At the winter break, Milan currently sit well within striking distance of the coveted European zone in the Serie A table. The Rossoneri sit in 6th place on 28 points, but by no means are they free and clear from their league opponents. Both Sassuolo and Empoli breathe down their neck on 27 points, which gives you the indication that this will be no easy ride to a European return for next season.
There are two ways to look at Milan currently. You have to ask yourself: are you a glass half empty or half full supporter? Half full would mean that you’d lean towards the mindset of “well, despite sporadic play, we are just 7 points from Napoli for third.” Half empty would be “we have left far too many points on the pitch, which could have placed us near the UCL zone.” Either way you look at it, there is certainly room for improvement.
With that being said, the club is unlikely to make that leap if they stand pat, particularly in the midfield. The issues have been well-documented for months, or years, but their is no sense in dwelling on the past.
As the January mercato approaches, Milan should make it their main priority to add a legitimate difference maker (or two) in the midfield. So far, we are seeing a flurry of rumors out of Italy linking the club with summer’s failed haul, Axel Witsel, among others.
Here are some of the players being linked with a move to the San Siro, along with some others who could be a fit for the club.
Axel Witsel, Zenit St. Petersburg
Axel Wistel has been a major target of Adriano Galliani for quite some time now. Eventually, the Milan vice-president will land him right? The Belgium international, the Russian outfit and the Rossoneri could not seal the deal this summer, yet with the player perhaps willing to sever the ties with Russian football, he immediately becomes a primary target this January for Milan.
Witsel possesses quite a skill-set and one that would instantly enhance the underwhelming midfield of Milan. He has quickness, the ability to deliver the critical pass and he is versatile enough that should Siniša Mihajlović elect to make change to his tactical setup, Witsel could slide into a few different midfield roles.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Witsel is looking to move away from Zenit and Milan is ready to launch another bid. Witsel will continue to be linked with the Italian club throughout the month so he’s the main one to watch.
Éver Banega, Sevilla FC
The Argentina international has been one of the latest names to be mentioned as a possible midfield addition. SportItalia reported days ago that Milan have made advancements in their approach to sign the 27-year old.
Much like Witsel, Éver Banega brings a lot to the table. He is a plus passer, dribbler and brings some grit to the midfield. These are all attributes that could drastically improve what Milan currently have with their centrocampisti. What makes him intriguing is that he can be deployed immediately and bring a different look to the club, something that’s been lacking for quite some time.
Roberto Soriano, Sampdoria
The Italian international was on the shortlist of names to arrive to Milan this past summer, to no avail. Roberto Soriano played under Mihajlović last season and was a player the former Serbian boss would have liked to bring in given the familiarity. However, Galliani and company were hesitant to spend around 12-15 million euros for his signature, which in this era of football, is an accurate valuation for a quality midfielder.
Soriano is a player still only 24 years of age and with room for growth given he makes that next leap in his playing career. Like Romagnoli, Mihajlović would surely enjoy bringing in one of his handpicked men but it’s unclear how high Milan officials value him.
Franco Vázquez, Palermo
Any dealings with Palermo are bound to be dicey. Club owner Maurizio Zamparini always seeks top dollar for his players. We have seen the likes of Javier Pastore and Paulo Dybala sold for nearly 35 million euros each, so to think Zamparini would relinquish the 26-year old Franco Vázquez for anything short of 25-30 million is wasteful.
According to RAI Sport, Milan have “secured Vázquez for June, with the possibility of joining in January.” This is merely a rumor and one that shouldn’t excite any Milan supporter. On the flip side, Galliani and Zamparini do have a good relationship so while it’s unlikely a deal has been agreed upon, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land in Milan.
Currently, Mihajlović has switched to a 4-4-2 from his preferred trequartista-driven 4-3-1-2. But you would think that if the former Sampdoria boss could acquire a player like Vázquez to make the 4-3-1-2 work, he would accommodate.
João Moutinho, Monaco
The Portuguese international was a name that popped up in the rumor mill on occasion this past summer when things looked bleak for Milan.
João Moutinho has been a bit underwhelming over the past few seasons for Monaco and as the Ligue 1 club looks to liquidize any assets they may have, the 29-year old could be a player on his way out. However, he has proven to be a quality midfielder and one that could maybe restore his form with a change in club.
Moutinho is lower on the list of targets according to rumors, however if Milan’s main targets become unattainable, the former Porto could become a fallback option.
Adrien Rabiot, Paris Saint-Germain
The 20-year old Frenchman is another option being linked with the Rossoneri.
Adrien Rabiot has become a target of the Champions League hopeful. According to The Sun, PSG wants a fee in the vicinity of 13 million euros for the France midfielder, with Milan, Arsenal and league rival Juventus all interested.
Rabiot is an interesting target for a few reasons. At 20 years of age, there has to be some doubt as to whether he can immediately propel Milan from pretender to contender for this season. Secondly, his mother Veronique Rabiot has a strong say as to where he would go. She is practically his agent, which could dictate the destination.
There is no disputing his ability. Rabiot stands above six-feet tall and is ready to play first-team football. However, with Milan urgent to return to European play, the France u-21 international may need a bit of seasoning before being relied upon to be the impactful midfielder this club so desperately craves.
Just days away from the opening of the January transfer window across Europe and we have already seen a frenzy of chatter surrounding possible newcomers. Will Milan make the crucial winter addition to the midfield next month?