Milan need to sell Carlos Bacca to spark new era under Yonghong Li
It's been a whirlwind week for AC Milan following Yonghong Li's takeover of the club followed by the drama of the Derby della Madonnina. As things begin to settle, work is underway to start shaping the future of the club under its new ownership.
From meetings with Vincenzo Montella to promises over prioritising renewals for key players and identifying ideal summer transfer targets, there will be no time for Li and his hierarchy to bask in the glory of running their own European powerhouse.
Instead, CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli met with the Milan coach on Tuesday night as they begin to plot the best way to go about strengthening this squad.
As expected, a whole host of names have been linked with a move to the San Siro this summer, and for Milan supporters, it's pretty clear what areas need to be addressed. While a central defensive partner for Alessio Romagnoli and a midfield star are essential, it has become progressively clear this season that Montella needs to replace Carlos Bacca.
It's worth starting by noting that the Colombian international is a top player. Having topped the goalscoring charts at Milan last season with 18 in Serie A, combined with a further 13 this season, it's clear that he's been the most consistent source of goals for the club.
That aside, the negatives ultimately outweigh the positives and while in an ideal world he would be more effective and a focal point in this team, the Rossoneri must surely acknowledge there are better suited options out there who would excel in Montella's team moving forward.
Whether it's his poor reaction to coming off in games and his overall body language on the pitch or falling out with Montella. Couple that with his inability to hold up play or link attacks together, if Bacca isn't scoring consistently then he is a liability in this team.
Further, his goals have been far from consistent this season, and glaring misses such as the one seen in the opening minute against Inter last Saturday are becoming more frequent. With just seven assists in 71 games for the Rossoneri, coupled with a growing habit of not being in the right place at the right time, what is he really contributing to the team? If goals are all he hangs his hat on, in the modern-day game you need much more from your first-choice marksman.
Whether it's a confidence problem, a lack of chemistry with his teammates or simply just an inability to find his feet in this system, it's not working well enough for Bacca up front and Montella must sign a replacement for him this summer.
Admittedly, his current competition in Gianluca Lapadula hasn't scored the goals to suggest that he should take his spot in the starting lineup. However, what the Italian offers is an aggression and tirelessness in his performances, which gives his teammates a lift.
With Lapadula pressing from the front, the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso are inclined to push further up and assert similar pressure and the knock-on effect runs right through the team, which helps them significantly off the ball.
Bacca's attitude and approach certainly improved last month, and he showed that he is willing to make sacrifices for the team while his clever runs show that he can still be a real threat. However, those positive moments are too few and far between. Does the 30-year-old inspire his teammates to grab games and win at all costs? Does he possess the leadership and flair to lead by example from the front? If Milan want to be a serious contender moving forward, Bacca isn't the man to lead the line and it's more than likely he won't be content with a bit-part role.
With Montella finally given the financial freedom to bolster his squad, he will surely identify a player that can be so much more effective in both phases of the game on a regular basis.
That is the theme across the board for the transfer window this summer too. Milan should have money to spend, and countless targets are supposedly on their shortlist. As we've seen with individuals he's brought in thus far, the Italian tactician knows what he needs and understands what he's trying to build.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.