As the old saying goes, "If it isn’t broken don’t fix it."
That would seem to apply to AC Milan, which is on the verge of winning its 18th Scudetto (Serie A title).
But actually, it doesn’t.
Looking through the Rossoneri roster, Vice President Adriano Galliani is going to have to make some difficult decisions this summer and won’t have too much time to enjoy the Scudetto victory.
Several players who have become legends with the club and have played a very important role in winning two UEFA Champions League titles since 2003 are free agents.
Midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf as well as central defender Alessandro Nesta are all free agents that could leave.
They are not alone as Massimo Ambrosini and Filippo Inzaghi are among the other free agents.
Pirlo will soon be 32 and it will be difficult to give a long-term extension to player who makes 6 million euros a season. That is unless he is willing to take a big pay cut.
Nesta and Seedorf are both 35 and earn 4.5 and 4 million euros a season, respectively. They too will have to be willing to take pay cuts if they are to stay.
Ambrosini, who will turn 34 later this month, is the team captain. He makes 3 million and seems the most likely to stay. Inzaghi, who earns 2 million, could stay if he agrees to a cut.
This group—along with Gennaro Gattuso, who is under contract for one more season—has been the heart and soul of the club for quite some time. Veterans Gianluca Zambrotta and Massimo Oddo are also on the books until June 2012.
Here is a player-by-player look at what to expect for 2012:
Christian Abbiati – The starting keeper is also a free agent. Abbiati has had an excellent season and even though he turns 34 in the summer, is a probable, but not certain bet to return.
Marco Amelia – On loan from Genoa, Amelia was the third-string keeper at the 2006 World Cup. He has done well when called upon. If Milan can strike a deal that doesn’t cost too much, he will stay.
Flavio Roma – A veteran third-string keeper with European experience who makes just 400,000 euros a season. He should return.
Alessandro Nesta – One of the greatest defenders ever, Nesta has come back time and time again from injuries. Now at 35, this will be a tough call for the club. AS Roma’s Philippe Mexes, who is a free agent, could be his replacement.
Thiago Silva – Has become one of the best central defenders in the world. Unless some club makes an offer that is too good to refuse, he will certainly be with the club next season.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – The Greek defender on loan from Genoa has been a complete bust. There is no way he is coming back.
Massimo Oddo – The veteran right back is under contract under 2012. He doesn’t get many chances to play, but is still capable of being a key contributor.
Marek Jankulovski – The veteran Czech left back has already stated he is leaving this summer when his contract runs out. This will shave 2.8 million euros off the books.
Gianluca Zambrotta – The versatile wing back is under contact under 2012. His experience will always make him a valuable player.
Daniele Bonera – Bonera is a player the club might be able to trade or sell. He is 30 this year, has two more years on his contact and has fallen to third string, even though he has played frequently at times. He can play in the middle or as a wing back, which makes him easier to trade. The only probably is that he makes 2 million euros a season, which some clubs may not be willing to pay him.
Nicola LeGrottaglie – Joined the club in the winter from Juventus and seems to be headed for an exit. He is another veteran that is excess to the needs of the club.
Mario Yepes – The Colombian veteran has done a nice job as a second-string central defender. The veteran signed a two-year deal last summer and will almost certainly be back for a second season.
Luca Antonini – The left back who will turn 29 in August has played well at times and also struggled at times. He makes just 1 million euros, so he could be attractive to other clubs. If the club is able to sign free-agent Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo from French side Marseille, Antonini could leave.
Ignazio Abate – AC Milan no longer needs to look for a right back as the 24-year-old has shown he is capable of being a starter in that role for many years to come.
Oguchi Onyewu – If he returns to AC Milan from his loan spell, it is doubtful he will be anything higher than third string. Onyewu simply is not good enough to play for a club of this magnitude.
Alexander Merkel – The young German midfielder is definitely going to be with AC Milan for many years to come. He has shown great promise, but will need to grow up quickly if he wants to see more minutes.
Urby Emanuelson – Signed from Ajax in the winter, Emanuelson hasn’t exactly impressed so far as a left-sided midfielder. But he will be with the club.
Mark Van Bommel – This was a great January signing and the type of player AC Milan likes. Van Bommel is a veteran at 34, but he comes from the same mold as the core pack of midfielders (Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Ambrosini). Milan will look to keep him as he is a free agent.
Gennaro Gattuso – There have been many rumors over the years suggesting Gattuso will leave. Gattuso will be with AC Milan next season and probably beyond that.
Clarence Seedorf – Seedorf has been a great player for the club since 2002 when it ripped off rivals Inter in a trade for Francesco Coco. Clubs all around the world would love to have Seedorf, who offers versatility in the midfield. He is also well-liked by the media.
Rodney Strasser – The young midfielder hasn’t shown that he is capable of being a regular with this squad. He could go out on loan or he could remain as a third-string player.
Mathieu Flamini – The French midfielder, whose father is Italian, has been a big help in recent seasons as he has been the go-to guy whenever Gattuso, Ambrosini, Pirlo or Seedorf have been out. He is just 27 and has just a year left on his contract. He could perhaps be sold to pay off some debts. His 4.5 million a season a salary will not make it easy to offload him, however.
Andrea Pirlo – He might be Galliani’s toughest decision. He is younger than most of the others at 32, but still not young. The club has done well recently without him, which is certainly something Galliani is looking at. But Pirlo, like Seedorf, offers a highly-skilled midfielder of which there are few equals. This will be closely monitored by many.
Massimo Ambrosini – The captain is a safe bet to return next season, even if he is a free agent. His salary hasn’t been as high as some of the other players and he is still an outstanding defensive midfielder.
Kevin Prince Boateng – It seems that the club wants to keep Boateng, who is on loan from Genoa. He has had a decent, but not spectacular season with the club. But he offers some of the same characteristics as Seedorf, even if he is not as talented.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – The club will certainly pick up the option to buy Ibrahimovic from Barcelona. Several recent suspensions might give Galliani reason to think about turning around and trading him. But he is more than likely returning.
Alexandre Pato – Earlier this season Pato seemed to be the next expensive player to leave following Shevchenko, Kaka and Ronaldinho. But now that he is dating the club president’s daughter, that likely will not happen. But he does play in a position that has three quality players with Antonio Cassano and Robinho being the others.
Robinho – Will certainly be with the club next season. He has done a nice job in his part-time role with the club.
Antonio Cassano – See Robinho.
Filippo Inzaghi – Coming off of an injury, it is uncertain where Inzaghi will end up or if he will retire. The guy is a goal-scoring machine when given the opportunity. He is without a doubt one of the smartest strikers of all time.
Philippe Mexes of AS Roma and Davide Astori of Cagliari seem to be the most likely additions to the center of the defense.
The midfield could gain Brazilian Ganso from Santos. Whether or not Pirlo stays will be a big determining factor. If he leaves, the club could sign Luca Cigarini from Napoli, currently on loan with Sevilla. Another possibility is Alberto Aquilani, currently on loan with Juventus from Liverpool. If Juventus signs Pirlo, it may pass on picking up the option on Aquilani, allowing Milan to make a move for the player who is capable of playing in Pirlo’s role.
Milan has no need to change anything up front. Marco Borriello could return on loan from Roma. But he will not want to be the "fifth" man, so he will probably move elsewhere. This might be a good spot for young Giacomo Beretta, who some have compared to Christian Vieri. Verdi could be a backup for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Filippo Inzaghi, if Inzaghi remains with the club.
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