Sinisa Mihajlovic is feeling the heat. The president of AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi has openly stated that the results ‘will improve’ starting with the game against Torino on Saturday. The mandate to play possession football has been conveyed to the coach. Media reports are flooding the internet about the various changes in formation and tactics that are likely to be employed going forward. Players are grabbing microphones and are venting their frustrations, only to be reprimanded by the management. Chaos prevails at Milanello while Adriano Galliani faces charges of fraud with regards to FC Parma.
Amidst the disarray, a certain diminutive Argentine is considering his future prospects. He battled valiantly, yet couldn’t save his former team from certain relegation last season. His notable performances though, did not go unnoticed, as Jose Mauri was highlighted as one of the best young players in the league. After nearly losing him to Fiorentina, Milan salvaged him from the debris that was Parma and brought him on board an ambitious project.
Ever since, Mauri has not featured in any of Milan’s competitive games. He remained an unused substitute against Napoli, Udinese and Palermo. Voices of dissent have gotten notably louder, as his agent has declared that the entourage will hold meetings with the club to negotiate a move away from Milan this January. Troubling news, one would say.
Milan recruited two other midfielders this summer – Andrea Bertolacci and Juraj Kucka. Bertolacci seems perennially confused while playing for Milan, not demonstrating any of the dynamism that made him ever so impressive at Genoa last season. Kucka, on the other hand, has probably been Milan’s best midfielder thus far. His immediate impact might have stifled Mauri’s progression within the squad. However, Mihajlovic’s reluctance to play the youngster is baffling.
Mauri was truly terrific at Parma. His playing style, which is likened to that of Gennaro Gattuso, is that of a midfield terrier. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ball and is fundamentally energetic, which, for any regular viewer of Milan, would ascertain is the need of the hour in Milan’s sluggish midfield.
Quite often, Milanisti complain about the transfer of Allan to Napoli. Fair enough. Milan could have done with a player like him. Well, Galliani will suggest that he did sign a player like Allan, even if not entirely of his ilk. During the previous campaign, in comparison to Allan, Mauri made more interceptions per game, made more clearances and was dribbled past fewer times than the Brazilian. Now, this is no indication that Mauri is a better player. What it does indicate, is that Milan had signed an enormously talented midfielder, who would inject drive and robustness into the midfield.
Mihajlovic recently experimented with Nigel De Jong as the right-sided central midfielder in a midfield trio. The experiment was fostered by the coach’s obsession to field Riccardo Montolivo as a deep-lying playmaker. This ploy backfired and Mihajlovic had to revisit the drawing board. Common sense would question the purpose of excluding Mauri from being played in a position more suitable to him, instead of reinventing a 30-year old.
Time is running out for Mihajlovic and for Mauri as well. The team needs to be assembled on the bedrock of youth. Rodrigo Ely’s two attempts of earning a starting spot at Milan might have boomeranged, but that should not stop the coach from putting his faith in Mauri. After all, Davide Calabria is getting the nod at a position that is tightly contested at Milan. Mauri could do with a dose of confidence too.