Will the Algerian finally end Milan’s left-back problem?
What a topsy turvy market this January window is turning out to be for Milan! Many expected a restrained transfer campaign for the Rossoneri, probably culminating in the signing of a low-key, competent, Serie A proven squad member like Antonio Nocerino: leading to outrage from fans who would go on supporting the club nonetheless.
Instead we already have been treated to a couple of soap operas involving Carlos Tevez and Alexandre Pato, while being just about midway through January. Despite the roller coaster ride of yesterday afternoon with reports first emerging about the Rossoneri agreeing a sale with Paris Saint-Germain, then Pato scuppering the deal by pledging his future to Milan, and Barbara of course; this story is far from dead. I certainly expect it to dominate the transfer stories regarding i Diavoli and Internazionale till the end of January.
Within the furore, a few stories have been flying quietly under the radar concerning the Rossoneri. Djamel Mesbah is one of those being linked with a move to the San Siro this month. The wing-back, who currently plays for Lecce, has reportedly been identified by the Rossoneri hierarchy as the solution to the club’s most glaring weakness; a consistent and world class left back.
This is a goal which has eluded the side since the retirement of the legendary Paolo Maldini. Luca Antonini, who has been at the club forever, alternates between playing as a competent full-back and a headless chicken. Gianluca Zambrotta is a solid option, usually coach Massimiliano Allegri’s fall back guy for the big games; but he is getting on in years and has issues with his fitness.
Didac Vila, who was signed last January, rarely played then got shipped off to his former club. The one whom everyone thought was going to be the saviour, Taye Taiwo, has been a big disappointment so far. Whenever he plays, he looks like a disaster waiting to happen, and there are indications Allegri is not prepared to tolerate this mediocrity much further.
Up steps, to save the day, Djamel Mesbah. Reports indicate the club is willing to negotiate a cut price deal this January of around €1m, as the Algerian’s deal runs out in the summer.
Mesbah himself is playing it cool for now, telling reporters “Undoubtedly it is flattering, but I am focused on the present. You’d have to ask the club about this sort of thing. At the moment I cannot think about the transfer market. My attention is based only on daily work and specifically the upcoming game against Fiorentina.” Lecce sporting director Leonardo Osti, also seems to think this deal might work out. “It was a good meeting. They like the player and both clubs respect each other. Over the next few days we will have another meeting.”
That was a few days ago, and further progress was made yesterday when Alessandro Lucci, the FIFA Agent involved in the Mesbah deal spoke to Radio Sportiva. “It’s a great opportunity for the player and we are in a good position. Milan are not aiming to take the player for free as there is a good relationship between the clubs. Mesbah can make a great contribution at Milan, like Nocerino has done.”
So, it looks like there is a willingness to strike a deal, but is Mesbah the right person to alleviate this left back problem?
He has certainly built for himself an impressive CV at Lecce, who he joined in 2009 and played a key role in them winning promotion from Serie B. He has been a mainstay in the squad ever since, his versatility ensuring he can be used either at left back or further up the left wing. Perhaps therein lies the problem for Mesbah; he is not exactly a left back nor a left winger. Fans might well remember Urby Emanuelson, who also came from Ajax with a similar profile but somehow was never trusted by Allegri in defence.
Mesbah represents a cost effective, albeit temporary, solution to the left back problem. Having spent some time in Italy, both in Serie A and B, he should have a far better understanding of the Italian style. If the deal happens, I believe it would be a good investment for Milan considering the sum involved, but in no way is Mesbah the answer to this never ending search.
Ignazio Abate is proving what a world class wing back would contribute to the Rossoneri attack. Often getting down the wings with extraordinary pace, Abate possesses the endurance as well to track back when he is caught out far upfield. It is exactly this sort of industry Allegri requires on the other wing; and from where I sit, it does not look to me like Mesbah would provide the Rossoneri with that option.