By Kris Voakes
So much has already been said about AC Milan since Philippe Mexes' Champions League-clinching goal at Siena in mid-May but the market is only just beginning to take shape for the Rossoneri.
After a rollercoaster of a season in which Milan look dead and buried, then unbeatable, then nervous as the weeks ran out towards the final stages, it is clear that some strengthening of the squad needs to take place to avoid another such campaign next time around. The elevation to superstardom of Stephan El Shaarawy was something of a one-off and a much more considered assault must take place in 2013-14.
But they at least have that vital play-off spot in Europe going in their favour, meaning that they can aim high in their recruitment of players in the genuine hope of being able to offer Champions League group stage football come September.
Goal looks at the potential comings and goings to see how Milan may make changes over the coming summer.
As Milan look to plug gaps from last season, fans will likely be pleased to see them looking at all areas of the field for improvements. In midfield in particular, they are aiming to heed the words of president Silvio Berlusconi with the addition of a couple of players with real flair.
Riccardo Saponara has already been added to the ranks after his January signing from Empoli and he will make the move up to Lombardy this summer after being the key man on the ball in the Tuscan side's near-miss in the promotion race this season. To go alongside his signing, the club are also taking a long look at Torino winger Alessio Cerci. With Allegri and Galliani having both suggested there will be a change of shape ahead of the new season, the Italy international is being considered to fill the slot of an out-and-out wide player the like of which Milan haven't been able to boast in many years.
Further midfield additions are on the cards, with Sampdoria's Andrea Poli the chief target. The Ligurian outfit confirmed this week that they have opened talks with Milan over a €6.5 million move, with Doria director Carlo Osti saying discussions have reached an "advanced stage." Another possible addition in the centre is Cagliari's Radja Nainggolan, although such a transfer would only be explored as an alternative should the Poli move not transpire, and Genoa's Juraj Kucka could also be ahead of the Belgian in the pecking order after the Grifone entered preliminary talks with Milan over the midfielder in March.
At the back, Cristian Zapata has been confirmed as a full signing while there are a number of other possibilities for the Rossoneri ahead of the coming campaign. Former Milan youth defender Davide Astori has regularly been linked with a return to the club and he is once again drawing admiring glances after a positive season with Cagliari. The retention of his former coach at Via Turati means that the chances of him making the trip back to Lombardy are high, but if the deal does not go through then Milan are likely to turn their attentions to hijacking Juventus' bid for Torino and Italy centre-back Angelo Ogbonna. Another consideration is Juve's out-of-favour left back Paolo De Ceglie, while Renato Civelli of Nice has also been discussed within the corridors of power as a potential addition to the back line.
With the forward department currently boasting names such as Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy, M'Baye Niang and Giampaolo Pazzini, it comes as no surprise that this is the area Milan are least concerned about strengthening. However, with Pazzini facing a lay-off, they have looked into the possibility of signing Parma's Ishak Belfodil to adds quality in depth to the striking stock at hand.
The jokes about Milanello resembling a retirement home have slowly but surely begun to dissipate over the last couple of years and there will be further moves to bring down the average age in the summer ahead.
The 37-year-old Mario Yepes has already been announced as a departee following the expiration of his three-year contract, while club captain Massimo Ambrosini, 36, has not yet persuaded the club hierarchy to offer him an extension to his expiring deal.
Elsewhere there is little fat to be trimmed after the huge cull of last summer which saw experienced heads such including Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi join Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in leaving the club. One addition since those times, Cristian Zaccardo, has been told by the Rossoneri that he is welcome to return to Parma after arriving in January only to sit out all but 45 minutes of the last four months of the season.
Others who will leave include Bojan Krkic, whose loan from Barcelona will not be renewed, and Didac Vila, who has appeared in Milan colours only once since arriving at the club two and a half years ago. Loyal servant Luca Antonini could be used as a makeweight in a transfer after failing to appear in the second half of the season following the rise to prominence of Kevin Constant and Mattia De Sciglio in the left-back slot.
Massimiliano Allegri's future has been the source of a great deal of rumour and conjecture in recent months. After being allowed to continue in the head coach role despite a nightmare start to the 2012-13 season, the former Cagliari boss reined the situation back in and led the Rossoneri to the Champions League play-off spot in dramatic style.
However, that late win against Siena on the final day appeared set to be his last when Berlusconi seemed to confirm that Allegri was heading for Roma. But. after Clarence Seedorf had been tipped in many quarters to be the new Milan boss come 2013-14, the confusion over the club president's quote was cleared up and it now seems certain that Allegri will continue to lead Milan.
"The rapport with the coach, which has never been interrupted, continues with faith and in absolute reciprocal respect," said Berlusconi after a meeting with Allegri and CEO Adriano Galliani, but he also added the warning that the team must improve their style on the pitch. "We talked about the type of football that Milan must play," added the former prime minister of Italy.
When Milan needed refreshing in 2010-11, Silvio Berlusconi went out and signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho in the space of three days. The result was that the Rossoneri suddenly had the best team in the country. Three years on, it is clear that such moves can no longer be permitted given the current economic outlook of the club.
But while they cannot aim for the biggest of stars right now, they still have a great deal of influence when it comes to pipping most clubs to promising players and the signing of Saponara helps to back up that point. With strengthening in the right areas, Milan can realistically improve on what at times was a torrid 2012-13 season, especially with Balotelli available for a full campaign, including in the Champions League.
There is undoubtedly a need to be more dynamic in midfield, and they have done well to identify players such as Cerci, Poli and Nainggolan as attainable targets who would bolster their current supplies, while greater authority is required in defence and that is also being looked at by Allegri and Galliani. Perhaps the only other area which needs some work is in goal, with Christian Abbiati not as agile as before and Marco Amelia a capable back-up but little more.
The outlook is generally good though and, while some Milanisti may be concerned by the lack of big-name pulling power, the club could be set for a very commendable summer on the market.