MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan have a tough match at Atalanta on Sunday yet there appears to be more focus on how the club will perform in the upcoming January transfer window following a miserable first half of the season.
There has already been one coaching change at the club this season, with Marco Giampaolo having been sacked after only seven games, while new signings have failed to make an impact and players already at the club have suffered a loss of form compared to last term.
Milan, who have not won a major trophy for eight years and are in their sixth successive season without Champions League football, are a modest 10th in Serie A with 21 points from 16 games.
Meanwhile, their opponents in Sunday’s early kickoff are enjoying a debut season in the Champions League, where they have reached the last 16, and are sixth in Serie A, seven points better off than Milan.
The transfer rumour mill has already cranked into action with several media reports suggesting that Milan are chasing 19-year-old French defender Jean-Clair Todibo, currently at Barcelona, and have joined the race to sign Salzburg’s prodigious Norwegian striker Erling Haaland.
Several Italian media reports on Thursday also said that Milan might be prepared to offload striker Ante Rebic who has played only 177 minutes, split over seven games, and failed to score since joining on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt.
Portuguese forward Rafael Leao has managed one goal in 12 outings, a rather poor return for the 23 million euros ($25.59 million) Milan paid to Lille for him, and Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer has struggled to make an impact since his move from Empoli.
But the biggest criticism has been reserved for attacking midfielder Suso and forward Krzysztof Piatek.
Suso was jeered off the pitch during Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Sassuolo following an ineffective display in which he repeatedly ran into dead ends, not helped by an over-dependence on his left foot.
The Spaniard occasionally shows flashes of inspiration, such as a free kick he scored in the 1-0 win over SPAL, but has already frustrated coach Stefano Pioli.
“He is a great quality player, I think he can do more,” said Pioli after the SPAL game. “I’m happy to have players with these characteristics but we have to start thinking as a team, not as individuals.”
Piatek made an instant impact when he joined Milan from Genoa in January, scoring five goals in his first four league appearances, but has failed to keep that up and has managed four goals all season.
Pioli, however, stood up for the Pole after Sunday’s match. “The media said Krzysztof Piatek was our saviour after he scored against Bologna, now people are going to criticise again, but they need to be more balanced overall in their evaluation,” he said. “It’s not just him, everyone needs to do better.”
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Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis