Whilst Milan have come under regular scrutiny for the lack of quality in midfield this season, the porous back line has proved to be a source of equal frustration for Milanisti. While Milan definitely needs a midfield makeover, they must enter the market for a defender in January as well.
Though millions were spent in the summer recruiting highly rated attackers, defence was neglected by comparison. Silvio Berlusconi splashed 30 million on prospect Alessio Romagnoli, with whom Sinisa Mihajlovic had enjoyed a strong relationship at Sampdoria the previous season. Besides this, however, there was little improvement over a back line that had conceded 50 goals the previous season.
As many believed at the time, the notion that, regardless of Romagnoli's potential, the acquisition of a 20-year old defender with just one full season of top-flight football under his belt would be enough to fix Milan's defensive woes was naive and thoughtless. Whilst Romagnoli has shown himself to be an excellent defender and continues to improve week after week, he needs help badly.
Whilst Alex has done enough the past few weeks to secure his spot in the team, one or both of Cristian Zapata and Phillipe Mexes will likely be on the way out over the coming weeks. Both have repeatedly proven inadequate and will likely depart rather unceremoniously for foreign shores, with the former continually linked with a move to the Premier League. Rodrigo Ely could also be set to leave Milan, whether permanently, or on loan as the young Brazilian has failed to make the most of the opportunities that have been handed to him so far this year.
Whilst a number of names have been mentioned in passing, Milan seem especially interested in procuring Schalke's central defender Joel Matip and Juventus's Martin Caceres. Matip is out of a contract at the end of the season and appears unlikely to sign a new deal in the meantime. The Cameroonian has established himself as a key player in Andre Breitenreiter's side and would be available at a low cost, given his contract situation and Milan's somewhat meagre budget.
Similarly, Caceres is in the final year of his contract with Juventus and would also be available for a pittance, having fallen well behind in the Juventus pecking order. Despite his off-field problems, the Uruguayan would provide valuable experience in the Milan defence and would be a far better player for Romagnoli to learn from than the likes of Mexes and Zapata. It's also possible than Milan will revive their interest in Torino's Nikola Maksimovic, although the towering Serb would be a costly alternative. Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic has been touted as a potential acquisition at right back, although his current form would hardly earn him a place in Milan's starting line-up either way.
Milan face considerable competition on all fronts due to the player's contract situations, but the acquisition of a defender must be a top priority in the January mercato.