A strange sense of excitement beckons among AC Milan fans, when the club signs a quality centre-back. Take for instance, the summer of 2015/16. Milan paid top dollar for Alessio Romagnoli and spent a higher amount to acquire Carlos Bacca. Social Media was abuzz with chatter and some overexcited loyalists prophesied a glorious future for the young Italian defender, even though Romagnoli was, arguably, only the second best young defender in the league in 2014/15 (behind Daniele Rugani). On the contrary, the signing of Bacca, a player of European pedigree, was overshadowed by the failed transfer of Jackson Martinez from Porto.
Similarly, this summer, albeit quiet thus far, Milan fans have eagerly awaited the unveiling of Romagnoli’s new partner. The departures of Alex and Philippe Mexes had left Romagnoli somewhat orphaned in central defense. €7 million later, we are celebrating the arrival of Paraguayan centre-back, Gustavo Gomez from Lanus.
Gustavo Raúl Gómez Portillo, 23, is an unknown quantity beyond the shores of South America. Some research and YouTube viewing suggests that this lumbering giant is actually a decent footballer.
The Paraguayan international appears to be a dominating central-defender, having a heightened awareness about his physical attributes. He is uncompromising in tackles and takes no prisoners while winning the ball. Good in the air and adept at tracking an attacker while running with his back to goal, Gomez is far from being immobile.
Much like young defenders, Gomez seems to have the tendency to be reckless. He can get dragged out of position, which could leave Romagnoli severely exposed. On instances, he also can lose a footrace to a quicker opponent, a concern for consideration if Vincenzo Montella intends to play a high-line of defense. The lack of European experience is another concern. Conflicting styles of football might prove to be a challenge for the youngster.
In a market hungry for quality young centre-backs, Gomez’s transfer to Milan remained uncontested. If he really is as good as they say he is, why didn’t other European teams queue in to sign him?
Milan’s roster isn’t lacking in talented, young defenders. Rodrigo Ely and Jherson Vergera continue to be contracted to Milan. Raw as they may be, the signing of Gomez surely delays their chance of breaking into the first-team. Whether Milan persevere to bring Mateo Musacchio to San Siro remains to be seen. The team requires some experience at the back, particularly with the understandable naivety of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Romagnoli. The next three weeks of the mercato will be crucial for Milan.