Three players Milan can afford to axe in January with view of improving squad

Pioli AC Milan

The Milan hierarchy have big decisions to make this month in a bid to salvage this season and ensure we’re in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A.

After 17 games, the Rossoneri sit down in 11th place in the table, 14 points adrift of fourth-placed Roma as we have our work cut out if we’re to close that gap and put ourselves in a position to compete for Champions League qualification.

SEE MORE: How Milan could line up with Ibrahimovic: Key sacrifice, balance needed in attack

While there have been improvements since Stefano Pioli took over from Marco Giampaolo, it’s not been enough to significantly improve our situation, and so it could ultimately come down to who arrives in the January transfer window to give us a boost in the second half of the campaign.

As confirmed by the club, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return for a second spell after agreeing terms, and so it remains to be seen who follows him through the door at Milanello to give us a boost.

While that’s one key aspect of the transfer window, another will be who departs, as the squad can seemingly be trimmed. That in turn could put us in a better position to improve moving forward by having more financial flexibility and space in the squad to make moves.

Ricardo Rodriguez

One thing that is clear now is that the left-back/left wing-back role belongs to Theo Hernandez. Such has been his impact since his summer arrival, there is no question that he’s become one of the most important players in the side already.

It could be argued that we still need a competent back-up option in his absence, and Rodriguez offers that with his quality and experience.

However, his limited game and now expendable status in the squad perhaps makes him a sellable asset, with the Daily Mail noting that Watford could launch a bid to sign him this month.

As per Goal.com, it was reported that he joined in a deal worth around €17m, and while it’s hard to see how his valuation would have dramatically dropped over the past two years, we could still get a decent fee for the Swiss international to put towards a more affordable cover option and invest elsewhere too.

Fabio Borini

The 28-year-old’s desire, commitment and determination can never be questioned, as he has given everything for the Milan shirt each time he has taken to the pitch.

However, that only gets you so far and unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been able to match that with quality on the ball regardless of where he has been deployed on the pitch given his impressive versatility.

If Milan want to take steps forward, players like Borini need to be a thing of the past and with the Evening Standard noting that Crystal Palace are keen on a January deal, now is the time to get him off the books.

Borini has made just two appearances so far this season, totalling 70 minutes of playing time. If he’s not even offering something off the bench anymore, it’s best for all for him to move on.

Samu Castillejo/Ante Rebic

Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu have seemingly established themselves as almost immovable objects when it comes to the starting XI, as they have constantly occupied the two wide positions in our usual 4-3-3 system irrespective of form.

Rafael Leao has flirted with the idea of making the left wing his own but his inconsistency has been a problem so far this season, while with Ibrahimovic joining and Milan surely still looking to get the best out of Krzysztof Piatek again rather than offloading him, it creates an overload in attack.

Giacomo Bonaventura can also be deployed on the left if needs be, and so it begs the question as to where and how either Castillejo or Rebic fit in with at least one of them surely set for the axe.

Between them, they have made 15 appearances in Serie A so far this season, and that is with limited playing time in largely run outs off the bench in the latter stages of games.

As per La Gazzetta dello Sport, it has been suggested that Rebic’s loan spell could be cut short, especially now that we’ve landed Ibrahimovic, while in contrast there hasn’t been a great deal of chatter over Castillejo’s future, which is a surprise given his lack of contribution.

Pianeta Milan note that the Rossoneri could have a conundrum when it comes to the Spaniard in terms of avoiding making a loss on him, but if he isn’t producing on the pitch, we have to start looking for more quality that can take us forward.

Notable mentions

Despite impressing in pre-season, youngster Matteo Gabbia hasn’t been able to build on that and break into the side so far this year. With that in mind, a loan spell could perhaps be beneficial for all parties to allow him a chance to continue to improve and develop his game.

Lucas Biglia has arguably also become expendable to an extent, but a January exit would seem a little risky given the lack of options behind Ismael Bennacer in the regista role. In turn, perhaps waiting until the summer when his contract expires would be the smart move regarding the Argentine stalwart.

Elsewhere, with the likes of Suso, Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie continuing to underperform, question marks could be raised over their respective futures at Milan. Meanwhile, MilanNews note how Lucas Paqueta has also been linked with an exit, but there is surely still a case to be made for the Brazilian to be given more time to come good.