Why re-emergence of key Milan ace is crucial for Pioli moving forward

If we even needed a reminder of how important Giacomo Bonaventura can still be for Milan, he provided one with a stunning goal in the 1-1 draw with Napoli.

While it wasn’t enough to help us secure all three points in a vital game, it was an individual bit of magic that was much-needed for all concerned to give us a timely lift.

SEE MORE: Five key talking points as Milan held by Napoli amid delight for Bonaventura

Given the injury nightmare that the 30-year-old has been through, there is still an ongoing concern over his ability to now avoid further setbacks.

Bonaventura made just 22 appearances in the 2016/17 campaign, and while he came back strong the following year, he was limited to just 10 outings last season as injuries certainly took their toll and raised question marks over his ability to come back as the same player.

From a string of muscle problems to then undergoing knee surgery last year which kept him sidelined for 224 days and forced him to miss 32 games, it was a devastating setback for Bonaventura, and his absence was brutally obvious in the side as it could be argued he was the difference in claiming or missing out on fourth spot last year.

With his current contract set to expire next summer, it’s now a hugely important period for the playmaker, as although we know he has the talent and ability to be a leading figure for us when fit, he surely has to prove it on the pitch on a consistent basis to fully convince the hierarchy that he’s still got it in order to earn a new deal.

Fortunately, it looks as though he’s starting to find his feet just in time, as having now featured in the last four consecutive games, albeit the draw with Napoli was the only outing in which he completed 90 minutes, there are positive signs that he’s starting to not only avoid further setbacks but is also getting his match fitness back and proving he can make a key impact when involved.

His versatility will allow him to feature in various positions depending on whether Stefano Pioli wishes to bring Hakan Calhanoglu back into the side next week after the Turkish international missed out due to suspension on Saturday.

However, it’s not only Bonaventura’s technical quality and creativity on the ball coupled with his work ethic and commitment to putting in a defensive shift that makes him a stand-out player for us, but it’s his overall intelligence that he shows on the pitch which sets him apart from his teammates.

Rarely does he make the wrong decision in terms of playing the right pass or the right movement off the ball or finding the right pockets of space to make an impact. His awareness and tactical brain shows that he has an obvious intellect to make the difference even in more subtle ways, and it’s imperative that Milan get him back at 100% for the remainder of the season.

It’s been a case at times and even against Napoli where perhaps his legs and fitness still haven’t quite caught up with the vision in his head of what he’s trying to do. However, with more playing time, we’ll no doubt see that improve as the weeks go on and Bonaventura will hopefully play his way into securing an extended stay with Milan beyond this season.