On Tuesday, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani declared the club’s winter transfer business done.
“Some might criticize me, but I think Milan’s squad is competitive,” he told Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia) before the first leg of the Rossoneri’s semi-final clash with Lega Pro Cinderellas Alessandria in the Coppa Italia. “In January we won’t bring anyone in, as we are well covered.”
"Well covered" is an understatement. For a team not playing in Europe at all, the Rossoneri have a gargantuan squad list. There are 27 players in the squad, all of whom are vying for playing time. Adding even more girth to the roster would be preposterous at this point.
But have Milan's deals in this transfer window been beneficial? Have they made the team better?
Today we'll take a look at Milan's January business and see where they did well and where they could have done better.
Given the bloated size of Milan's squad, adding to it would've been a huge mistake. Head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has trouble as it is getting players time on the field. Giving him one more man hungry for playing time would have simply been stupid.
Milan did well, then, to limit their buys this winter. According to Transfermarkt, Milan recalled young players such as Alessandro Mastalli, Matteo Pessina and Andrea Petagna from loans in order to redistribute them elsewhere but made only one addition to the first team.
That addition was Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The former Ghana international spent three seasons at Milan from 2010 to 2013 before leaving for Schalke, but the German club suspended him indefinitely in May for not showing commitment to the team. Sent away in disgrace, Boateng trained with Milan and played in several friendlies over the first half of this season.
After the German club finally released him just before the transfer window opened, as reported on the club's official website (via Fox Soccer), Boateng was signed to a team-friendly six-month contract on January 5.
This is a low-risk, high-reward situation. Boateng is only tied to the team through the end of the season, and while his wages haven't been released publicly, it's not like Boateng was negotiating them from a position of strength. If Boateng helps the team, he can make his case for a contract in the summer. If he doesn't, Milan won't have the pressure of playing him on a big contract and can wash their hands of him with ease at season's end.
Taking a flyer on Boateng increased the size of the roster, but Milan did well to stave off the temptation to add more players, and the deal on Boateng has little to no risk.
The departure aspect of the window is where the Rossoneri could've done more. Along with relocating a few youth players, three prominent players left the team.
After a lot of wrangling with both Atletico Madrid and a third-party owner of his contract, Alessio Cerci was loaned to Genoa, clearing away a player who produced almost nothing since arriving on loan from Atletico Madrid last winter.
The second, another winter '15 signing, was Suso, who also moved to the Grifone, a team Milan have had a good working relationship with over the years.
The third major departure continued the puzzling saga of Stephan El Shaarawy.
Finally healthy, the youngster was loaned to Monaco last summer with a mandatory purchase option once he had made 25 appearances. But after 24 games, the principality club decided against keeping him, so a new club had to be found for him to keep him from rotting on the bench the entire season as the team avoided the clause.
That club was Roma, who introduced the Italy international on Tuesday on a loan with a €13 million option to buy in the summer. Given the talent of Il Faraone, it was a surprise Milan would give up on him, but it seems clear they don't consider him part of their plans.
Where Milan went wrong here is they didn't go far enough. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Milan have too many players. They had the opportunity to trim the fat in January, whether it was through sales or loans, but seemingly made no effort at all to do so.
A prime candidate for a loan would have been Jose Mauri—a promising youngster who could develop into a major contributor for Milan. Unfortunately, the 19-year-old has only played in three games, all in the Coppa Italia. Otherwise he's been rotting on the bench.
If the club wants him to develop, he needs to play games, and a winter loan would have been perfect to get him some playing time. Instead, unless something happens before Jan. 31, he will continue to stagnate as part of a congested midfield roster that has nine options for Mihajlovic to choose from.
That could dwindle to eight if the reports from Sky and Tuttomercatoweb (h/t Football Italia) that Antonio Nocerino is on his way to MLS club DC United come to fruition. But with so many fringe players doing almost nothing, Milan need to trim even more fat.
There are six potential strikers on the roster—including both Boateng, who has been used up front since his return, and Jeremy Menez. That's too many for a team in only two competitions.
According to Football Italia, Luiz Adriano nearly flipped for a €5 million profit to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning after arriving only five months ago in a €9 million deal from Shakhtar Donetsk, but that deal fell through, leaving Milan with even more egg on their face and no relief from the overcrowding.
Overall, Milan's transfer window could have been busier—but from a selling perspective. The club had an opportunity to streamline the squad for the remainder of the season and ease the pressure on Mihajlovic to over-rotate the team to get people playing time. Instead, they have only made a few moves and did nothing to solve one of their biggest problems or to allow some of their more promising players to develop.
While they did well not to add more than Boateng to their glut of players, they didn't do enough at the other end to relieve it.