AC Milan have been fairly quiet thus far in the January transfer window, bringing in just one player in the shape of Kevin-Prince Boateng. That may change soon, however, with the Rossoneri purportedly close to signing Leonel Vangioni.
We have a good rapport with River Plate and want to maintain it. He will almost certainly arrive, we announced our interest in the player. We’ll see if we are able to reach an agreement […] It could happen, but it depends more on River than on us. If they should let him go for a reasonable sum, we’d bring him in straight away.
Vangioni is no household name in European football, having yet to play outside of Argentina. Here, Bleacher Report analyses the player before assessing what he could bring to Milan, and if he would be a worthwhile addition.
Leonel Vangioni Profile
Position: Left-back/ Left-winger
Club: River Plate
Country: Argentina (four caps)
Vangioni began playing football with his hometown team, Club Atletico Riberas de Parana, before joining the widely respected Newell’s Old Boys academy, a youth system responsible for nurturing the likes of Lionel Messi and Gabriel Batistuta in the past.
After three seasons of first-team football with Newell’s, Vangioni was called up for Argentina under Diego Maradona’s auspices, subsequently winning his first cap on September 30, 2009, in a friendly against Ghana.
In 2013, he made the move to River Plate, one of Argentina’s grandest clubs. There, he established himself as a left-back, having operated as a winger at times during the formative stages of his career.
Vangioni went on to play a crucial role in River’s successes under coach Marcelo Gallardo, winning one Argentine Primera title, one Copa Sudamericana and one Copa Libertadores. He also played in their 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final of the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup.
As someone who can play either as a left-back or a left-winger, Vangioni’s primary talents lie in his ability to push on and contribute in the attacking phase. His pace and technique are often evidenced by forward forays into opposition territory.
Once in the final third, Vangioni has a reasonable shot from long range and is also a good crosser of the ball, as shown below. However, he is not the most reliable of defensive players, with Argentinian football writer Sam Kelly telling Bleacher Report: "He kicks people a bit more than he should and is better going forwards than backwards."
Would he fit in at Milan?
The foremost question surrounding Vangioni’s potential move to Milan is: Where exactly would he play?
Recently, Sinisa Mihajlovic has preferred a 4-4-2 system, a formation that would offer the left-sided Argentinian two possible routes into the Rossoneri lineup. One would be at left-back; the other would be on the left wing.
However, Milan are well-covered in these areas, indeed some of their best players occupy these very positions. Giacomo Bonaventura has consistently shown his class from a left-wing berth, while Luca Antonelli has also played well at left-back. According to WhoScored.com, the pair have been two of Milan's best players this season.
It’s hard to imagine Vangioni pushing his way past either Bonaventura or Antonelli, suggesting that—assuming Milan stick with the 4-4-2—he would most likely be a utility man.
There is further bad news in that Mihajlovic’s preferred system, the 4-3-1-2, doesn’t even incorporate wingers, meaning there would be one fewer spot in the team for Vangioni to fight for should Mihajlovic switch to the diamond midfield.
Would Vangioni be a good signing?
With his contract at River Plate expiring in the summer, Milan could capture Vangioni at the end of this season for no transfer fee. But, according to Calciomercato (h/t Forza Italian Football), “the Rossoneri have offered River Plate €750,000 to get a transfer completed as soon as possible.”
Milan's pursuit of a left-back given the presence of Antonelli is a small mystery, so if they are to sign Vangioni, it is recommended they do so on a free transfer. Although he could be a useful squad player, there is no need for Milan to prioritise his signature.