Any Milan fans hoping for a marquee signing or a 'Mister X' may end up disappointed come August.It's mid-June and AC Milan has already locked down its mega-signing of the summer: Thiago Silva.
Try to forget that Milan already employed the Brazilian. Rossoneri brass was busy back-patting and congratulating itself after publicly turning down a mega-offer of 46 million euros from Paris Saint-Germain for Thiago Silva.
"The fans should thank president Berlusconi," boot-licked vice president Adriano Galliani. "What he did was an act of heroism."
"Silvio Berlusconi's old Milanista heart allowed us to say no," Silvio Berlusconi said. Aside from talking about himself in the third person, Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, has a knack for politics and public image.
Playing out the entire transfer ordeal overtly allowed the 75-year-old to swoop in dramatically at the last moment (Milan Channel claims all the paperwork was prepared and ready to be processed) and vaingloriously nix the deal. It also allowed him opportunity to grumble about his recent economic misfortunes and Milan's debt, in case you had a spare dollop of pity or a teary kerchief for the poor billionaire.
Closely examining an offer as large 46 million euros (a number provided by Berlusconi) makes sense. Any financially responsible team would. The issue is that the whole ordeal tastes as sickeningly sweet as last year's "Mister X" PR campaign. Galliani talked extensively through the summer about a Mister X, a marquee signing who would join deep into the transfer window. He leaked details about height, eye color and cleat size. And then no one ever came.
Given that Milan has already made its hubbub and fanfare, don't expect any big signings this year either.
This entire mess will only unsettle Thiago Silva, whose agent is surely already working on bringing his current salary closer to the reported nine to 12 million euros annually offered by PSG. Immediately before joining Brazil on a mini-tour of the United States, the 27-year-old talked about how pleased he was that the club – via Galliani – recommitted its desire to keep him. Now he knows he's just an asset against managed debt.
|"Thiago cannot be replaced. He's 50 percent of the team. Without Thiago the best we can do is compete for CL-qualifying positions."
- Antonio Cassano
Galliani mentioned that part of the reason Milan turned down the deal is that there were no adequate replacements on the market. (Reports linked the team with Vasco da Gama's hulking defender Dede.) Of course there are no satisfactory replacements. According to Leonardo, Milan's former coach and current PSG director of football, Thiago Silva is "the best defender in the world."
Both Franco Baresi, one of two players to have his jersey number retired by Milan, and Alessandro Nesta pinpointed the 27-year-old as their heir.
"Thiago cannot be replaced. He's 50 percent of the team," Antonio Cassano bluntly said. "The administration needs to be very clear with us regarding what our objectives for next season are. Without Thiago the best we can do is compete for CL-qualifying positions."
Milan's system post-Andrea Pirlo is built around Thiago Silva. His precise long distribution allows Massimiliano Allegri to field a series of clobber-mongers in midfield and let the Brazilian worry about providing Zlatan Ibrahimovic with service. Of anyone who started a league game, Thiago Silva led the team in passing accuracy (91 percent) and accurate long balls per game (10.9). He was second in passes per game (60, behind PSV-bound Mark van Bommel).
This passing ability comes on top of his defensive duties (3.4 interceptions per game and 6.9 clearances a game, both team highs), and likely puts Thiago Silva slightly ahead of Gerard Pique as the world waits for the emergence the next truly great defender.
(All stats come from Opta, via whoscored.com.)
Here's a more concrete example of the six-foot center back's influence. Thiago Silva rushed himself back from a muscular problem to play against Roma toward the end of the season, and only ended up aggravating the injury. Milan had a four point lead atop the Serie A table at the time. Nine Silva-less games later, Juventus won the Scudetto by four clear points.
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On a roster where club longevity determines the captaincy, Silva has somehow already leapfrogged Alexandre Pato in the armband hierarchy. After Nesta's departure, Thiago Silva told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I want to stay here and I dream of becoming a 'bandiera' for the club like Alessandro Nesta was." Literally: flag. An icon, a symbol.
Perhaps the example of the last foreign bandiera at Milan will prove instructive, then.
In January 2009, Kaka turned down a ridiculous amount of money from Manchester City in a hugely-publicized transfer negotiation. In a perfect photo opp, he leaned out the window of his apartment in Milan and waved his jersey. "When I heard he would prefer to stay I said 'hooray' and we hugged," Berlusconi said.
That summer Kaka joined Real Madrid.