Due to the unfortunate injury of Giacomo Bonaventura, and M’Baye Niang’s loan to Walter Mazzarri’s Watford, Gerard Deulofeu has now been presented a golden opportunity at Milan.
Gerard Deulofeu joined the Rossoneri on loan two weeks ago from Everton, after falling out of favour in Merseyside with manager Ronald Koeman. Despite having less than impressive numbers with the Toffees – 11 matches, 0 goals, 0 assists in Premier League play – AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella identified the Spain U-21 skipper as his target to bolster the attack during last months’ January Transfer Window.
For Deulofeu, the importance of wearing the famous red and black shirt is understood. Any individual who puts on the colours must take to the pitch with a great source of pride and passion. Given the current state of the club, Montella needs fighters who are willing to be sacrificial for the sake of achieving a common goal.
Speaking exclusively with Milan TV upon arrival, the 23-year old’s acknowledgement of the Italian giants’ rich history and success was quite clear:
“We all know AC Milan is a legendary club. Seven Champions League titles, lots of great players and Ballon d’Or winners. It’s the greatest club in Italy and everyone knows AC Milan throughout the world. I’m very happy to be here.”
Last Wednesday at J Stadium, Deulofeu made his debut, coming off the bench to replace Carlos Bacca. Although 10-man Milan ultimately fell to Juventus 2-1, and bowed out of the Coppa Italia, we got a little sampling of what the Catalan can bring to the attack; acceleration from his first-step and trickery in possession.
Deulofeu could provide quite a bit for Milan’s attack. We could focus all day on his repertoire and why it may or not translate over to Italy’s more technical style of football. Or, go on about how Deulofeu could be Montella’s latest reclamation project. But, what about this six-month loan and the significance it may have on his future?
Being as he was frozen out by Everton, and replaced with a raw League One prospect (Ademola Lookman), Deulofeu has an awful lot to prove – to his parent club and Europe. Once touted as a future star for the Spain National Team, the former Barcelona youth product must now put to bed the many criticisms of his past and work hard – in training sessions and on match-day.
There is no way around it. Montella has been dealt a major blow to his starting eleven with the injury to versatile playmaker Giacomo Bonaventura. No longer available is the option of rotating the Azzurri man between the left-wing and mezzala role in the midfield. Most of what Milan were able to accomplish relied heavily on the exploits of the 27-year old. While it’s a monumental loss given the lack of talent in the squad, Deulofeu is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of his absence.
The team is now in search of any semblance of creativity and ingenuity in the attacking phase. Suso has been superb on the opposite side, but sometimes falls victim to his own predictability. On the opposite flank of his fellow countryman, Deulofeu should find plenty of opportunities to cut in on his right foot and deliver crosses into dangerous areas – a component the attack so desperately craves at the moment. Deulofeu injects into this now stagnant attack interchangeability. He can move flank to flank and possesses the ability of rolling in behind the striker. This would particularly help in neutralizing the woeful link play of Carlos Bacca. Deulofeu adds to the club a different dimension.
Last Sunday, Deulofeu received his Serie A debut in relief of the injured Bonaventura. Udinese completed their season-sweep of Milan 2-1, but over 80+ minutes of action, the young Spaniard demonstrated everything he holds in his arsenal. Confidence in taking on defenders, quickness in his first touch and flair to exploit his opponent. In essence, this was his first audition to show Montella that he is fully capable of making the left-wing his own, although it’s now a bit more crowded with the addition of Lucas Ocampos. On loan from Marseille, the 22-year old Argentine has something to prove of his own during the next six months at the San Siro.
A competition amongst friendly adversaries for the left-wing is upon us.
This Sunday, Milan must begin coping with the loss of Bonaventura and Mattia De Sciglio as they ready themselves to host Sampdoria at San Siro. All projected lineups indicate that Montella will in fact grant Gerard Deulofeu his first start in rossonero.
The time has come for the Catalan to now seize the opportunity, leave his mark on the Italian peninsula and restore order to a derailed career. His future may depend on it this summer.
You can follow my football ramblings and various workings on Twitter.