Forwards win football matches. Winning football matches help teams win football competitions. By order of simplification, it is imperative that ambitious teams have forwards of distinction in their roster. Milan has one such player in Carlos Bacca. But, the Colombian’s eagerness to play in Europe is driving his intent to move out of the club. For all practical purposes, he is as good as gone.
There appears to be no plan to replace him. The prohibitive yet inevitable question is, do Milan need to replace Carlos Bacca? Yes, they do.
Milan signed Gianluca Lapadula on 24th June 2016 from under the noses of Juventus and Napoli for roughly €10m. This was a statement of intent, but also a befuddling recruitment. With M’baye Niang and Bacca stringing together a promising partnership last season and Luiz Adriano waiting in the wings, was it necessary to sign another striker?
Lapadula is a clinical fox-in-the-box type number nine with a terrifyingly lethal left foot. He enjoys arriving onto a diagonal ball or beating the last man when playing against a high-line. Ending last season as the top-scorer in Serie B, Lapadula garnered heavy interest from some of the biggest boys in the peninsula. Milan fans enthusiastically took to social media when they saw images of the 5’10” hit-man signing his contract beside a beaming Adriano Galliani.
Excessive dependence on Bacca’s goal-scoring prowess did limit Milan at times last season. The 29 year-old scored 18 goals and contributed two assists in Serie A, providing for about 46.5% of the team’s goals. Bringing Lapadula to the club might help share the burden on Bacca, as the former Pescara man scored 27 goals and provided 12 assists in Serie B in 2015/16. That works out to 61% of the goals scored by Pescara in Serie B.
However, Lapadula has not played in Serie A before. The journeyman striker has evolved into a fearful force over the last two seasons, devouring defenses in Lega Pro and Serie B. But top-flight football is a different beast and it remains to be seen if Lapadula can instil dread in the defenders playing in Serie A.
Chances of Milan replacing Bacca with a player like Leonardo Pavoletti are very high. Or, Vincenzo Montella might entrust Niang with the responsibility of leading the line of attack. Neither of these options is tantalizing nor do they appeal to the appetite of redemption that a fallen giant is expected to have. Pavoletti will firmly etch Milan into mid-table mediocrity. Niang, although promising in flashes, is yet to demonstrate a penchant for goal-scoring. He is unlikely to boost Milan up the league table by scoring at a level of acceptable consistency.
Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Torino outscored Milan in the league last season. Many of these teams have bolstered their attacks, while Milan continue to stagnate in the transfer market. A top-3 finish will linger in the minds of Milanisti as a fanciful dream under the current circumstances.
The world is watching. With Chinese investors lining a takeover of the club after nearly three decades of Italian ownership, many expect Milan to become a European heavyweight again. This perception will take a heavy beating if Bacca isn’t appropriately replaced with a centre-forward of a similar ilk. Even if perceptions count for less, which it shouldn’t, then for footballing reasons, Milan must secure the services of a prolific striker before the mercato closes in August.
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