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Adriano Galliani, the general manager of AC Milan, thought they had a deal for Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia wrapped up before they saw him unveiled in the blue and black stripes of city rivals Inter.
Just like I Rossoneri thought Porto’s Jackson Martinez was joining them before he chose to move to Atletico Madrid, it would have been particularly galling to miss out on Kondogbia whom they, according to Galliani, had a deal in place for a couple of hours before Inter completed a deal for €40 million.
Following Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol’s 48 percent takeover, AC Milan supporters were optimistic that, with Galliani chasing two high-profile targets, there would be a reversal of fortune from the past couple of years of thrift and struggle.
There was hope that Taechaubol’s €485 million investment would boost a club whose recent seasons of decline, they have finished 8th and 10th in the past two seasons after winning the Scudetto in 2011, has seen them adjust their belts accordingly.
Rejection from two players who would have certainly announced their intent to return to operating at the higher end of the market would have been hard to take, but they also experienced former manager Carlo Ancelotti turning them down as he preferred to take a break from the game instead of succeeding Filippo Inzaghi.
It was a difficult summer for Galliani but he did manage to complete deals for Carlos Bacca, the Colombian who hit 49 goals in two seasons at Sevilla, Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci both from Roma and a clever £5.6 million signing of Shakhtar Donetsk’s free-scoring Luiz Adriano.
Mario Balotelli was rescued from Liverpool on a loan deal that included military-style clauses in his contract in an attempt to avoid becoming one of the long list of clubs who have regretted offering the Italian on olive branch.
It may have lacked a heavyweight acquisition in the form of Kondogbia or Martinez but for Galliani, criticised in recent years for failing to replicate the success of Juventus’s Giuseppe Marotta, for example, who brought great success to the club by operating on shrewd deals for the likes of Carlos Tevez and free transfers for the likes of Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo, it would still have represented a summer of respectable business, building a decent enough squad for new manager Sinisa Mihaljovic to work with.
Kucka instead of Kondogbia
Having missed out on Kondogbia for the extraordinary amount of money that has taken him to Inter, Milan instead bolstered their midfield unit with Bertolacci, for around half of what it would have taken to land Kondogbia, and a cut-price deal for Genoa’s Juraj Kucka who moves to the San Siro together with left-back Luca Antonelli.
Kucka arrives for £2.1 million and could turn out to be one of Serie A’s most impressive bargains for this campaign.
The 28 year old will be deemed an underwhelming alternative to Kondogbia but the Slovakian international will not only offer the destructive qualities of the Frenchman but the versatility that played a huge part in Genoa’s 6th place finish, four above Milan, last season under Gian Piero Gasperini.
Gasperini used Kucka primarily as an attacking midfielder but also as a striker, a winger and even as a defender.
Intelligent reader of the game
The technical ability and intelligent reading of the game that Kucka possesses, allowing him to move further forward to support attacks rather than remain in his defensive midfield station will be a positive asset for Mihajlovic who, with Bertolacci also on board, will look to his midfield to create more chances as they finished 19th out of the 20 Serie A clubs in terms of chances created last term.
They will both aid Keisuke Honda, who has so far struggled at the San Siro since joining in January, as well as, with Mihajlovic setting up in a 4-3-1-2 for the first two matches of this season, Nigel De Jong who is limited with his transitional play.
The scope of Kucka’s industry and vision has certainly been a help for Slovakia’s national side as Marek Hamsik has seen his form improve with the midfielder sitting behind him. “Now he (Hamsik) has improved thanks to Kucka’s contribution. Juraj wins a lot of balls and can also support the attacks,” Slovakian journalist Lukas Vrabik told ESPN.
Interest from major European clubs
Former Genoa coach Davide Ballardini said Kucka was “worthy of Real Madrid or Barcelona” when attributing his team’s good form to the Slovakian back in 2013. Then Liverpool became interested, but a move eventually didn’t work out.
Now he has finally been given a chance to play at one of Europe’s more established clubs and it bodes well for Kucka as he prepares for next year’s European Championships in France with Slovakia on the brink of qualifying owing partly to the midfielder’s commanding performances, most notably in the 2-1 home win over Spain where he netted the opening goal.
Repeat that kind of performance on a regular basis for Milan and the gut-wrenching feeling of missing out on Kondogbia as he was unveiled in the shirt of rivals Inter will soon be forgotten.
Kucka is likely to begin as a rotation option as Mihajlovic juggles with the presence with Andrea Poli, Riccardo Montolivo, Antonio Nocerino and Giacomo Bonaventura as well as De Jong and Bertolacci in his over-populated midfield, but the Slovakian has taken pride in proving people wrong to establish himself against the odds before.
Do it at Milan and the €3 million spent by Galliani after missing out on Kondogbia will prove that not all setbacks are disasters.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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