Devil’s Advocate: Why Milan’s leadership question may have already been answered

By Oliver Fisher -

There has been a common narrative this season so far, one that seeks to highlight particular areas of failure that occurred over the summer transfer window.

In reality, the warning signs were always there: La Gazzetta dello Sport reported in September that the Rossoneri are poised to have one of the youngest average squads in Serie A history.

Naturally, fans have coupled the poor results this season through the first 13 rounds with the lack of experience present in the current team and assumed that the former is a consequence of the latter.

In reality, there are a number of different factors that have fed into a nightmare start such as suspensions, injuries and a subsequent lack of consistency on and off the field – but let’s explore that perceived lack of wise heads for a second.

Looking at the most used starting XI so far this season feeds into the consensus. A core of players including Donnarumma, Romagnoli, Duarte, Calabria, Hernandez, Bennacer, Suso, Piatek and Leao is a strikingly young one – especially given the pressure that has been placed upon them as the key performers.

All of the aforementioned are below the age of 26 with the majority 22 or under. Only two players in the current senior squad are over 31 – Lucas Biglia and Pepe Reina – with neither seemingly guaranteed starters.

And then there’s Giacomo Bonaventura, a man who appeared completely forgotten about, but has become one of the most talked about.

It hasn’t been an easy last 12 months for Jack. He of course a nasty knee injury last October which required surgery, recovered but not in time for the end of last season, and found himself potentially somewhere down the depth chart with the arrivals of Rade Krunic, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao.

They say though that in adversity, those who are strongest rise to the top. Milan were 1-0 down against Napoli, on course for an eighth defeat in 13 games – something which the club has never done in their history – and an extended stay in 14th position or lower. It doesn’t get much more adverse than that.

Like a shining light at the end of a very dark tunnel, Bonaventura provided a moment of magic to haul Milan level. The stadium erupted; a minuscule step forward in the grand scheme of a troubled season, but the reaction wouldn’t have made you aware of that.

The biggest outpouring of emotion came from the goalscorer himself though. His comments after the game said it all: it was an outpouring of emotion in what has been a torrid 2019 for him on a personal note.

Back to the original point: Milan supporters are so desperate for experience and leadership, both of which can be defined by setting an example to team-mates and having been through tough situations – why can’t Bonaventura be that man?

Since arriving five years ago, the 30-year-old has amassed over 150 appearances for Milan, scoring 32 goals and adding 16 assists.

He has been one of the most consistent performers despite the fact that the club have had seven different managers since his arrival. He has scored important goals, been part of crucial moments and has shown a willingness to play wherever he has asked.

Quite simply put, Giacomo Bonaventura takes pride in pulling on the Rossoneri shirt and playing for the club. Perhaps he doesn’t have the same aura as a Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or the silkiness and brand value of someone like Luka Modric, but that shouldn’t matter.

Milan, at this stage, are looking for that person who has battled through adversity and is ready for that fight once again. I’d challenge you to find anybody who thinks Bonaventura is not ready for that battle.

Tags AC Milan Giacomo Bonaventura