AC Milan’s transfer policy has resembled a revolving door in recent years. Suso has been one victim of this constant signing and selling of players, but he is making a strong case for a return to the club after being farmed out on loan to Genoa in January.
While the Rossoneri were beaten by Atalanta last Sunday, the 22-year-old from Cadiz enjoyed a contrasting experience, hitting the first hat-trick of his career as the Grifone hammered relegation-threatened Frosinone 4-0.
For Milanisti, seeing him perform such feats was the footballing equivalent of salt being rubbed in a fresh wound. Their team had struggled in attack in their latest loss in Bergamo, as discussed in this post, yet they could only watch on as—on the same afternoon—a player deemed not good enough for them reached a personal goalscoring milestone for another Serie A team.
The situation’s only saving grace is that, technically, Suso could still have a future at the San Siro.
He joined Genoa on January 4 in a short-term loan deal that runs until June 30. At that point, the agreement will expire and he will return to Milan. That is, if his parent club want him back. First and foremost, the Rossoneri will have to evaluate if he is worth keeping.
The Spaniard has shown great promise from a young age. Liverpool signed him at the age of 17, and he was seen as an important component in their future at one point.
In 2012, then-manager Brendan Rodgers stated, per BBC Sport: “He has demonstrated outstanding technical qualities but also shown very good temperament to play for such a prestigious club.”
However, after breaking into the first team at Anfield, he failed to make much of an impact and was sent on loan to Almeria. It was there, back in his home country, that Suso would again highlight his talent.
In his one year of La Liga football, he scored three goals and set up seven to help his temporary team-mates avoid relegation. In total, he had a direct hand in just under one quarter of the team’s league goals.
That fruitful spell wasn’t enough to convince Liverpool, though and he was sold to Milan on January 17, 2015, for £975,000, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
Unfortunately for Suso, he arrived at the club at a time of flux. Filippo Inzaghi was the coach when he joined but, within six months, Sinisa Mihajlovic would take the reins. And while the old boss used him sparingly, the new one didn’t at all; the wide man made just one league appearance this season before being shipped out.
Genoa has been the location for a number of career revivals in recent years. Diego Perotti and Iago Falque used their time at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to earn moves to AS Roma, while the Rossoneri’s own M’Baye Niang enjoyed a fine six-month loan spell with the Grifone.
Under Gian Piero Gasperini’s auspices, the Frenchman scored five goals in 14 league appearances to turn around his fortunes and return to Milan a more confident, improved player. And judging by his performances thus far, Suso could do the same.
Last Sunday he put in his most comprehensive display yet, scoring three goals, each of which showcased the exquisite technique he had only been able to give a glimpse of in his rare outings for Milan.
His first was an accurate driven shot from outside the penalty area, his second a beautiful curled strike, while his third saw him perform a sequence of shuffles to work space near the byline before finding the roof of the net with a measured finish.
Such a stunning individual contribution was the culmination of his gradual progress with Genoa, where he has made 10 starts and three substitute appearances. In this period he has shown the type of vision, control and imaginative spark to suggest he could help Milan in a problem area when his loan comes to an end.
Currently, Mihajlovic lacks options in attacking midfield and out wide, particularly on the right. Giacomo Bonaventura has been excellent for much of this season on the left, but Jeremy Menez has spent much of the campaign out with injury, and Kevin-Prince Boateng looks set to leave at the end of this season, per MilanNews (h/t Football Italia).
Furthermore, Keisuke Honda lacks competition for his place on the right, something shown plainly in the defeat to Atalanta, where, in his absence, Mattia De Sciglio—a full-back by trade—played on the right wing.
Interestingly, since moving to Genoa, Suso’s statistics compare favourably to those of the Japanese playmaker. According to Squawka.com, per game he completes comparatively more passes, creates more chances, scores more goals and beats his marker with greater frequency.
In addition, the player himself commented on his comfort with a right-sided role not long after joining Milan, telling MilanNews.it (h/t Football Italia):
Playing on the right I have the opportunity to score goals or provide assists, depending on the situation. Cutting in from the right it’s easy to shoot with the left ... It doesn’t matter (what my ideal position is), the important thing is to play.
At the age of 22, Suso has not yet fulfilled his vast potential, but there remains plenty of time for him to do so. There is no rush to judge him at such a young age, and he deserves to be given more opportunities by his parent club in 2016-17 following his performances with Genoa.
He would offer another option in a difficult area and still has plenty of upside, with his recent improvements suggesting that he may be warming to the difficult task of playing against rigorously organised Italian defences.
Many players come and go because of Milan's revolving-door approach in the transfer market. But, at a time when the team is in need of creativity, it would be unwise to discard Suso without properly investigating what he can offer.