The January transfer window may have only just concluded, but attention is already turning to what AC Milan could do in the summer.
With the team currently requiring a miracle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, speculation is rife that there could be another revolution of sorts at the club once the season is over.
The general consensus among the fanbase at present is that there are some talented young core players to build around; the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez, Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao.
However, where the team is currently lacking is in experience and leadership. With Elliott Management seemingly set on securing a return to the top spending as little money as possible, here are five upcoming free agents that Milan simply must try and sign…
1. Dries Mertens
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is more than likely to leave this summer unless he is convinced of a project that makes it worth playing until he is almost 40, and if that occurs then it is unlikely that Milan will be doing their business on the cheap.
Should the Swede depart, the Rossoneri will desperately need a centre-forward, and Mertens should need no introduction. With 120 goals and 72 assists in just over 300 competitive appearances for Napoli, the Belgian is the perfect forward to lead to line in the post-Ibra era.
Although there is reported competition from Chelsea and Inter, Milan should be able to put the wages that would be saved from Zlatan’s deal to make this work. The creativity and clinical presence that the 32-year-old offers could be vital in helping to fill a huge void.
2. Thomas Meunier
Milan’s right-back problems this season have been well documented, with neither Davide Calabria nor Andrea Conti able to hold down a starting spot for more than a few games at a time due to suspensions and injuries.
A move for Meunier would go some way to addressing that: the Belgium international has experience with a Paris Saint-Germain side that have become serial winners domestically, and he has racked up 127 appearances for the Ligue 1 giants in all competitions.
Considered an all-round full-back, the 28-year-old has plenty of good years left in the tank and would be an instant upgrade over either of the current options at present.
3. Nemanja Matic
Another problem area for the Diavolo at present is in midfield, particularly the central areas as injuries to Lucas Biglia and Rade Krunic have left Stefano Pioli with absolutely no depth.
Speaking of Biglia, the Argentine will leave for free in June and his huge salary will also be off the books, which is why Milan should go for Matic, whose experience with Manchester United appears to be drawing to a close.
The 31-year-old could form an excellent midfield pairing with the more energetic Ismael Bennacer or could equally provide excellent cover for Franck Kessie, and the Serbia international’s experiences in the Premier League at other big clubs bodes well for what Milan need at present.
4. Jan Vertonghen
Leadership is a big void that exists at the club for the moment, and signing Jan Vertonghen on a free transfer could actually plug multiple holes.
First of all, a more permanent and established partner for Alessio Romagnoli – who is still learning at 25 – is needed. In addition to that, doubts over the futures of Simon Kjaer, Mateo Musacchio and Leo Duarte means that centre-back depth is also likely to be a big requirement.
At 32 years of age, the Belgian international (the third on this list) has more shelf life and would likely demand a lower salary than Thiago Silva – and it is important to remove sentimentality out of decision making. With over 300 appearances for Spurs and plenty of top-level experience, Vertonghen would likely walk into the starting XI.
5. Mario Gotze
Perhaps the most controversial on this list is Mario Gotze, who has played just 13 league games for Borussia Dortmund at present this season.
However, if the team are to stick with a 4-2-3-1 system moving forward, they ideally need an upgrade on Hakan Calhanoglu to play the playmaker role as the Turkey international is not consistent enough in terms of performance levels and attacking production.
A literal World Cup winner (he scored the only goal in the 2014 final), Gotze is being courted by other top teams for a reason. He has 330 combined appearances for BVB and Bayern Munich – as well as 81 goals and 85 assists – and over 60 caps at international level.
He could be the ideal man to slot in behind Ibrahimovic, or a new centre-forward, though there are understandable doubts over his fitness.