12th July 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
AC Milan have forked out well over €100million this summer on seven new arrivals as the club and its new owners embark upon an ambitious project to restore the Rossoneri to their former glories.
But for all the exciting new signings, it could be the next player through the door if indeed Vincenzo Montella gets his man who could prove to be the most vital, not only for the coming season but for the development and restoration of the club over the next few years.
Lucas Biglia, Lazio's midfield anchoring captain, is the object of Milan's desire, with a €20million deal on the verge of being struck according to widespread reports in Italy.
The seven players that the San Siro giants have brought in thus far are all either young and still developing (in the case of Franck KessiÃ© and Andrea Conti), have little to no Serie A experience (such as Mateo Musacchio, Ricardo RodrÃguez and Fabio Borini), or both (Hakan Ã‡alhano?lu and AndrÃ© Silva).
Youthfulness was already the predominant characteristic of the Milan squad before they began their transfer dealings this summer, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Manuel Locatelli and Alessio Romagnoli all stars of the side despite their tender years. The additions they have made in recent weeks are equally as exciting but likewise come with no guarantees.
That's where Biglia comes in.
The 31-year-old Argentinian joined Lazio from Anderlecht in 2013 and has been one of Serie A's most consistent performers since his arrival in Rome. Rarely spectacular, the defensive midfielder is technically sound, disciplined and, crucially, dependable.
With over 120 appearances for the Biancoceleste now under his belt, Biglia is a stalwart of the Stadio Olimpico. Although the team has undergone many changes during his four years at the club, he has been the man who team-mates, managers and fans can rely on to give maximum effort every week and consistently deliver hard-working and proficient performances.
Biglia turned out 29 times in Serie A for Lazio last term, scoring four goals three of which from the penalty spot in addition to guiding Simone Inzaghi's side to the Coppa Italia final, eventually losing to double-winning Juventus.
Throughout the campaign, the 50-cap Argentinian international was solid. Though the formation and tactics often change, Biglia is invariably the man offering protection to the backline, a safe pair of hands in possession, and technical quality in abundance.
He is also the one who brings the knowhow. Lazio, like Milan, are a young team, with the likes of Keita BaldÃ© Diao, Sergej Milinkovi?-Savi? and Felipe Anderson among their youthful stars. Biglia's leadership, experience and guidance helps Inzaghi bring his tactical instructions to bear on the pitch and provides a platform for the prodigiously gifted players around him to flourish.
If Montella sticks with the 4-3-3 shape that showed so much promise for Milan last term, the midfield triumvirate will include 20-year-old KessiÃ©, a box-box-midfielder who caught the eye with Atalanta last season, and the mercurially talented roaming playmaker Giacomo Bonaventura.
To allow these two players to shine -- with their vastly different skillsets which could, if balanced correctly, provide the Rossoneri with a unique, Swiss army knife-like combination in the middle of the park -- Milan need Biglia.
KessiÃ© has tremendous energy, is able to cover ground in a way few players can match and in a threat inside the opposition's penalty area. But the Ivory Coast international is still relatively unrefined from a tactical point of view.
There is no better colleague for the youngster than Biglia, who can not only fuel the former Atalanta standout by picking him out with incisive passes, moving him into advanced areas by breaking the lines of the opposition, but the Argentinian will also plug the gaps KessiÃ© will leave on the occasions that he gets caught ahead of the ball. The Lazio skipper will also be able to rein in the powerful former Cesena's loanee's roaming instincts when circumstances dictate that a tighter midfield ship is required.
Bonaventura, too, will benefit from Biglia's presence at the foot of midfield. The gifted playmaker's 2016/17 season was truncated by injury in January. But he had been in fine fettle before that, despite the fact that he lacked high-calibre cohorts. Captain Ricardo Montolivo out of form before his own long-term injury, Locatelli still very raw, and Juraj Kucka who has since departed for Trabzonspor physically imposing but very limited technically.
Much like KessiÃ©, Bonaventura will similarly benefit from the service and platform that Biglia could offer, while the Argentinian's reading of the game and ability to fill the holes others vacate will give the 27-year-old Italian international further license to roam, drifting into the advanced ones from where his creative flair is of most use to Milan.
Despite the outlay, Milan still have money left in the coffers. There is even talk that they could be about to launch an attempt to bring Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back to the club.
In the whirlwind of chasing superstar signings, in pursuit of the one marquee player who would give this ambitious project a recognisable and marketable face, Milan must not neglect the pressing need they still have in purely footballing terms.
They have done fantastic work already during the transfer window and, with a Champions League place on offer to the top four Serie A finishers this coming season, the Rossoneri have a realistic chance of returning to Europe's top table. Rather than having to compete with Napoli and Roma, they must now only leapfrog the likes of Atalanta, Lazio and neighbours Inter Milan, all of whom have experienced some degree of upheaval this summer.
Milan may well be able to achieve fourth with the personnel they already have, but the addition of Biglia would knit together the various materials Montella has at his disposal, making them challengers for more than the minimum requirement.
In signing Biglia from Lazio, Milan would be acquiring the glue that would bind the team together, a ready-made solution which would yield far-reaching results.
Lucas Biglia: the glue needed to bind Milan's gifted young side
12th July 2017. By Ryan Baldi.