Former AC Milan head coach Arrigo Sacchi has taken a rather sceptical stance on the club’s decision to invest in signing Noah Okafor from Red Bull Salzburg.
The Swiss international spoke in an interview with Milan TV in which he revealed his emotions after making the switch, and we published an analysis of his playing style including his strengths, weaknesses and the role that he might be used in by Pioli.
Sacchi spoke during a column for La Gazzetta dello Sport in which he addressed not only Milan’s signing of Okafor but also the rumours suggesting that rivals Inter are pursuing Marko Arnautovic of Bologna.
“The ‘centre-forward’ topic is certainly the most popular of the summer. We talk about it under the umbrellas, between one swim and another, during a trip on the mountain paths,” he began.
“The fans, who never switch off, discuss the topic with their usual passion and wonder if the newly acquired player, or the one pursued, is perfect for their team, if he has the right qualities, if he will really make a difference.
“Looking at the panorama, it must be admitted that Napoli, with president De Laurentiis having confirmed Osimhen will stay because he has a contract and is therefore not on the market, as far as this role is concerned, starts in pole position.
“The same cannot be said for Milan and Inter, both still looking for the element that can complete the group. The Nerazzurri have asked Arnautovic to Bologna, the Rossoneri, at the moment, only have Okafor as Giroud’s backup.
“It will be said: a bit too little for two clubs that aspire to chase the Scudetto and want to be protagonists in the Champions League.
“But here we need to do an in-depth analysis and explain, once and for all, that the centre-forward is important, indeed very important, provided there is a team with a game capable of supplying him. Otherwise we can also put the best in the world up front, but we won’t solve anything.
“First of all, it is necessary to understand what kind of centre-forward the coach needs. A killer, ruthless in the penalty area and with goals in his blood, or a more manoeuvrable player who loves to participate in the construction of the action and dialogue with his teammates?
“Or perhaps he needs a good header of the ball because he intends to put so many crosses into the opponent’s box? This choice, which is mainly up to the coach, is fundamental.
“At Milan I had Van Basten who was a phenomenon and in his DNA he was both a killer and a driver, and then I had Virdis who was above all a killer, but thanks to his work, his will and his commitment he improved a lot and is even managed to score a goal in a derby by stealing the ball in pressing.
“What do Inter need? Lautaro is already there, so we need to look for an element that can go well with the Argentine and that fills any gaps.
“You probably need an element that acts as a link, which helps in the disengagement phase, which compacts the team when it is too stretched: distances, in modern football, are fundamental and often we do not notice them.
“The killer at Inter is Lautaro, so I think a player with a broad vision would be useful, willing to sacrifice, able to duet with the midfielders who insert themselves.
“Dzeko was magnificent in this job. I don’t know if Arnautovic could be suitable: he’s technically good, and he’s also powerful. But in the long run it must be Simone Inzaghi who writes a score that puts his attackers in a position to be lethal.
“The situation in Milan is different, because the way in which Pioli is setting up the team is different. The Rossoneri, at least at the start of the season, are favouring a 4-3-3 formation. So, two wingers and a centre-forward.
“Okafor’s best bit is his starting point in speed, he varies well on the wings, he is a striker with movement. Completely different from Giroud, so to speak. If he has to take the Frenchman’s place, it is logical, Milan will have to change the way they serve the first striker.
“But I wouldn’t overlook young Columbo. I followed him to Lecce last season, in my opinion he moves well, has physical prowess, good technique and is suitable for playing between two wingers who dish out balls for him in the middle of the box.
“However, even in this case, it is necessary that the whole team supports him, continuously feeding the manoeuvre, with constant and offensive pressing.
“You see that, in the end, we always talk about a collective and not just about an individual (the centre-forward in this case) because football, despite many forgetting about it, is a sport that is practiced in eleven teams, where everyone must contribute to the success of the team.”