Why AC Milan may rue getting rid of Suso
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Marco Giampaolo's AC Milan era is underway. The ex-Sampdoria manager settled into his new role quite swiftly. As part of a major shakeup, Spanish midfielder Suso is expected to depart. This could ultimately backfire.
A drastic overhaul was anticipated at Milan after another underwhelming campaign. Gennaro Gattuso blew his primary mandate of reaching the Champions League, finishing in Serie A's fifth position. As well as missing Europe’s elite club competition for six successive seasons, the Rossoneri's eight-year trophy drought lingers.
Gattuso's model was dreaded. The Milanese weren't attractive to watch. Bereft of both fluidity and creativity, they epitomised dour, negative football. Pragmatic and effective at times, yet counter-productive more often than not. There was no pressure on the ball. Milan lacked momentum.
It was no surprise, then, in early May, Gattuso and Leonardo stepped aside as coach and sporting director respectively. The former donated his entire €5.5-million severance package to the club. Milan legends Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban joined as technical director and football officer. Together, they agreed on Giampaolo.
Although not the most decorated, the Swiss-born tactician arrived with a tested model. He had a concrete tactical approach along with a clear playing philosophy: beautiful, result-oriented football. This meant radical reform was to follow.
Giampaolo is famed for his 4-3-1-2 formation, alternating between a diamond and a triangle in midfield depending on the playmaker's characteristics. His team's general outlook is an organised and compact defence, a pressing and passing midfield and a clinical attack.
Giampaolo was, however, deprived the luxury his predecessors enjoyed in the transfer market due to Milan's Financial Fair Play breaches. To strengthen, he was forced to auction the club's most valued assets, ones who may not necessarily fit into his philosophy. Patrick Cutrone and Suso topped that list.
While Italy international Cutrone has since been hurried to the Premier League, Milan don't seem to know what to do with their four-time capped Spaniard. Giampaolo is having a second thought due to Suso proving he can achieve what's asked in pre-season.
The 25-year-old slotted in behind the frontmen, playing particularly well in the International Champions Cup games against Benfica and Manchester United. Either as a trequartista or a second striker, Suso demonstrated the dynamics and versatility to play anywhere in attack.
Indeed the quick-footed La Roja star is more comfortable on the flank, allowing him to cut inside on his favoured left foot to fashion chances or drive at goal. He shuttles past defenders with his balletic dribbling, always looking for a smart exchange of passes to open up space in the final third.
Suso possesses a powerful shot and has grown in confidence to try his luck from around the edge of the box. He can create something from nothing. The Cadiz-born is probably Milan's most creative player. He assisted nine times in last season's Serie A while bagging seven goals.
For his part, Suso admitted he always considered himself a number 10. From Liverpool through Almeria and Genoa, his willingness to adapt makes him an important asset to Milan. In the middle, he will draw attention by looking to move or pass inward rather than out to the wing. This allows his more advanced team-mates to make runs behind what is a preoccupied defensive line.
Those attributes will be sorely missed if Suso departs. Milan must keep him.