AC Milan central defender Alessio Romagnoli has some very big shoes to fill when taking over the illustrious No.13 shirt at the San Siro.
Former incumbent Alessandro Nesta made 326 appearances in all competitions for AC Milan over the course of a decade, whilst in the process of claiming myriad major honours including two Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies.
Italian Under-21 international Romagnoli made his debut for previous club AS Roma in December 2012 as a raw teenager, then developed sufficiently during a season-long stay at Sampdoria in 2014-15 to command a whopping €25 million [£17.7m] purchase price.
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New AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was his boss at Samp during a highly successful loan stint last term, which saw the talented 20-year-old make 30 league appearances, as the Blucerchiati came 7th in the Serie A standings.
The elegant centre-back showcased a cultured left foot, while being supreme in the air, plus he can also fill in at left-back when required; the comparisons with legendary predecessor Nesta are striking.
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Donning the No.13 jersey worn by the Azzurri legend is commendable, but allied to the hefty transfer fee paid for his services, it places a huge amount of pressure upon inexperienced shoulders.
Vice-president Adriano Galliani has been flying here, there and everywhere throughout the summer in his attempts to restore the Milan giants to their former glory.
Big money has also been shelled out for the likes of Carlos Bacca from Sevilla and Roma’s Andrea Bertolacci, while there has been constant speculation over a sensational return to the club for Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
All of that furious transfer activity has raised expectations following two utterly disappointing campaigns for the Rossoneri faithful, who were forced to witness an awful 10th-place finish last season, which including 12 Serie A defeats.
Now the merry band of recruits will be tasked with dragging AC Milan back into the mix for the Scudetto – or qualifying for European football at the absolute minimum.
But, with heavy financial investment made by rivals Inter Milan, Roma and Juventus over the last couple of months, the Diavolo have no divine right to expect a sudden surge in form that would see them challenging at the pinnacle again so soon.
Romagnoli is central to the long-term plan under Mihajlovic, who will bank on the starlet’s athleticism and calming influence to bring about an improvement in a rocky defence which leaked 50 goals in 2014-15.
Only six sides scored more than Milan [56 league goals] during last season, which suggests that a little more organisation could go a very long way indeed.
Coach Mihajlovic is renowned for prioritising defensive solidity over most other attributes, and his new signing from Roma is integral to the instillation of that approach, having worked together in the recent past.
However, the Serb tactician can only hope that the oppressive factor instigated by Romagnoli’s brave choice of squad number won’t cause his young charge to crumble.
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