AC Milan were crowned champions of Italy in 2011, but with bitter rivals Inter and Juventus looking to shake up their squads with world-class signings, can the Rossonieri repeat in 2012?
I must preface this slideshow by first saying that AC Milan and Adriano Galliani has said on multiple occasions that the club only intends to sign one player, and that this player will be a left-sided midfielder.
Not all of these players I will name will be left-sided midfielders, as I do not feel that AC Milan only needs one player in order to repeat as champions of Serie A. Having made two quality defensive signings (Mexes and Taiwo) on free transfers, the focus of this transfer window does look to be the aforementioned left side of midfield as well as a player that can take the trequartista role, one that Kaka made so famous for the Rossonieri, to the next level.
With Inter proposing a swap deal for Kaka, Juventus being rumored preparing bids for players such as Nani and Sergio Aguero, Roma adding a new boss who will most definitely employ a playing style similar to Barcelona's, Lazio going out and signing class players such as Miroslav Klose, and Napoli attempting to keep their stars, AC Milan must make multiple moves in the summer transfer window to make Inter's recent stranglehold on Serie A a thing of the past.
While Pablo Piatti is far from the 1.83m that coach Massimiliano Allegri said was the height of the club's top summer transfer target, Piatti has proven his worth at his current club Almeria. Almeria finished at the very bottom of the La Liga table, and it seems just a matter of time until their best player is prized away from the underachieving side.
Scoring 20 times for his club in 101 appearances, his scoring total is solid for a left winger. He is a versatile player and has recently played as a centre forward in an Argentina friendly, and as often the case in football, versatility is invaluable.
He is not tall by any means, measuring in at 1.63 m (5'4"), but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in pace and the ability to dribble pass defenders. I have not seen much of him during his time with Almeria, but watching him in the Argentina friendly, he looked composed on the ball.
Having that low center of gravity that his compatriot Leo Messi possesses, he is hard to push off the ball, as he has tremendous balance.
Only 22 years old, Piatti looks to have a promising career ahead of him, and he could be the player to dribble at defenders (much like Pato does currently) and become a nightmare for back-lines across Italy.
Banega basically plays exactly like Andrea Pirlo. He orchestrates play from the midfield and has a very good long range shot; the only thing he does not possess is Pirlo's world class ability from set pieces. He requires the right coach and right place, as he wallowed in mediocrity for a few years at Valencia before recently proving the player he could be.
Everton have been said to be preparing an 11 million pound bid for the Argentine, so he could come relatively cheaply, and his playing style suits Italian football more so than the hard-nosed, physical English game.
He is only 22 years old and has been capped for Argentina eight times as well as 58 times in the the past two years for his club. Valencia also always seem to be a club in debt, and one never knows if they will decide to cash in on their top talent.
The one knock on Banega is that he does not have a high goal-scoring tally, only grabbing four in 78 appearances for Valencia. Milan don't really need help scoring as Pato, Ibrahimovic, and Robinho aptly distributed the scoring load this past season and will look to improve on that as Pato and Ibrahimovic will look to remain healthy. Banega could replace Pirlo as the midfield lynch pin for the Rossonieri and would come relatively cheaply.
Erik Lamela has been linked with AC Milan throughout the years, and he has continued to impress for River Plate. Listed as a midfielder, he can play as a winger as well as behind the strikers. He was the first choice taker of set pieces for his club and having a powerful shot on his favored left foot, he could add some diversity to set pieces for Milan, which are currently dominated by right footed players (Ibrahimovic and Cassano).
He would not come cheap at all, as when Milan previously inquired, they were told he would be sold for no less than 20 million pounds. Lamela has a hugely promising footballing career ahead of him, and with Milan's strong South American contingent, the young Argentine could be inclined to moving there. He also does match the 1.83 m, left sided midfielder description that Allegri said of their top transfer target, which could mean next to nothing but is interesting to consider nonetheless.
This pint-sized winger has been tipped to be Switzerland's best player in some time. A left footed player, he could fill the void that Allegri and Galliani have been looking for in adding to the left side and no one would complain to see Shaqiri wearing red and black next season.
Scoring nine times in 61 appearances for his club as well as once for the Switzerland national team in 11 appearances, this 19 year old winger looks set for brilliance down the road.
Labeled as one of FIFA's players to watch in 2011, Shaqiri has been attracting admirers of his play all of over the world as his flair and uptempo style of play make him fun to watch. I don't know much about him as I have never seen him featured for FC Basel, but watching his performances with the U-21 side of Switzerland during the European Championship, he has definitely looked to be the best player in his side.
Regarded as the future of Swiss football, Shaqiri will no doubt attract a host of clubs right now based on his potential, as well as be subject to a few bids depending on his performances for the U-21 side. A transfer fee is difficult to ascertain as I have not heard of any concrete bids for the player, but it will most definitely be over 10 million euros.
His style of play would fit well in the Serie A, as he has the playing style of Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez. Should Milan sign him, he should be loaned out to try and gain experience in the Italian style of play.
Signing players with boatloads of potential is exciting because they could become world class or become a huge bust, but with Shaqiri's talent, chances favor him developing into a superstar in just a few years.
Hailed as the best Danish talent since Michael Laudrup, Christian Eriksen will look to become a household name during the European U-21 Championships. Netting numerous awards for his talent and potential, Eriksen seems to be outgrowing Ajax at only the age of 19 and is being linked with clubs such as Milan and Liverpool.
Another attacking midfielder, since I am still not convinced Antonio Cassano will stay at the San Siro, he will look to play in behind the strikers and use his skill on the ball to skip past defenders as well as provide Ibrahimovic and Pato will proper service.
Not enough can be said about the promise of Christian Eriksen, as he has proven himself worthy as being named among world football's most promising talents. He was the youngest player to play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is currently captaining his U-21 side during the European championships, and became the youngest player to ever score for Denmark, dethroning the king of Danish football, Michael Laudrup. Scoring six times for Ajax in 43 appearances and creating numerous goals, his impact for the club when he has featured has been huge.
AC Milan were linked with a 12 million euro bid in the January transfer window, but the summer transfer windows are when clubs look to spend, and the talented, young Dane will definitely see his stock rise with a host of clubs interested.
Before joining Ajax, he had trials with Barcelona, Chelsea, and Milan, and each of those clubs would love to see Eriksen wearing their colors next season.
Milan may not actually sign Eriksen as they have co-ownership deals with Genoa for two more highly promising attacking midfielders, Stephan El Shaarawy and Alexander Merkel, but they would be foolish to not at least consider signing the Danish dynamo.
Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima has been sensational for his club Santos since breaking into the squad in 2008.
An attacking midfielder much in the mold of the lauded Kaka, Ganso is a left-footed player capable of making that defense splitting pass as well as having a go from outside the 18 yard box. He has scored eight times for his club in 45 appearances, which doesn't stand out by any means, but for a player of his promise, a move should definitely be on the cards.
He has been recently capped for Brazil and along with Santos teammate Neymar, they look to be the future of the attacking front for the national team.
He has been linked with a move to Italy for some time now, with Milan and Inter being the two sides keen on signing him.
He is injury prone and suffered bouts with injury in each of his seasons playing for Santos, which could prove to be a stumbling block for clubs inquiring about his services. He is, however, tremendously talented, and if he can stay healthy, he could easily become the gold standard of attacking midfielders in all of world football.
Milan may be the perfect place for him to cultivate his ability and along with their famed pedigree with Brazilians, Ganso could ride to new heights wearing red and black.
One thing that will prove to be a major obstacle in the completion of this transfer will be the fee that Santos will request. His teammate Neymar was subject to bids in the region of 25-30 million pounds before Santos came in and said he would be sold for no less that 41 million pounds.
If Santos intend on getting the most money for their stars, as they seem to be doing with Neymar, Ganso's transfer fee could rise significantly. Milan said they will spend in this transfer window and Ganso would be, in my opinion, the perfect addition to the squad, as he could make a Kaka-esque impact for years to come.
I was absolutely dumbfounded when Milan decided not to take back Gourcuff after his loan spell at Bordeaux, where he won Player of the Year in Ligue 1 and led Bordeaux to the Ligue 1 Title.
He told the Milan board that he wished to return, but he also wanted to be in starting XI. Milan replied that they would not guarantee him a starting place where their first choice player in the position at the time was Clarence Seedorf. While Seedorf has had a tremendous impact during his tenure at Milan, the Dutchman is not the player he used to be, and AC Milan was foolish to let a player of Gourcuff's quality slip away.
Gourcuff is class and is the long-term trequartista that the Rossonieri have been missing. I do like Cassano, but he is an enigma, and no one knows when his next problem with a club will be.
Gourcuff provides a very good passing range and an eye for goal. He would provide a similar skill set to that of Andrea Pirlo but would play in a more advanced role than the midfield maestro. If Milan could manage to convince Gourcuff to return to the club, he would make an instant impact and be a pivotal player for years.
Cesc Fabregas, right now, is the best player on this list of names. He has been instrumental in everything that Arsenal has done since he began regularly featuring for the club in the 2004-2005 season.
Struggles with Arsenal have caused much speculation that Fabregas is beginning to become frustrated with the lack of success at the Emirates. He is the club's captain and it's best player, so it is unfortunate to see such a talent not be able to garner the success one deserves with Arsenal.
Ever-linked with his boyhood club Barcelona, Fabregas has recently been brought up as a target of the Rossonieri. For the record, I do NOT at all think that this transfer will come to fruition. The Milan link seemingly came out of the blue, and if Fabregas were to trade in his captaincy and move to a different club, I don't see him doing that for anywhere other than Camp Nou.
No one can doubt his talent, as his passing range is incredible and he has a decent eye for goal, scoring 57 times in 303 appearances for the club in all competitions. The one statistic that truly stands out though is his 100 assists in those 303 appearances.
Boasting a Zidane-like tally for assists, Fabregas creates chances like no other player not named Xavi in the world today, but this still has not allowed him to avoid criticism. He seems to become enamored with playing a "cute" chip pass over the defense which, more times than not, will not come off. Part of the reason Jack Wilshere has been so successful for Arsenal this past season was his ability to play the direct pass so the forwards could terrorize the defense.
He will not be sold for anything less than 45 million pounds or about 50 million euros, and I just don't see Milan being able to meet this valuation. They have to buy Ibrahimovic from Barcelona, which will cost a hefty sum, as well as already purchasing Kevin Prince Boateng from Genoa, and promising to sign a much needed left-sided midfielder.
It is unlikely Berlusconi will want to spend nearly 100 million euros after winning the domestic title, but the prospect of Fabregas joining the Rossonieri is truly scintillating.
Why has Eden Hazard not be mentioned in connection with AC Milan?
First of all, his style of play suits the Italian game much better than the English game, as the physicality of the Premier League would not work in Hazard's favor.
Second of all, he can play in behind the strikers as well as on the wing, meaning he has the ability to fill in both problem areas for Milan. Hazard is touted as being the hottest prospect in European football right now, and when a player of his caliber is made available, Milan should take notice.
I have seen multiple articles calling him the next Cristiano Ronaldo, which could not be more wrong. Ronaldo, while being immensely talented, is a very selfish player. Hazard is not in the least bit.
His goal scoring record for his club, 16 in 109 appearances, is not nearly that of Ronaldo's, as Ronaldo bagged 16 goals in about a third of all competitions this season.
What makes Hazard different than Ronaldo is his ability to create chances for his teammates as Gervinho and Moussa Sow would not have experienced nearly the amount of success this season without the help of the little Belgian. He is, in my opinion, reminiscent of another Portuguese superstar by the name of Luis Figo.
Truly an orchestrator of play as well as one of the most exciting players to watch in the world, Hazard has been linked with almost every big club not in Italy. Milan has Champions League football next season, something that Liverpool, a club he has been linked with does not. Milan has experienced recent success something Arsenal have failed to do for some time now. They are not in the midst of completely overhauling their first team like Chelsea are. He will get playing time with the Rossonieri and that would be very difficult at both Madrid and Barcelona.
His talent is unquestionable, and he has brought Lille from relative obscurity to surprise champions of Ligue 1.
He has already been capped 20 times for Belgium and at the age of 20, he has the potential to become Belgium's greatest football ever. Hazard will be expensive, and with the amount of clubs that want him, his price could rise significantly to over 30 million euros.
While some may be surprised about his inclusion in this list, Hazard would be perfect for Milan, but the odds of him coming to Italy would be slim.