6 Former Players Vincenzo Montella Could Bring with Him to AC Milan

Blair Newman@@TheBlairNewmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2016

6 Former Players Vincenzo Montella Could Bring with Him to AC Milan

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    On Monday, new AC Milan head coach Vincenzo Montella began acquainting himself with the club as he prepared to spearhead a Rossoneri resurgence.

    The details of the 42-year-old’s first day were stated on the club’s official website:

    Everything will start at Milanello: the coach will visit our Sports Centre this morning, to get to know his new home.

    Later on, in the afternoon, Vincenzo Montella will meet Adriano Galliani at Casa Milan, to start planning the future of the team. To make his day even more special, Coach Montella will also experience the Mondo Milan Museum: diving into the past, to get ready for the future.

    Montella will be looking to strengthen his squad ahead of his first season in charge, and he may start by targeting familiar names.

    He has worked with many players during his time coaching at Roma, Catania, Fiorentina and Sampdoria. And some of them may follow him to Milan.

    What follows is a look at six individuals who Montella could bring with him to the Rossoneri.

Milan Badelj (Fiorentina)

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    Milan Badelj joined Fiorentina at the beginning of Montella’s final season as club coach, but the Croatian struggled to make an impact initially. He spent much of the first half of the 2014-15 campaign on the substitutes bench before gradually asserting himself upon the first team.

    Under Paulo Sousa’s auspices, the Croat was utilised more consistently last season and found himself playing a starring role as the Viola topped the Serie A table, albeit briefly, for the first time since 1999. His composure, refined touch, astute passing and defensive harrying made him a tactically integral component in the centre of midfield.

    While he lacks dynamism, Badelj could be an ideal signing for Milan as Montella looks to rebuild the team. The Rossoneri have lacked assuredness in the centre of the pitch for some time, and the 27-year-old would bring the perfect combination of flair and function to combat this issue.

    His performances for Croatia at the 2016 UEFA European Championship were exemplary, particularly in the Vatreni’s group-stage victory over Spain, in which he completed four tackles, three interceptions and made more passes (50) than any of his team-mates, per WhoScored.com.

    On the back of that showing, there has been reported interest in the player, and his agent, Dejan Joksimovic, has suggested that a move to Milan could be a possibility.

    “He always had a good rapport with Montella, and they respect each other,” he told Calciomercato (h/t Football Italia). “That is true of all the coaches that he worked with … because he doesn’t complain when left on the bench and on the field he will always work for the team and not his own interest.”

    Badelj is an experienced Serie A operator in his prime, and he would bring class and control to Milan’s midfield. If Montella can persuade the player to join him once again, it would represent an excellent addition.

Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina)

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    Matias Fernandez was one of Montella’s first Fiorentina signings, joining the club one month after the coach had been appointed to the Viola bench. The Chilean playmaker has been a valued squad member ever since, though he hasn’t always been a regular starter.

    The 30-year-old is an elegant dribbler and passer capable of opening up defences. He is also a good set-piece taker, with his whipped crosses making him a danger at corners and free-kicks.

    However, Fernandez does lack pace, finding it hard to shake off attentive markers. He also struggles to play at his best on a consistent basis, something which might explain why he made as many substitute appearances as starts in Serie A last season.

    The player’s agent, Alejandro Santisteban, told MilanNews (h/t Football Italia): “Everyone knows he’s a player Montella really likes. He had excellent performances under him at Fiorentina. (Montella) even wanted him in January at Sampdoria.”

    Milan already have three players capable of playing in the trequartista role in Giacomo Bonaventura, Keisuke Honda and Suso, though if they were to play with two in a 3-4-2-1 system, something Montella has used in the past, Fernandez could be brought in to provide extra competition.

Fernando (Sampdoria)

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    Brazilian midfielder Fernando was already a crucial presence in central midfield at Sampdoria by the time Montella became the club’s head coach last November. And the 24-year-old continued to prove vital to the team as they fought to stave off a relegation dogfight.

    A hulking ball-winner with strong technique, he brought a combination of steel and creativity to the Blucerchiati midfield. Per WhoScored.com, he made more tackles and interceptions than any of his team-mates, while also contributing more passes and key passes. Consequently, it was no surprise he was seen as the club’s best player last season with a rating of 7.22.

    According to Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia), he is being targeted by Montella this summer as he looks to improve his midfield options.

    Milan lack central midfielders who can play effectively in both defensive and attacking phases. Signing Fernando would help to alleviate this problem.

Adem Ljajic (Roma)

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    Adem Ljajic enjoyed arguably his finest season while playing under Montella’s auspices at Fiorentina. In 2012-13, the Serb scored 11 and set up eight goals in 28 Serie A appearances, but he has yet to perform with such consistency since.

    He spent last term on loan from Roma at Inter Milan, but once again failed to nail down a regular first-team berth. Nonetheless, he did occasionally show glimpses of what he is capable of at his best, with his shimmying dribbles and deft touches.

    A versatile and sophisticated attacking midfielder, Ljajic can play on the wing or more centrally behind the strikers. However, he is not the most hardworking player. Indeed, only one regular Nerazzurri outfielder made fewer tackles than his 0.4 per game last season, per WhoScored.com.

    At 24 years old, he still has time to reach his peak, and according to La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Calciomercato), Montella could be interested in working with him again.

    Milan already have a number of attacking-midfielder options, but Ljajic would give the Rossoneri greater flexibility in the final third.

Roberto Soriano (Sampdoria)

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    Roberto Soriano wasn’t able to find his best form towards the end of last season, and the Sampdoria midfielder was subsequently excluded from Antonio Conte’s Italy squad for the UEFA European Championship.

    The 25-year-old remains one of the best players in his position in Serie A, however.

    A fine creative central or attacking midfielder capable of making ghosting runs into the opposition penalty box, Soriano is an intelligent player with plenty of flair. He’s also productive in the final third, as evidenced by his tally of eight league goals last season.

    According to La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia), he is on a list of possible targets for Montella’s Milan. And should he join the Rossoneri, his link-up play, movement and passing could only improve their possession game. 

Nenad Tomovic (Fiorentina)

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    Nenad Tomovic lost his place in Fiorentina’s starting lineup last season, often finding himself behind Facundo Roncaglia, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Davide Astori in the Viola’s defensive pecking order. Undoubtedly, his best days with the club came under Montella’s management.

    The 28-year-old can operate at centre-back or right-back and possesses solid defensive fundamentals as well as reasonable ball-playing skills. He is also ideal for a three-man back line, something that could make him a primary transfer target for his old boss this summer. Indeed, according to La Nazione (h/t Calciomercato), the Serb is wanted by Milan.

    Montella may look to implement a defensive trident at his new club, and if he does, Tomovic could prove a positive addition to his squad.