AC Milan signalled the beginning of its mercato adventures earlier this week, completing the signing of Italian midfielder Andrea Bertolacci from capital club AS Roma. €20 million was shelled out to bring the former Genoa star over to the San Siro, locking him down on a contract until 2019.
Fans of the storied club the world over rejoiced at this signal of intent in what is hoped to be a new era for the downtrodden club, with Berlusconi seemingly willing to spend like a big team once more. Heralded as a brilliant capture for the Rossoneri, Bertolacci nonetheless remains both an unnecessary risk and another step in the wrong direction for a club that desperately needs everything to go its way.
Bertolacci was quickly brought in after the deal for France international Geoffrey Kondogbia fell through, with the former AS Monaco star opting to go to the opposite side of the San Siro, signing with Inter Milan instead. Bertolacci’s transfer came exactly a week after losing out on Kondogbia, which smells suspiciously like a panic buy after missing out on a primary target. Coming off a season of being an integral piece of Monaco’s 3rd-place Ligue 1 finish and Champions League quarter-final appearance, the Frenchman did not have the padded stats of Milan’s newest acquisition, but that did not diminish his worth. Many times more versatile, capable of playing anywhere in the midfield, Kondogbia would be just as comfortable next to Nigel de Jong as he would be in front of him, where Bertolacci will most likely play. Kondogbia also has seen a steady improvement in his game, with continued exposure to first team football molding out his big weaknesses and buffing up his strengths.
Meanwhile, Bertolacci struggled for a number of seasons before suddenly bursting out with Genoa this past campaign. One good season after a period of mediocrity is not a sure indication of future success, and Milan would’ve been better off sealing the deal for a player who has done nothing but consistently improve. Bertolacci could prove to be a major success, but there is an equally and perhaps even greater chance he will flop, and a €20 million failure is the last thing Milan need.
Kondogbia aside, several Serie A players could’ve been brought in instead of Bertolacci who would’ve improved the squad more than the former Genoa man. Chiefly among them is Udinese midfielder Allan Marques Loureiro. The same age as Bertolacci, since arriving in Italy Allan has been both Udinese’s best and one of Serie A’s most consistent and quality midfielders. Playing in the same position as Bertolacci, Allan may not have the same goal return as his positional compatriot, but makes up for it by being the better man in most other aspects. A brilliant South American cross between Pirlo and de Jong, Allan has shown the ability to act like a attacking and defensive midfielder within a span of a few seconds, winning back possession with a crunching tackle before sending the won ball up to an awaiting striker. Reportedly valued at €20 million by Udinese who know they have next to no hope of keeping their star much longer, with that kind of player on the market it is baffling how Milan did not opt to pursue him.
Furthermore, Bertolacci will be thrust into a midfield with next to no direction and devoid of even a smidgen of creativity. One cannot help but wonder how he will be able to cope with being the sole provider of tempo and direction for the club, something “creative forces” Giacomo Bonaventura and Keisuke Honda failed to do last season. It is a big load to put upon a still-raw Bertolacci’s shoulders, and at Milan he will not have the same teams synergy he did at Genoa with the likes of Perotti and Matri. He is instead coming into a team of individuals, with the daunting task of uniting them through his control of the ball and the game.
Bertolacci is talented, there is no doubt about that, but his inexperience performing for a big club and the multitude of better suited players like Paulinho and Allan available on the market make his move to Milan a needless gamble.