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Should AC Milan Fight to Keep Star Striker Carlos Bacca?

Blair Newman@@TheBlairNewmanFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2016

GENOA, ITALY - APRIL 17:  Carlos Bacca of AC Milan celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and AC Milan at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on April 17, 2016 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Carlos Bacca joined AC Milan last summer with the intention of helping to fire his new team back towards the top of Serie A after two years spent in the doldrums of mid-table.

However, with just two league games remaining, it appears as if the club may miss out on qualification for Europe once again.

Bacca is Milan's top scorer this season.
Bacca is Milan's top scorer this season.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The Rossoneri’s current seventh-placed position is one they occupy in spite of the Colombian’s best efforts, which has included 16 goals from 36 league appearances. Indeed, he has done enough during his debut campaign in Italy to attract covetous glances from elsewhere.

Some of Europe’s biggest clubs have been linked to Bacca, including Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Manchester United, according to TalkSport. And the player has hardly helped to quell the rumours.

When asked about his future, he told Calciomercato: “My mind is on the present. You never know about the future, it's in God's hands."

Bacca’s goals have been vital to Milan in a season when viable alternatives have been lacking. Luiz Adriano has failed to find consistent form since signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, while both M’Baye Niang and Mario Balotelli have missed large portions of the campaign through injury.

However, while the 29-year-old former Sevilla striker’s clinical touch has been welcome, his recent performances have been poor. In his last 11 league games, he has found the net just three times. It is this form that makes his potential sale in the summer an option worth serious consideration.

Bacca is a world-class finisher, of that there is no doubt. In and around the opposition penalty area, he is a genuine threat, and he doesn’t require many opportunities to score. His shot accuracy of 62 per cent is far higher than that of Milan’s other strikers. But his contribution in other areas is questionable.

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

10 - Carlos Bacca has scored in 12 Serie A games so far, on of those 10 occasions he did it with his 1st shot on target in the game. Ritual.

In the defensive phase, he occasionally takes up good positions and can drop deeper when asked to do so. He is also extremely persistent when it comes to applying pressure on the opposition’s defenders.

Despite these traits, he makes less tackles per 90 minutes than any of his attacking team-mates. He also makes less interceptions than his colleagues, with the exception of Balotelli.

Furthermore, while an elite taker of chances, Bacca’s all-round attacking game is lacking. Adriano and Balotelli both create more chances than he does, while they and Niang set up more goals. His three team-mates also complete more passes, showing a clear weakness in the Colombian’s link-up play.

Meanwhile, when it comes down to individual battles, Milan’s top scorer struggles. He wins less aerial duels and—Adriano aside—dribbles past his marker less.

In his all-round play, Niang offers more to the team than Bacca.
In his all-round play, Niang offers more to the team than Bacca.OLIVIER MORIN/Getty Images

Bacca’s weaknesses, namely his defensive work, combination play and ability to beat his man, are only highlighted by the team’s tactics. He thrived at Sevilla as the lone striker, where movement and combination play took place behind him and was geared towards providing him with opportunities.

Since moving to the San Siro, however, he has often been used in a strike duo in either a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2 system. This has required him to undertake additional responsibilities, many of which he is simply not comfortable with.

He discussed this issue in an interview with FIFA (h/t Forza Italian Football) and said: “I must admit that playing in Serie A is very difficult. For a striker, Italian football is very hard. ... In Italy, the attacker is required to help out in other departments of the field too.”

Bacca is not as well-rounded as Niang or Balotelli, and at 29, he is unlikely to adapt or improve.

Were Milan to receive a significant sum of money for the player—perhaps around €30 million, as mentioned by Tuttosport (h/t Forza Italian Football)—they could reinvest the proceeds from his sale into other areas of the team, such as the centre of defence, where there is a serious shortage of depth, or in central midfield, where there is a lack of quality.

Their alternative is to focus the attack solely around their top scorer, altering tactics to maximise his effectiveness. That means deploying him as lone striker, allowing him to play on the shoulder of the last man where his movement and opportunism give him an edge.

Ultimately, Bacca is a specialist. Therefore, Milan’s choice this summer will be either to build a system suited to his needs, continue as it is and risk underutilising him or let him go and place emphasis on the team as a whole.

All statistics provided by Squawka.com unless otherwise stated.

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