Terim's First Choice - Player by Player
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Okay, Milan's transfer season appears to be just about over bar the shouting and inconclusive rumours regarding Luccin, Cisse, Repka and Gamarra. So I decided I'd try and get inside Fatih Terim's head, and try and work out what his first choice side will be for the upcoming season. I expect him to play with a 4-3-1-2 formation, with a playmaker just behind the front two strikers. However, I'm not sure where this will leave the wingers. 4-4-2 as played by Cesare in the final weeks of last season relied heavily on crosses from the flanks, which is why Serginho came to such prominence. However, if he plans to play like Lippi did at Juventus, with most play directed through the middle, then that would suit less naturally attacking players such as Gattuso on the wing. My prediction is somewhere between the two. The wingers will be allowed to attack as they did with Maldini, but with some added defensive responsibilities.
Here's my prediction of the team.
GOALKEEPER- Christian Abbiati. At present we basically have three keepers, what with Dida banned for a year. Fiori is unlikely to make any impact, so it appears to be between Abbiati and Rossi. I believe Terim will elect to go with Abbiati, as he is younger and more agile than the aging Rossi. One of Cesare's more mystifying decisions made during his spell in charge was his selection of a 37 year old whose best days were clearly well behind him above one of the best young keepers in Italy. Abbiati could be Milan's keeper for the next twelve years, and by leaving him to warm the bench Cesare risked disillusionment. It also sent out a potentially dangerous message to Milan's young players- whatever you do, we'll pick veterans ahead of you. Now it appears that Rossi, he of many comebacks into the side, is staying for another year, something I don't agree with. He makes mistakes, is old and has a history of disruptive dressing room behaviour. We should have brought in another, younger reserve. However, it looks that our new No. 18 will be starting as first choice keeper come August.
RIGHT BACK- Cosmin Contra. This is one position about which there can be no dispute. Cosmin Contra is probably among the best attacking right backs in the world. He can also, unlike many who own that title (Salgado and any Brazilian you care to imagine) defend. At last it looks that Milan have found a valid replacement for Mauro Tassotti. He is probably our biggest transfer coup of the summer, along with Rui Costa. Half of the G14 group was after him. Because of his arrival, we were able to let Cristian Zenoni leave. He is very inferior to Contra. The Romanian has shown his ability on a wider European stage (witness his brilliant performance in the UEFA Cup final which somehow didn't get him the Man of the Match Award) while Zenoni was ripped to shreds by Kily Gonzalez on his international debut. As well as Contra, we have the injury prone but talented Daino and Thomas Helveg, whom we have inexplicably loaned back from Inter. Call me a cynic if you like, but I see something dodgy in these trash exchanges between big Italian clubs. Parma and Roma seem to be in some sort of a pact (why else would the champions sign Raffaele Longo, Saliou Lassissi and Diego Fuser) where they exchange their crap squad players for other team's crap squad players. Now Milan appear to have a similar deal with, of all people, Inter. We've signed Domoraud (Why?- I look forward to his arrival with the same anticipation as a full cavity search) and Pirlo, while they've got Helveg and, according to http://www.soccerage.com,/ Drazen Brncic, unquestionably one of the worst players ever to wear the Rossoneri shirt. He couldn't even get into Vicenza's side for Chrissakes...
LEFT BACK- Paolo Maldini. This is another position about which there can be no dispute. Our capitano, for over a decade the premier left back in Europe (although Harry Redknapp believes Stuart Pearce to be superior...) could be having his swansong this season. He has indicated in the past that should he lift the World Cup in Yokohama next year, then he will retire at the top. In my opinion this would be a wise move, as retiring before time takes it's toll on his pace would allow his reputation to remain intact. Baresi made himself look a fool by playing on a season too many. However, if Paolo does retire next summer, he will be missed greatly by all at Milan, and could prove impossible to replace. Unless, that is, Francesco Coco continues his improvement. He will probably spend this season as understudy to both Maldini and Serginho, and must recover his form of late 2000 if he is to continue his ascendency.
CENTRAL DEFENCE- Kakha Kaladze and Alessandro Costacurta/Roque Junior/ New signing? This is one of two positions which I cannot work out who will be first choice. The one certainty appears to be Kaladze, who deserves the title bestowed by myself of "The Baresi of the Caucausus" Playing him in midfield is a waste. It took us four years to replace our greatest ever player, and you cannot piss that away by playing him elsewhere. Alongside him we need a Passarella type stopper, a real tough marker. I'm unsure which option Terim will elect to go with for next season. He could stick with the experience but waning abilities and pace of Billy Costacurta, develop the talented but as yet sadly inconsistent Roque Junior or bring in another central defender. We have recently been linked with Alessandro Pierini (not of any great quality in my opinion), Carlos Gamarra (excellent but 30 years old) and Tomas Repka (excellent but card prone. In addition, we have secured first refusal on Daniele Bonera, though whether he will follow the tried and tested pattern of an up and coming young player remains to be seen. That pattern is
1. Makes debut for small team. Is outstanding, and attracts attention from a wide range of clubs.
2. Sold to big club for sizeable fee, but loaned to another small club to gain experience.
3. Plays like crap for small club, and ends up with reputation in tatters.
4. Spends next few years bouncing around smaller relegation fodder Serie A clubs.
Whoever partners Kaladze in defence next season, they can be assured of a busy time, given the way Terim's Fiorentina played last season. It'll be exciting, but painful for the defenders.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD- Fernando Redondo (If healthy...). Florentino Perez's greatest achievement as Real Madrid president was not the signings of Zidane and Figo, nor the wiping out of the club's debts, but his ability to con Adriano Galliani out of Ł11 million for a 31 year old who then proceeded to suffer a career threatening injury a week after signing. His arrival was intended to pull the wool over our eyes after the protests in Milano the previous week, but the whole sorry episode resulting in Adriano Galliani looking an even bigger fool. However, if he regains his full fitness, then he should be a certainty in defensive midfield, a position where he has few equals. He is one of a select group of players who have the ability to both disrupt opponents attacks and start new ones. However, he is not without competition in this position. We also have Gennaro Gattuso, Max Ambrosini, Pablo Garcia (whom I thought was a pub player until I heard about his perrformance against Brazil) Massimo Donati and Demetrio Albertini. Gattuso looks set to cover on the right wing, Ambrosini is injured, Garcia will probably be loaned out and Donati will be allowed to develop slowly. It is the future of Demetrio Albertini which raises the most questions. He is not the type of player to fit into Terim's plans, as he is neither suitable as a destroyer or playing in the "hole" behind the strikers. Added to his age (30), these factors make him a likely candidate for departure. We also have Donadel, who made his debut against Parma last March.
RIGHT WING- Jose Mari. This is one of the two positions where Milan probably still need to strenghten the squad (central defence is the other). We have a choice between Jose Mari, a natural winger, and Gennaro Gattuso, a natural destroyer. Jose Mari has failed to live up to expectations since his arrival at Milanello in January 2000, but looks likely to be given another chance by Terim. He has been extremely inconsistent, occasionally producing glimpses of his undoubted talent (remember the screamer against Brescia?) but more often than not playing like a monkey. We have been linked again with Gaizka Mendieta, but he looks unlikeely to join, even though his arrival would probably make us favourites for the Scudetto. There seems to be little in the way of back up for this position, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a new arrival before the kick off. However, don't expect it to be Mendieta or Beckham.
LEFT WING- Serginho. After his superlative displays towards the end of last season, who could replace him? He looked on his way a few months previously, but after several match winning performances, especially in the Derby, there was no way he could leave. We were linked heavily with Laurent Robert earlier in the summer, but he now seems set for Barcelona. A pity, as I'd have liked to have seen him in a Rossoneri shirt. Serginho was also the subject last summer from Terim's Fiorentina, indicating that the coach holds him in some esteem. If he was to lose form or fitness, however, then Francesco Coco will probably stand in for him. He propelled himself into the Azzurri line up on the back of some impressive performances last Autumn, but then lost his way after Christmas. Lets hope that the form he showed in the Nou Camp was not a flash in the pan, as only six months earlier he couldn't get into a dreadful Torino side.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD- Manuel Rui Costa. I don't really need to say too much here, apart from the fact that he is Milan's best signing since Shevchenko. However, why did we sign Pirlo for 12 million pounds, only to loan him out again? (he seems set for Torino)
ATTACK- Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi/Javi Moreno. Sheva is a certainty, and as I've been sitting here for ages I can't be bothered repeating myself for the hundredth time saying how good he is. What intrigues me is who will partner him. I never agreed with the Inzaghi purchase, as I don't rate his abilities and despise his continuous whining, diving and complaining when he's dropped. I still can't forget his behaviour in April 2000, when he caused untold dressing room strife by demanding a transfer on the morning of a game. But I'm Fatih Terim now, remember, so I'll look at his good points, should I find any. However, we also have the top scorer in Spain, Javi Moreno, who will also want to start. I can't decide personally, so we'll have to wait until after the first pre-season friendlies.
Written by Robert Mann
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