In case you missed it I did a second guest spot on World Football Daily and you can check it out here. But an interesting topic came up during the discussion specifically the back line and finding defenders capable of not only playing well but honoring the tradition that is simply stellar Milan defenders, in fact the list is almost endless. Maldini, Baresi, Tassotti, Costacurta, Cafu, and Nesta, players that really only fall in my generation! I know I promised a tactics piece, but this topic just stuck with me and it is time to give it a bit of consideration as we finally stop smiling from the Derby and start planning for Fiorentina.
Milan defenders have always had a few things in common, just looking at the list you can throw out superlatives like World Class, exemplary, or simply the best. You can also see the rich tradition of National Team players, and while Milan has found that again in Tiago Silva, you have to wonder is Abate up to snuff? This season has been a bit of a coming of age party for the right back and with a mentor like Tassotti you have to believe his progress has nothing but upside. If you don’t believe me ask Javier Zanetti who got a great look at the bottom of Ignazio’s boots this weekend! In fact to legitimize what a great season Abate is having, it only takes a one Cesare Prandelli, to make that happen and if anyone deserves it is Abate. While I love Cassani, surely enduring players like Motta and Molinaro makes Abate the logical choice. His pace going forward, new found awareness in defense, and bottling up guys like CRON and Eto make him a must start and at least worthy of a call up.
So with RB sorted out who can round out the last two places in defense? For me there is only two player I want at LB and go figure they are both Italian, but Criscito and Balzaretti, have to be top of the list. They have proved their worth in Serie A, steady and successful, and just the pedigree needed to excel in the future and carry on the tradition that one of the best crop of defenders any team has ever seen. Balzaretti is a machine, and the more complete of the two, but a little older. While Criscito is a threat going forward and alongside Abate and Silva would give Milan a back line with a ten year expiration date, imagine the success of those three in the future. Hope you are reading Fester, stop worrying about strikers, Max proved winning a title is about getting the defense straight, as I have always believed, now make it happen.
Finally, the real burning question, how do you replace Nesta? It took a stellar Brazilian in Silva to fill Maldini’s GIGANTIC boots, and while Kenny Hassan made interesting point in Milan chasing Giorgio Chiellini, a move I can’t argue with, but a bit of a mission impossible as it comes with its own logistical issues to deal with. Having Juventus sell off a prized asset like Giorgio will take a ton of money, but also a commitment to a complete overhaul where the money can be reallocated to build the team, again unlikely but imagine a partnership of Chiellini and Silva!? Wow. Plus unlike Milan, Juventus doesn’t usually reciprocate in helping us out with player transfers. I am sure many said the same thing about prying Nesta away from Lazio, and if Giorgio is looking at season without European football he may have to consider alternative plans.
My pick is and always has been Davide Astori, drawing comparisons to great players like Nesta and Costacurta, the Milan youth product fits the description of what a great Milan defender should be. Grown up through the Milan ranks, calm, cool and collected. He has been a star this season for Cagliari, and while I am sure our friend the Don would be hard pressed to part ways with his steady CB, his allegiance will always be with Milan, unlike some people, and he will know he is doing it for the greater good! The fact that we own half of him is already a good start and gives us the CB we need for half the price, how can you argue with that? So as I see names like Cahill of Bolton and Mexes at Roma, I simply have to ask why? Are those players truly going to live up to the standard of what a Milan defender should be? No, let’s do this right, let Astori make the spot his own and let him find that connection with Silva that has made Milan CB tandems so special for as long as I can remember. If all goes as planned Milan’s backline could be Abate, Astori, Silva, and Balzaretti…shock and awe if you ask me, now let’s make it happen.