Milan have been heavily linked to Villarreal centre back Mateo Musacchio for over a week now, with some credible outlets reporting that Musacchio will be joining the Rossoneri sooner rather than later. In order to get to know Musacchio better we've brought in the experts from SB Nation's Yellow Submarine blog Villarreal USA.
Many thanks go out to Fher19 and Allen Dodson for taking some time to answer a few questions about the Milan target. Give them a follow on Twitter @VillarrealUSA and visit their site for great content on the Yellow Submarine.
Q: Could you give us a quick profile on what kind of player Musacchio is, and maybe outline some of his strengths and weaknesses?
Fher19: Musacchio is quite a technical player despite being a CB. His main strengths are his awareness, good reading of the game, and the proper tactical adjustment to position himself in the ideal place to cut off the opponent's advances. He's not very tall, nor is he very pacey. But hey, if Gonzalo Rodríguez has been able to have quite a successful career with Fiorentina despite suffering terrible injuries, then you can certainly expect Musacchio to enjoy success at the San Siro as well.
Allen Dodson: He's a very steady player, first and foremost. A good tackler, good at reading the game and intercepting passes, and he's willing to be physical when he needs to be. He's not great in the air, and he's not going to play many incisive passes, but he is comfortable enough with the ball at his feet. He'll score a couple of goals a year for you off corners, too.
Q: Apparently Musacchio has had a fairly hard time with injuries over the last few years. What can you tell us about his injury history, and are these issues mostly behind him?
Fher19: Musacchio has enjoyed quite a healthy career at Villarreal overall, but yes, last season he suffered a bunch of terrible injuries. First of all, he sustained a hamstring injury that sidelined him for over a month from March to April of 2015. Two weeks after returning from his hamstring problems, he suffered that awful fracture of the tibula, and was sidelined for almost 6 months. It was truly shocking and very heartbreaking at the same time because he had to miss the 2015 Copa América. This year he was out with a hamstring injury again from March until April. AC Milan's medical staff should be overly wary of Musacchio's hamstring problems recurring...
Allen Dodson: He has had some issues with thigh and hamstring strains from time to time, and a broken toe a couple of years back. The worst injury though was the broken ankle he suffered in April 2015 which kept him out until December. I don't really think of him as being especially injury-prone, to be honest; the ankle break was a fluke injury.
Q: Last season Musacchio combined very well with 22 year old phenom Eric Bailly to form a formidable centre back partnership. Here at Milan we have our own 21 year old phenom, Alessio Romagnoli. What makes Musaccchio a good fit beside a younger and less experienced partner?
Fher19: Absolutely. Musacchio himself was an inexperienced 18 year old with less than 20 caps for River Plate when Villarreal signed him. Musacchio learned alongside other experienced players like Gonzalo Rodríguez and Diego Godín. I strongly believe Musacchio is the right kind of player to help Romagnoli reach his potential. For instance, Musacchio acted as a mentor and father figure for 16 year old winger Nahuel Leiva, and helped him make the transition from the academy to the first team. Musacchio is a charismatic player and he makes a good group with other players.
Allen Dodson: I'm not familiar enough with Romagnoli to say much about how he and Musacchio can mesh together, but though Mateo is only 26 in August, he has played at the top level in Spain since he was 19. He has the authority of experience, more than his age would indicate. He's not terribly speedy, but he is quick, so he often covers up for others' mistakes--which could come into play with a younger center-back partner for sure.
Q: I honestly can't believe we've gotten this far into this Q and A without talking about the legendary Daniele Bonera. How is everyone's favourite ex-player doing in La Liga? Is he revered as a cult hero by Villarreal fans for being incredibly mediocre the same way he is with Milanisti?
Fher19: (Chuckles) Good ol' Bonera. What can I say?. You know what they say about first impressions, and Bonera's wasn't exactly an ace. He gave away a free kick and a penalty in his first game for Villarreal in the Europa League match against Rapid Vienna, that resulted in both of the winning goals for the Austrian side. Although ever since his gaffes at the Ernst Happel Stadium, Bonera has enjoyed some consistent performances as a backup player. A significant number of the Yellow Submarine fans have been quite positive with the renewal of Bonera as a backup player. I still have mixed feelings about his renewal, especially considering he is already 35.
Allen Dodson: Nah, he's got a ways to go to get to cult hero status. Though anyone who can come back from 2 yellows in 22 minutes against Bilbao, and then turn in a fine 90-minute performance against Atletico Madrid, deserves some credit!
Q: Okay, back to Musacchio. Milan will have an incredibly young defensive corps going into next season. Is Musacchio capable of being a vocal leader and truly marshalling the defence?.
Fher19: Definitely. Musacchio has all the qualities to act as a leader for the younger players of the Milanisti side. Villarreal had one of the youngest squads in La Liga and Musacchio acting as the captain truly helped his younger teammates like Bailly, and Areola to adapt to the tactical scheme of Marcelino.
Allen Dodson: Yes. He has a good understanding of the game, and he will take charge back there. Plus, when he really gets upset at a poor call against him, the look of unmitigated disbelief on his face, eyes practically popping out of their sockets, is outstanding. That's gotta be worth something.
Q: Obviously there are many differences between La Liga and Serie A. La Liga is much quicker and more technical, whereas the level of tactical sophistication in Serie A is so much higher. Is Musacchio tactically intelligent enough to succeed in the slower and more tactical Serie A?
Fher19: Indeed. Musacchio is highly adept tactically and intelligent enough to adapt to the tactical rigorousness of the Serie A. If Gonzalo Rodríguez managed to adapt to the Serie A with Fiorentina despite having sustained two career threatening knee injuries at Villarreal, you can certainly expect Musacchio to have the same adaptation and success as his former teammate and countryman.
Allen Dodson: Absolutely. He's not really that fast anyway--his game is more about positioning and tackling. Look at how well Gonzalo Rodriguez has done with Fiorentina--Gonzalo is slower and older than Mateo.
Q: For our last question, how big of a loss would Musacchio be for Villarreal?
Fher19: His departure would definitely be a significant and vital loss for us. I have seen Musacchio since he first arrived to the club as an 18 year old, and how he progressed during all those 7 years. He has been a key player for Villarreal in the past 2 seasons. Even when Bailly was fit, Marcelino preferred the Musacchio-Ruiz center-back partnership. I suppose it will a great chance for Víctor Ruiz to prove his worth without Bailly and Musacchio.
Allen Dodson: More than I want to admit. He's not a particularly flashy player but he has been a steady one. Because he started with us so young, it seems like he has been in the center of our back line forever, and it will seem very strange if he's not there. I think we probably expected he would move on at some point, but losing both Musacchio and Bailly in the same summer would be really rough for us.