AC Milan Line Up Keisuke Honda as Potential Kevin-Prince Boateng Replacement

Jason VossFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 02:  Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Milan and S.S. Lazio at San Siro Stadium on March 2, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng has been linked with a move away from the San Siro after having a subpar season this past year.

The Ghana international is a transfer target of Tottenham, Manchester City and newly-promoted Ligue 1 side Monaco, who recently signed Porto superstars Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez.

Boateng is also a Massimiliano Allegri loyalist and has backed the boss on numerous occasions, so should the Milan brass decide to part ways with Allegri, it could further cast doubt on Boateng's Rossoneri career.

The 26-year-old midfielder was played in a plethora of positions this season, including right wing, left wing, attacking midfield, centre-midfield and he even played as a centre-forward in three contests.

Milan's No. 10 has tremendous versatility, and Allegri surely thought that his skills would translate to these positions, but Boateng struggled mightily and only played as a midfielder, his native position, in 13 games this season.

These constant positional changes prevented Boateng from settling in and finding his groove. He was outstanding last season when he was used as a box-to-box midfielder, the position that best translates with his skills as an all-around midfield dynamo.

Throughout his tenure at the San Siro, Boateng has had some sensational strikes, as evidenced here.

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Allegri undoubtedly wished that a more attacking role would yield more of the same, and he did have some displays at right wing that were promising, including a starring role in Milan's 4-2 win over Catania, but those performances were few and far between.

A transition back to his preferred midfield role saw him improve his performances and, going forward, there should be no question as to what position he should play.

If Boateng does decide to leave the Rossoneri, Milan will target CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda as a replacement. Honda has starred for the Moscow club since 2010, scoring 23 times in 101 appearances.

He's capable of lining up as an attacking midfielder, a centre-forward or as a deep-lying playmaker in the centre of midfield.

Honda is most notable for his ability as a free-kick practitioner, using his left foot to drill some splendid shots as well as set his teammates up from unfavorable shooting positions. Some of his set-piece goals can be seen here.

While Honda is a great player in his own right, I don't quite understand the link. Honda is also 26, so it's not like Milan would be getting younger at the position.

They already have a world-class, deep-lying playmaker in Riccardo Montolivo, and their 4-3-3 formation doesn't really accommodate a player who's so attack-minded, preferring a more well-rounded skill set.

Boateng is better defensively and is a natural box-to-box midfielder who has the creative acumen to inject some attacking flair into the Milan midfield. He's stronger on the ball and has experience in top European leagues, including the English Premier League and Bundesliga.

Honda has only played in the Japanese domestic league, the Dutch Eredivisie and the Russian Premier League, three leagues that are all of lesser quality than the ones that Boateng has graced.

If Milan are able to get around €20 million for him, they'd be much better suited in going after PSV midfielder Kevin Strootman, with whom they've been associated with before, who will probably cost around that figure.

Honda is currently valued at €20 million as well, but one would be hard-pressed to find someone who would prefer Honda to the 23-year-old Dutch international.

Strootman can play as a defensive-midfielder as well as a deep-lying playmaker, and this versatility is invaluable in a three-man midfield. Honda is too attack-minded and would likely take some time to acclimate himself to the Serie A.

It remains to be seen if Milan will keep Allegri as conflicting reports are stating that the club will axe the Italian tactician, with others saying the contrary.

A managerial change could come with a change in formation. However, Allegri's experiment with the 4-3-3 turned out well, and the new manager would do well to keep the formation.

An ideal situation would see the Rossoneri remain vigilant with the three-man midfield, fielding the indispensable Riccardo Montolivo as the deep-lying playmaker, Boateng as the box-to-box midfielder and Strootman as the defensive midfielder.

Strootman also provided 11 assists in domestic play this season and would give the Milan midfield another much-needed creative option.

A return back to his native position would pay dividends for both Boateng and Milan as his performances last season, including some displays this season, show that he is most effective in that role.

Milan do need to generate more creativity from their midfield, and it won't come from Mathieu Flamini, Sulley Muntari, Nigel de Jong, Massimo Ambrosini or Bakaye Traore.

Antonio Nocerino is another option, but he was even worse than Boateng this season and could be sold while he is still worth a decent amount of money.

The San Siro outfit have also been linked with Lazio star Hernanes, but considering the Rome club is a domestic rival, his transfer fee could rise to around €30 million. At 27 years old, he doesn't fit the new Milan transfer philosophy, and while the Brazilian maestro would be fantastic at the club, Adriano Galliani will explore younger options.

Of course this is all speculation and no transfer dealings will be seriously explored until Milan first sort out their managerial situation.

A meeting between owner Silvio Berlusconi, an outspoken critic of Allegri, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani and Allegri will be held on Thursday, and this meeting could decide the direction the Milan brass plan to go in.

Boateng's past performances have endeared him to the Milan faithful, and I don't think that his best days are behind him. A consistent role could revive some of the world-class form he portrayed last season.

If the Ghanaian international is sold, PSV midfielder Kevin Strootman is a better option than Honda as the position he plays and his upside would see him shine at the San Siro.