27th March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
It's certainly been quite an eventful first year in European football for Leonel Vangioni. Having joined AC Milan in the summer on a free transfer from River Plate, where he enjoyed huge success that included him winning one league title, one Copa Libertadores crown and one Copa Sudamericana, things didn't entirely go to plan to begin with.

Upon speaking on his arrival in Milan, he mentioned how delighted he was to be joining the giants of Italian football. "I'm extremely excited," he gleamed.

"This club has an incredible history and I am very satisfied to be a part of it. This is something I have always wanted and I am very happy. There have been so many great players. [Paolo] Maldini is the one that comes to mind, a great player who inspired me a lot. I hope everything goes well and I want to do my best for Milan."

"I know Serie A very well as I always watch Italian league games on TV. I think I can play here and AC Milan is a club that I really admire."

Barely a month later, however, reports surfaced suggesting AC Milan manager, Vincenzo Montella, had already expressed his concerns over the fitness of his new charge, who had entered the club nursing an injury. A potential loan move to Genoa was even muted if his condition didn't improve too. Thankfully, though, Vangioni stayed put, sparing him and his team any such embarrassment.

But with his manager not fully seeming to trust him and Vangioni being unable to cede the likes of Luca Antonelli, Mattia De Sciglio and Davide Calabria for the starting left back slot, he was forced to sit on the bench, being resigned to playing the role of a backup reserve for the first team.

By the time the January transfer window rolled around the 29-year-old still hadn't made his Serie A debut, so naturally rumours began to circulate about his future lying away from the San Siro, with Marseille showing heavy interest.

Once again, Vangioni got through the speculation, and even made his league debut amid the innuendo on the 16th of January against Torino. Although injuries to his rivals in his nominal position presented him with the opportunity to be afforded his bow, Vangioni deserves tremendous credit for the way he's grasped his opportunities with both hands since.

Indeed, in the seven matches he's started for the Rossoneri, they've impressively won five and drawn one. Playing with great intensity, intelligence, dedication and his customary level of toughness, the man who's earned three caps for his country, has emphatically shown he's got all the necessary tools to succeed in Serie A. And none more so was this present in Milan's fighting win over Genoa last weekend.

First and foremost, his primary task of defending was undertaken in a robust, ultra competitive and crafty way. Up against the mercurial Darko Lazovic, Vangioni used all his nous and experience to limit the Serbian's impact. Aside from getting his positioning spot on to deal with him in 1v1 duels, he also outmuscled, outfought and outthought his man, who was substituted on the hour mark, in a match where he unquestionably took the honours in their duel.

When it came to Montella's men's work in possession, this was certainly where Vangioni's contribution was most keenly felt. There were a number of ways in which he played a key role here depending on where the location of the ball and his teammates were.

When Milan were looking to build out from the back, he'd initially split wide to the left to spread out Genoa's marking scheme, but once the ball reached midfield, he'd regularly drift infield and ostensibly act as an auxiliary left centre midfielder. In doing so, he'd not only provide solid cover for his left sided central midfield and left winger, Matias Fernandez and Gerard Deulofeu respectively, but also use his elegant, precise passing qualities to help facilitate and orchestrate his team's attacking phases.

Interestingly, as soon as he noticed Fernandez drop deep into midfield to receive, he'd immediately jet up the touchline into advanced attacking areas, knowing his Chilean teammate was the now the one fulfilling the role previously mentioned, which also gave Milan important structural stability and a stronger midfield presence.

Moreover, the way Deulofeu, Fernandez and he combined using slick passing combinations and would subtly perform interchanges of position, further amplified the effectiveness of Milan's left sided dynamics. They complimented each other so well, and always appeared to be on the same length. The fact all three speak Spanish and are technically proficient in terms of passing and dribbling unquestionably aided their success.

All in all, his latest body of work yet again demonstrated what a reliable and influential member of Milan's squad he's become. His father's recent comments on his turnaround in fortunes provided a fascinating insight into his son's time so far in Italy.

"For any foreign player it's not easy to quickly learn the secrets of Serie A, and it's also not easy to go six months without playing a competitive match," explained Armando Vangioni.

"In that regard Leonel has shown that he has great concentration, he showed that when he was called on by Montella in a difficult moment for the team. In these three games he's done very well, it's not easy after six months out. If Montella give him trust, then I'm sure he'll repay him with commitment and dedication."

He went onto add: "Leonel is now very happy with everything that is happening. Coach Montella is playing him consistently and that's giving him a chance to adapt to his game. That's very important.

"There's been a good relationship between them ever since Leonel arrived in Milan. He's also developed a good relationship with the squad."

Now happy and producing the goods on the field, Vangioni's case is one that shows the benefits of patience, persistentce and being perfectly prepared to grasp your chance. After a tumultuous first half of the 2016/2017 crusade, it's terrific to finally see Vangioni now finding stability and continuity with the Milanese giants.

More football articles by Edward here.