As users of social media like to say, Thiago Silva and AC Milan is a better love story than the Twilight saga. Sold in 2012 by Silvio Berlusconi to balance the books, a return to Milan is rumoured virtually every summer.
Thiago Silva is approaching the end of his career at 35 years of age, and his contract with PSG expires at the end of the current season presenting an opportunity for any club to sign him on a free, something Milan have been linked with.
With huge changes expected and Ralf Rangnick expected to meet Elliott Management in London to formalise his agreement to become the new manager, a huge change is expected in both tactical style and club ethos.
Here are four reasons why bringing back the Brazil international would be a counter-productive move, as examined by Rohit Rajeev…
1. Tactically unsuitable for the Gegenpress
In this example below we can see how high RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is on the pitch with the ball against Mainz 05 in a move which led to a goal. The basic idea of Gegenpress is to press high as possible and win the ball deep in the opponent’s third of the field.
This requires the last line of defenders to press very high up and even almost higher beyond the half way line, which in turn makes the team susceptible to quick counter-attacks, and hence defenders are forced to track back.
While Thiago Silva is positionally adept, playing a high line against quick pacy forwards and maintaining shape would be an extremely difficult task for him at 35. Not only has he lost a bit of his pace, but he is far from as mobile as he was during his days at Milan.
2. Philosophy is key
Rangnick – when interviewed by coaches’ voice said this about young players: “Nowadays at the age of 15 or 16 the young players are trained at a high level of performance, both physically and mentally.
“As a result they have three advantages over older players. Firstly they recover a lot faster from their exertions between games. Secondly their capacity to learn is higher, one of the privileges of youth.”
Approaching 36, Thiago Silva would find it extremely difficult to keep up with the high intensity football professed by Rangnick and it could lead to a lot of injuries. Not to mention the room for learning is also very less given he will be at Milan for only one or two years.
3. Economically challenging
At PSG Silva takes a wage of €12m per season (gross, meaning before tax). With Milan’s finances – in simple terms – a complete mess and a salary ceiling rumoured to be on the way, it would not make sense for the Rossoneri to employ someone who takes a huge salary for just a couple of years.
If Milan pay huge wages and do not qualify for the Champions League the investment, like umpteen others. would turn out to be a bad one and Thiago Silva would leave Milan for free with nobody to buy him and recoup the damage.
Even if Thiago Silva takes a 50% pay cut it would mean he still takes €6m gross salary (€3m net) only to be integrated into a tactical set up that would likely be ill-suited to his style of play as well as physical demands.
With such a cash crunch, it would be better to channel the salary to a younger player who could make a positive difference and become a protected investment.
4. Long-term thinking
Milan have paid the price countless times in the recent past for short-term thinking or “quick fixes”. The club are yet to replace their departing legends like Kaka, Shevchenko, Maldini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and even Thiago Silva himself.
The latter represents a one or two season stop-gap at best and beyond that he would retire or continue his career in his homeland. If Milan are to create a cycle for more sustained success then they should create a core that will be able to contribute towards the club for a long time.
With Rangnick at the helm, he would help Milan bring in young players who are technically gifted and help them to shape their future creating the aforementioned core for everlasting success.
Milan have been recently linked with signing another PSG centre-back on a free transfer in Tanguy Kouassi. With Milan looking to build a cycle with young and talented players, this seems like a more logical target.
Finding the next Thiago Silva should be the mission in all of this, not trying to relight a candle which went out eight years ago and one where there is barely any wax left to burn.