He was dubbed one of the greatest prospects of Italian football of the late 1980’s, Gianluigi Lentini became the most expensive player in the world when AC Milan bought him from Torino. Known for his speed, agility and technique, Lentini shares a lot in common with Alessio Cerci, the Italian winger set to join AC Milan from Atletico Madrid.
The career of Gianluigi Lentini was hampered by a serious car accident, which had lasting effects on his ability on the football field. Cerci’s career is unlikely to be effected in the same way, but a move to the San Siro could have a negative outcome for the 27-year-old, or it could be the most important move of his life.
Cerci is a modern day superstar footballer, with all the baggage that has come to be associated with such a player. His moments of brilliance are intertwined with incidents of frustration and indiscipline. Although not as prevalent as his international compatriot Mario Balotelli, Cerci still has an attitude to suggest he believes in his own self-importance.
AC Milan will be inheriting a very good player, but one that they will need to curb. The deal consists of a two-year loan which minimizes the risk for AC Milan, but any indiscipline and the Rossoneri won’t be adverse to terminating the loan.
His arrival has had an instant impact on Keisuke Honda, who has departed for the Asia Cup until the end of January. Both play in similar positions but in very different ways, with Cerci playing in a more attacking fashion. With the Italian international allowed the freedom of January to cement his place in the team, Honda could find himself bereft of a starting-spot. The signing of Cerci could also curtail the arrival of Liverpool midfielder Suso, who could still join the Rossoneri in the summer.
AC Milan have sent out a more profound statement then simply signing Cerci: it confirms their commitment to a False No.9 strategy. Coach Filippo Inzaghi has been experimenting with his side since the start of the season, with Jeremy Menez at the centre of his plans. The Frenchman has played some of his best football as a withdrawn striker, keeping both Giampaolo Pazzini and Fernando Torres out of the picture.
The arrival of Cerci will not pose any threat to Menez’s position initially, as he most likely give his former Roma teammate support from the right wing. However once Honda returns, Inzaghi will be under pressure to experiment with Cerci in the centre, particularly as this has worked well for the Italian forward in previous teams.
The return of Cerci to Serie A will be something worth celebrating. Having fully established his status at Torino, the 27-year-old has grown into a tribute of his generation, promoting the prestige and quality of Italian football. His trickery, excellent first touch and sublime finishing have kept fans intrigued for years, hoping for more. Perhaps AC Milan fans will be privileged enough to see the final product.
Follow Louis Gibberd-Thomas on Twitter: @mercutio156