Breaking Down the Fantasy Team AC Milan Could Have Had

Blair Newman@@TheBlairNewmanFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2015

Breaking Down the Fantasy Team AC Milan Could Have Had

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    Paul White/Associated Press

    AC Milan's transfer policy over the last decade has wielded some strange decisions. Some of the finest talent in Italy—and, in some cases, the world—has been allowed to walk out the doors of Milanello prematurely.

    While the club again began to invest serious money in top-class players in the summer, the past two seasons of underachievement could arguably have been avoided had Milan given more time to certain players.

    Indeed, an entire team could be made up of Milan rejects from the past 10 years, which is exactly what we have done.

    Worryingly for Milanisti, this team of players who were sold, allowed to leave on a free or had their loans end without a permanent deal, could easily compete with Milan's expensively assembled current side.

    Sinisa Mihajlovic tends to field his team in a 4-3-3 formation, so we have chosen to select this fantasy team of former Milan players in the same system to allow for comparisons with the current lineup.

Honourable Mentions

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    FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

    Here are our honourable mentions; the players Milan let go without seeing the best of them.

    Antonio Donnarumma (Goalkeeper, 25, Genoa)

    Simone Romagnoli (Centre-back, 25, Carpi)

    Matias Silvestre (Centre-back, 31, Sampdoria)

    Yoann Gourcuff (Attacking midfielder, 29, Rennes)

    Stephan El Shaarawy (Winger, 23, Monaco)

Goalkeeper: Gabriel

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    Alik Keplicz/Associated Press

    Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel has made seven appearances for Milan, whom he joined from Cruzeiro in 2012. He spent last season on loan at Carpi, helping the club to win Serie B and gain promotion to the top tier of Italian football for the first time in their history.

    Although the 23-year-old was made available for a loan again this season, he did not return to Carpi; instead Scudetto-chasing Napoli brought him in as their backup to Jose Reina. He has yet to gain much from the spell, making just one appearance in the Europa League.

    Had he remained with the Rossoneri, an opportunity may well have opened up for Gabriel as Diego Lopez was dropped prior to Milan’s win over Sassuolo. Instead the goalkeeping vacancy fell to 16-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has impressed.

Right-Back: Sokratis Papastathopoulos

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Sokratis Papastathopoulos joined Milan as a bright young defender in 2010 after two promising seasons with Genoa, but he failed to nail down a regular starting berth.

    After amassing a paltry five league appearances at the San Siro, the 27-year-old left to embark on two successful years with Werder Bremen before joining fellow Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund for €9.5 million.

    Of his time in Milan, Papastathopoulos told Goal’s Falko Bloeding, “Playing a game every three months is not an ideal situation.”

    A versatile player, Papastathopoulos prefers to play on the right of central defence or at right-back. Had Milan kept hold of him, the Greek international could have slotted into either of these positions ahead of current occupants, Alex and Ignazio Abate.

Centre-Back: Francesco Acerbi

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    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    After strong showings for Chievo, Francesco Acerbi joined Milan in 2012 hopeful of forming a strong partnership with Thiago Silva.

    Upon joining the club, he told Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia), “I will do everything I can to earn my place in the side, then the coach will be the one to make the decision.”

    However, just six league appearances later, Acerbi was shipped back to Chievo on loan during the 2012/13 season’s winter transfer window.

    Now a full Italy international, he is on course to be a part of the Azzurri’s Euro 2016 campaign and, per Squawka, he is the best performing defender in Serie A.

Centre-Back: Davide Astori

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    Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

    Born and raised in the province of Bergamo to the north-east of Milan, Davide Astori would eventually join the Rossoneri in 2001 and come through the club’s youth system.

    However, any dreams he may have had of representing the club at senior level faded after several loan spells in the Italian lower leagues were followed by a move to Cagliari in 2008.

    After a poor spell with Roma last year, the 28-year-old joined Fiorentina on loan this season and has played an integral role on the left side of their three-man defence as the club has climbed to the top of Serie A.

    Per Squawka, Astori—like fellow Milan reject Acerbi—has been one of the league’s best defenders this season and is also a regular call-up to the Italian national team.

Left-Back: Matteo Darmian

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    ALBERTO PELLASCHIAR/Associated Press

    Matteo Darmian was captain of Milan’s Primavera having joined the club at the age of 11 after being scouted by Ignazio Abate’s father, Beniamino.

    He eventually made five appearances for the club in all competitions but never held down a regular spot before being sold to Palermo in 2010. From there, he switched positions from centre-back to full-back and hasn’t looked back since.

    After four exceptional years with Torino, Darmian moved to Premier League giants Manchester United in the summer for a fee of £12.7 million.

    The 25-year-old made his Italy debut prior to the 2014 World Cup, a tournament in which he went on to star, and is now a consistent starter for the Azzurri in either the left- or right-back position.

Defensive Midfield: Andrea Pirlo

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    At 32, Andrea Pirlo was no longer effective in his deep-lying midfield role; the elegant string-puller was past his best. At least, that’s what Adriano Galliani must have been saying to himself as he allowed Pirlo to leave on a free transfer in the summer of 2011.

    The mutual agreement between player and club not to continue together ended up being Milan’s loss. Pirlo would sign for Juventus and dictate the tempo for four more years. Per WhoScored, he earned a minimum average rating of 7.4 in each of his four years in Turin.

    Pirlo won four consecutive Scudetti with the Bianconeri before departing for richer pastures in the MLS with New York City FC, although he has remained on the fringes of the Italian national side.

    Recently, the 36-year-old has been linked with a move back to Serie A, with former Inter president Massimo Moratti saying that Pirlo’s signature would be a “very good idea”, per ESPN.

    If Milan had kept him, it’s reasonable to suggest that Pirlo would still be playing in front of their defence this season.

Central Midfield: Bryan Cristante

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    The sale of Bryan Cristante to Benfica was a topic of controversy for Milan fans. At the time of his departure, the 20-year-old was seen as a symbol of the club’s future.

    Ultimately, he became the latest in a long line of players to have been nurtured in Milan’s youth system only to be sold on at the first opportunity, though he is yet to have had the chance to prove them wrong in letting him go.

    Cristante made just five league appearances in his first year in Portugal and recent speculation has suggested that he may be on his way. According to IlSussidiario.net (h/t Forza Italian Football), he may join Sassuolo in the near future.

Central Midfield: Riccardo Saponara

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Riccardo Saponara has enthralled Empoli fans since returning to the Florentine club in January. He only made three starts during an ill-fated spell with Milan before being allowed to leave for the club where he first made his name.

    An elegant technician, the 23-year-old revels in the trequartista role though, much like Milan’s current main creative force Giacomo Bonaventura, is also able to play on the wing or in a more central position.

    As one of the best midfield performers in Serie A, per Squawka, it can’t be long before Saponara earns a call-up to Antonio Conte’s Italy side.

Right Wing: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    It wasn’t until he was 22 that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed any signs of becoming a world-class forward. The pacey Gabon international thrived in his first full season at Saint-Etienne before joining Borussia Dortmund two years later.

    Now, at 26, he is considered one of the best strikers on the planet, though Milan certainly didn’t foresee such development when they allowed him to leave in 2011 after several loan spells.

    This season, Aubameyang has scored 22 goals in 20 games in all competitions, showcasing his pace, movement and improved clinical edge. Had Milan continued to develop him, he could have formed a devastating strike partnership with Carlos Bacca this season.

Left Wing: Bojan Krkic

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    To say Bojan Krkic didn’t enjoy his time in Italy would be an understatement. After a dismal season with Roma, the Spaniard was equally inept during a loan spell in Milan.

    His temporary spell at the San Siro reaped three goals in 27 appearances, and Milan opted not to purchase him permanently.

    Since then, however, the 25-year-old has started afresh with Stoke City in the Premier League, earning an average rating of 7.16 per WhoScored last season before injury struck.

Striker: Alberto Paloschi

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    LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

    Alberto Paloschi’s first touch in Serie A was a match-winning goal for Milan as they defeated Siena in early 2008. However, by the summer of that same year, he was gonenever to return.

    Initially signing a co-ownership agreement with Parma, Paloschi hit double figures as he helped the Crociati return to Serie A but struggled from then on, eventually joining Chievo in 2011.

    In the past two seasons, the 25-year-old has hit respectable figures in Serie A, earning a call-up to an Italian national team training retreat in May, per Football Italia. This season, he has scored or assisted five of the team's 14 league goals.

    While Paloschi may not find the net as consistently as Bacca, Milan could easily have made good use of the striker, and he has plenty of time yet to improve further.

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