AC Milan are expected to welcome Matteo Gabbia back from his loan spell at Villarreal next month, and even though he has only been there six months it has been an eventful half-year.
La Gazzetta dello Sport confirm that Villarreal coach Marcelino in the last few hours gave the green light for Gabbia to return to Milan six months earlier than the agreement originally foresaw. As a reminder, it was a season-long dry loan.
Casting our minds back to last summer, Milan were busy on the American tour and shortly before the friendly match with Real Madrid they closed the defender’s loan to Villarreal, deciding at the last minute to start Jan-Carlo Simic to avoid risks in the negotiation.
The Spaniards are aiming for the central defender to replace the hole left in the squad by Pau Torres, who had recently moved to Aston Villa. In front of him, with Jorge Cuenca, Mandi and captain Raul Albiol, there was no shortage of competition.
Gabbia, however, started well: he made his debut in the second round of LaLiga against Mallorca, playing a good match from the start, which was a 1-0 win. Then he was confirmed as the starter in the next match against Barcelona, lost 4-3 but after 90 minutes on the pitch.
Until the beginning of November, his performance was overall good, with seven appearances out of 12 league matches. Then, with Marcelino’s return to the bench, his path in LaLiga became more complicated.
Another chapter begins here. In the few months spent in Spain, Gabbia has already had three head coaches. Villarreal started the season with Quique Setién – who was relieved of his duties on the fourth matchday (after only three points from four games) – and later entrusted the team to Pacheta, who was replaced in November by Marcelino.
Gabbia did not find great continuity in his experience with the Yellow Submarine, making a total of 13 appearances in all competitions. The positive note of the spell in Spain was in the Europa League, given that Gabbia played all of Villarreal’s matches, with all bar one being starts.
There is an interesting curiosity: in group F of the Europa League, Gabbia played against Stade Rennais, whom Milan will face in the play-off in February (first leg on the 15th and return leg on the 22nd).
Villarreal took first place in the group by winning the direct clash in the last group game, one in which Matteo lost consciousness after an unfortunate clash with his teammate Albiol, taking a knee in the face but ultimately recovering.