By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
Adriano Galliani called it “an act of heroism” when Silvio Berlusconi put the kibosh on Thiago Silva’s move to Paris Saint-Germain last month. But with the Brazilian having departed for the romance capital on Saturday, AC Milan are left with a significant lack of heroes both on the pitch and in the boardroom, and they have a huge job on their hands if they are to provide any kind of challenge in 2012-13.
The €42 million sale of the world’s best defender was an act of prudence. All thoughts of heroism were banished. At a time when the globe’s entire population is dipping into its penny jar for extra resources, the Rossoneri had certainly harboured hopes of keeping Thiago Silva for five more years. But with his €12m gross salary came huge responsibility, and the total wage burden plus transfer fee made for a €102m payday that Milan couldn’t afford to ignore.
But while the appetite of the bank manager may be sated by the switch, there is a very real need for Galliani to make some clever moves on the transfer market in order to even start plugging the considerable gap left behind by the 27-year-old’s departure. Not only have they lost a great defender, a leader, and a band aid which patched up many a failing elsewhere in the first team over the last few years, but they are now also lacking the one final bargaining chip they had in any attempts they were making to persuade Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stay.
The Swede warned during Euro 2012 that a club aiming high would always look to keep players such as Thiago Silva, and intimated his future may lie elsewhere if the Brazilian were to move on. Now that that is a reality, it will be a matter of time before Ibrahimovic is a goner too. Whether he holds on long enough for Manchester City to snap him up, or takes the immediate offer of a switch to Paris is still to be determined, but his days in a Milan shirt are over.
THIAGO SILVA | ALL-TIME AC MILAN STATS
With Thiago Silva gone, the Diavolo have lost their status – at least momentarily – as a club built around heroes. No more Nesta, Seedorf, Inzaghi, Gattuso and Thiago Silva. And before long, no Ibra. Even Berlusconi, a month on from being hailed by his right-hand man, has been shown to be a victim of the times. Six months ago, he also halted the plan to sell Alexandre Pato to PSG, but this time around he was unable to stand his ground.
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Once Ibrahimovic leaves by the same door Thiago Silva was bundled out of, the club will have a fair chunk to spend from the €170m-plus they will have made from the pair’s transfer fees and salaries. After they have put some of the cash towards their debt, moves will be made to bring in the next generation of Rossoneri.
Names such as Dede, Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez and Mattia Destro have been mentioned, but can they really be expected to make the immediate impact necessary for the club to harbour hopes of a successful 2012-13 season?
What Milan need now is realism. Without Thiago Silva, there will be no more comfort blanket for the likes of Philippe Mexes, Luca Antonini and Daniele Bonera, who often fell back on the Brazilian when they came up short in big games. The squad is much thinner than it was last term, but is now shockingly bereft of quality too. This is not a club gearing up for a title challenge, much less a tilt at the Champions League.
When Thiago Silva pulled up with a hamstring injury four days before Milan met Barcelona in March, the entire crowd fell silent, knowing their task had just got 50 per cent tougher. This season, they may well have that feeling every single week as one of Italy’s revered giants adapts to life without its brightest of stars.