in his two years at Sevilla, plus another four in European play.

Some of his lack of numbers in this case could be due to teammates not taking chances, but Bacca's numbers this year are still abnormally low.  If he can pick them up, it will lift the team and make him the complete No. 9 he showed he can be in Spain.

 

Leadership

Bacca cannot replicate his angry reaction to being replaced against Carpi.
Bacca cannot replicate his angry reaction to being replaced against Carpi.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Players that reach the pantheon of legends at any club are invariably leaders in the locker room.  For Milan, Maldini is the exemplar of such a trait, captaining the team for a dozen years.

However, Bacca has recently displayed a lack in this area.

After being substituted in the 69th minute of a 0-0 draw against Carpi on April 21, a frustrated Bacca didn't acknowledge his replacement, Menez, and glared at manager Cristian Brocchi as he crossed the touchline.  

According to Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia), Bacca was so angry that he departed the San Siro before the game ended.

Those aren't the actions of a leader.  No player should treat their teammates so disrespectfully as to leave the arena before the final whistle.

Bacca apologized for his actions, but it's not something that can happen again.  If he is to write his name in Milan's history books, he needs to act more like a leader to spur the team forward.

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