Grading AC Milan on Their 2016 Summer Transfer Window Business

Blair Newman@@TheBlairNewmanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2016

NAPLES, ITALY - AUGUST 27: Gustavo Gomez of AC Milan in action before the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC Milan at Stadio San Paolo on August 27, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

This summer was an important one for AC Milan. Having failed to qualify for Europe for the third consecutive year, the squad was in need of reinvigoration. They also needed to bring in players that corresponded to new coach Vincenzo Montella’s style of play.

The results were far from spectacular.

Montella's squad was reinforced with six new signings.
Montella's squad was reinforced with six new signings.Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Milan brought in a total of six players, two of which were on loan, though none of the arrivals were particularly eye-catching. In terms of departures, they sold just two players for transfer fees, releasing seven.

With business concluded, the squad is settled until the transfer window reopens next January.

Below, Bleacher Report assesses Milan’s summer transfer activity one area of the team at a time before offering an overall grade.

   

Defence

Arguably the most important piece of business in this particular area of Milan’s squad was ensuring Alessio Romagnoli remained with the club.

The 21-year-old centre-back is widely seen as one of the brightest young prospects in Italy and attracted serious interest from Chelsea, but the Premier League side’s bid for the player was rejected.

This was confirmed by a statement on the Rossoneri's website, which read: "AC Milan has received a significant offer for its player Alessio Romagnoli from Chelsea. The player is not for sale, therefore this negotiation will not continue. The club wants to thank Chelsea with whom we will continue to have a great working relationship."

While Romagnoli impressed during his debut year with the club last term, he was in need of a sturdy central-defensive partner. That may have arrived in the form of Paraguay international Gustavo Gomez from Argentinian champions Lanus.

Romagnoli could form a partnership with new arrival Gomez.
Romagnoli could form a partnership with new arrival Gomez.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The 23-year-old was signed for £7.23 million, per Transfermarkt, and in a brief friendly outing against Freiburg and his competitive debut against Napoli, he has shown enough to suggest he could grow into a first-team role at Milan.

He’s strong, powerful and rugged, and he also seems to have good basic technical ability, something that is an absolute necessity given Montella’s apparent desire to build effective possession from the back.

Beyond Gomez’s arrival, there was a frustrating lack of movement in this department, however.

Alex played regularly and competently last season, though at 34 years of age, he was slowing and past his best. Therefore, his release at the end of his contract was unsurprising.

The Brazilian's place was taken by Gabriel Paletta, who returned from a loan spell at Atalanta and performed adequately enough in pre-season to suggest he still has a future at Milan.

Philippe Mexes also left on a free transfer, while promising youngster Ivan De Santis was allowed to move out on loan to Catania.

At full-back, Mattia De Sciglio remained despite persistent rumours linking him with a move to Italian champions Juventus. Calciomercato (h/t Football Italia) reported that the 23-year-old was set on a move to Turin, but he will continue as a Milan player for the time being.

His staying at the club makes the signature of Leonel Vangioni all the more inexplicable. The 29-year-old left-back joined on a free transfer from River Plate but, with Luca Antonelli and De Sciglio blocking his path into the starting lineup, looks unlikely to play a part.

The goalkeeping position at Milan was essentially locked down for the long-term future last season, as 17-year-old shot-stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma secured his place with some stunning displays.

With Diego Lopez joining Espanyol on loan on deadline day, per the club’s official website, the youngster’s main competition will come from Gabriel, who had an unproductive loan spell with Napoli in 2015-16.

Grade: B

    

Midfield

Whereas Milan’s central-defensive problems going into this summer’s transfer window were as much to do with quantity as they were about quality, their central-midfield issues were purely qualitative.

Riccardo Montolivo, while offering reasonable protection through his positioning, is an unsteady passer. Alongside him, Andrea Bertolacci flattered to deceive in his maiden campaign with the club, while Juraj Kucka, Andrea Poli and Jose Mauri lack the control and precision Montella’s style requires.

Giacomo Bonaventura has helped solve the problem to a certain extent, dropping into a deeper left-sided midfield role, having spent much of his Milan career on the wing or behind the strikers, but the midfield otherwise looks to remain the same with some relatively uninspiring transfer moves.

Despite a below-average term, Montolivo’s contract was extended to 2019. That deal hinted at something that has since been confirmed: The 31-year-old will continue to play an important first-team role.

Montolivo's contract with Milan was extended.
Montolivo's contract with Milan was extended.Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

The midfield was added to by the signing of Jose Sosa, though the Argentinian is an uninspiring acquisition, especially at a Transfermarkt-reported £6.38 million fee.

Having failed to establish himself during spells with Bayern Munich, Napoli and Atletico Madrid, the 31-year-old’s best spells have come in with Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv and, most recently, Besiktas in Turkey.

Sosa was the second-best performer in the Turkish Super Lig last season, according to WhoScored.com, earning an average rating of 7.53. And with 12 assists to his name, he set up more goals than anyone else in the division.

However, his relatively advanced age and inability to make the grade in Germany, Spain and Italy earlier in his career does not bode well as he prepares to have another go at Serie A football with Milan.

Mario Pasalic, who arrived on loan from Chelsea, will provide more of a box-to-box option. The 21-year-old is a technically proficient midfielder, but given he was unable to impose himself at AS Monaco last term, he will likely replace Jose Mauri, who was sent out on loan to Empoli, as a back-up to Kucka.

Matias Fernandez, signed on loan on deadline day, per the club’s official website, may have a better chance of first-team football.

The 30-year-old is experienced and, having played for Fiorentina under Montella, understands and fits the coach’s philosophy. However, he hasn’t been a regular for the Viola under Paulo Sousa’s auspices and, as a trequartista, may find it difficult to find a spot in Milan’s 4-3-3 system.

Grade: C

    

Attack

Carlos Bacca was Milan’s top scorer last term, with 18 league goals to his name, and his value to the team was only reiterated by his hat-trick against Torino on the opening day of this season. As such, his decision to stay at the club was big news.

Having been persistently linked with West Ham United, the 29-year-old finisher told Milan TV (h/t Sky Sports) of his intention to remain at the San Siro, saying:

When I decided to leave Sevilla it was because I wanted to bring Milan back to the top and I won't leave until I've done that. I'm an ambitious player. I couldn't reach the Champions League in my first year, but I hope to experience it soon. I'm glad I stayed at Milan and I like playing in a team like this.

The Colombian will be supported in the striking department by Gianluca Lapadula, who arrived from Pescara for a Transfermarkt-reported £7.65 million fee.

Lapadula was the top scorer in Serie B last term.
Lapadula was the top scorer in Serie B last term.Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

The 26-year-old was the top scorer in Serie B last season, with his 23 league goals helping the Delfini to promotion. And while he has yet to play regularly at the top level, his all-around game—including good movement, link-up and hold-up play—appears suited to Montella’s preferred style.

However, the new coach’s decision to opt for a 4-3-3 system will mean Lapadula will have to either adapt to playing as an inverted winger or accept a role as Bacca’s understudy.

Countering his arrival, Milan let go of a large amount of attacking deadwood over the summer, with Alessandro Matri, Fernando Torres and Jeremy Menez all allowed to leave. Mario Balotelli’s loan deal expired, and Simone Verdi was sold to Bologna.

The only questionable departure was that of Stephan El Shaarawy, who joined Roma permanently after a successful six-month loan spell.

Considering Montella’s preference for a three-man front line, the Italy international would have been a useful player thanks to his speed, movement and combination play in wide areas.

Grade: B

    

Overall Grade: B-

Fernandez (left) is not an eye-catching addition.
Fernandez (left) is not an eye-catching addition.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Milan’s inability to strengthen in central midfield could cost them dearly, especially if the signatures of Sosa, Pasalic and Fernandez fail to bring the additional creativity and control needed for Montella to fully implement his footballing vision.

However, in defence, the addition of Gomez is promising, and with Romagnoli staying, the pair could become the club’s long-term central-defensive partnership.

The loss of El Shaarawy was expected, but otherwise, the team’s attack has not been destabilised over the summer. Bacca has stayed put, and while Lapadula is unproven at the top level, he has previously shown the qualities needed to offer an extra goal threat.

Milan’s summer transfer work largely went under the radar, but that may not be a bad thing. And having kept hold of their stars, they have improved their squad, even if only slightly.

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