Milan face attacking midfielder dilemma: here are 7 options Mihajlovic should consider


An issue that has been discussed a lot by Milanisti so far in the closed season is the existence of a position behind the strikers in which there are several options as to who can fill the gap.

It is fair to call said position the ‘central attacking midfield’ role, or perhaps even the ‘centre forward’ role, depending on what the game dictates, and one quick glance down the Milan squad list throws up several possible candidate.

Of course, this article is all based on the assumption (a very solid one at that) that Mihajlovic will be playing the 4-3-1-2 formation for the start of the season, something which he has expressed is the case on several occasions.

There is an element of positivity about this debate, because all of the players who can play there each have their own skill set and unique ability that elevate their warrant to a place in the team. There are no two midfielders in the team that are really alike, which will be very encouraging for Sinisa Mihajlovic as he continues to search for the perfect formula.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at who could play behind the two strikers and what they could bring to the balance of the team.

Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

1. Keisuke Honda

It is important to start with those who are more naturally suited for the role, which Honda (as a natural CAM) certainly is.

Seemingly, Honda is a player who bears the brunt of plenty of criticism from Milan supporters as someone who perhaps isn’t productive enough given his roles as both a playmaker and a winger.

Last season, in 29 games and 2148 minutes (just under 75 minutes per game), he amassed six goals and five assists. He played two games as an attacking midfielder, the rest were as a right-winger.

It may be difficult to forget the contribution that Keisuke made last season purely because he got it all out of the way in the opening seven games. After scoring the first goal of the season for Milan at home to Lazio, he then netted against Parma, Empoli, Chievo and Hellas (twice) as he was the team’s top scorer after seven games.

Keisuke is a player who is always capable of picking a pass and carrying a goal scoring threat, but is also very dependent on confidence and rhythm in order to produce, as evidenced by the way he started last season compared to how he finished.

A typical playmaker style from a bygone era, Honda is not dependant on pace, and his low centre of gravity means that he is successful with penetrating dribbles in key phases of the pitch. This alone makes me think that Keisuke could be the right player for the job, but yet again it boils down to how consistently he can get those goals and assists, and that he doesn’t go on dry spells such as what we saw last season.

On paper, a midfield three of De Jong (slightly deeper) in the middle of Poli/Bonaventura and Bertolacci, with Honda in front of them as the juggernaut, looks great when all players are firing, and it is something that Mihajlovic will have certainly considered as a possible line-up for Milan next season.


2. Giacomo Bonaventura

One of the surprise packages of a pretty dismal 2014-15 season was the overall performance of Giacomo Bonaventura in his first season with the club. Purchased for just €7 million, there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on his shoulders as will be the case with players like Bertolacci, but ‘Jack’ still delivered good performances on a regular basis.

In 36 appearances in all competitions last season (two with Atalanta), Bonaventura scored seven goals and bagged five assists. The versatility which he provides was a huge bonus, as he alternated between left wing, central midfield and central attacking midfield.

Bonaventura, in my opinion, is one of the most well-rounded players in Serie A in terms of the abilities that he brings to the team, as is proved by the sheer number of positions he is more than adequate at playing in.

A composed player, the 25 year old provides great ball control due to his game time as a winger, and similarly to Honda, whilst he is not the quickest of players he has the skill to penetrate defenses and the football brain to be in the right place at the right time.

It is difficult to really put a finger on where Bonaventura’s true position is, however I feel that if he is to be deployed in a midfield three then it must be as a deep-lying playmaker rather than being relied on for his not yet up to scratch defensive ability (which he could develop over time).

As an attacking midfielder between the midfield three and front two, however, I feel he possesses the composure and decision making skills to at least be given a go. The only thing that worries me slightly is his lack of pace, which could reduce the effectiveness of counter-attacks slightly. Of course, the same problem exists with Honda, but the Japanese international can pick a better pass at this moment in time in my view.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

3. Suso

Another player who was a pleasant surprise last season was Suso, a man who joined from Liverpool in the January window having failed to make an impression on Brendan Rodgers.

The Spaniard has only appeared in five games for Milan since arriving, playing just over 200 minutes and starting just twice. Despite this, he made a prompt impact upon Milan supporters due to his energy and enthusiasm, perhaps because he had something to prove to everyone including the club who put faith in him.

Naturally a right-winger, Suso is a very technical player who has all the typical qualities of a Spanish winger (without over generalizing) such as pace, incredible dribbling, a surprisingly explosive shot, skill and most importantly the audacity and intention to make things happen on the offensive side of the ball.

This alone suggests a rather easy transition into playing centrally, although I would express worries about his ability to work in a more crowded area of the park, as a natural winger is more used to space and looking to get the ball into dangerous areas of the pitch.

No doubt he has the ability to produce at CAM, and a lot of fans would like to see him given a shot without a place in the formation for a winger.

The only doubts I have about this lay on the defensive end of the ball, as playing with Suso is the acceptance of playing with a front three, due to the fact he offers little to no presence at the back. This isn’t his fault; it’s not his style or his responsibility, but who knows perhaps he can learn. The counter argument should be that a CAM/CF shouldn’t have to contribute on defence, although it would help.


4. Jeremy Menez

All the signs so far from Mihajlovic seem to point towards the Frenchman taking up the role behind the two forwards as a Trequartista.

Having joined on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in summer of last year, Menez scored 16 goals to become the top scorer for Milan in the 2014-15 season, although many would be quick to point out the number of penalty goals.

Criticized by a majority of Milanisti for being selfish on the ball and making poor decisions, Jeremy isn’t given the credit that his 2014-15 campaign deserves, as without his goals the situation under Inzaghi could have been considerably more bleak.

To me, there is something quite intriguing about the prospect of Menez playing in the centre-forward role. It is a position in which selfishness is almost expected, but players are required to contribute with goals and assists.

The former Roma man boasts impressive dribbling skills and clearly an eye for goal, and could have ended up with even more goals last season if he had the supporting cast.

That being said, Menez is guilty of contributing to his own downfalls as mentioned, with his decision making needing plenty of work to fulfill the role properly and efficiently.

With Jeremy injured and not able to be involved in any preseason action so far, we can’t really judge how adequately he can potentially play the position, but there will be plenty of opportunity to see what he can do.

Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

5. Andrea Bertolacci

Although Bertolacci seems destined to occupy one of the three midfield positions, it would be wrong not to consider him as an attacking midfielder given how he can play there if necessary.

Joining from Roma in July for €20million, there is a great deal of expectation on the young player’s shoulders, something which can only really work against him at this stage.

However, Bertolacci has the qualities to play as a playmaker behind two strikers, possessing accurate passing, decent dribbling and movement, but also an element of grit and strength that players like Suso, for example, don’t really offer.

Furthermore, although it is assumed that Andrea isn’t blessed with pace, the opposite is actually true. He doesn’t have the best acceleration, but once at top speed he can cause serious panic and damage the back line of opponents.

I do find this scenario highly unlikely though, because as mentioned he is preferred in the midfield, and having to then fill that place in midfield would be trickier than finding a natural CAM/CF.


6. Alessio Cerci

Again, this is a very unlikely possibility for a number of reasons, but Alessio Cerci has to be mentioned as Milan continue to search for a place for him.

Obviously a natural winger or a secondary striker, Cerci has the qualities to make an impact in games, yet for whatever reason has struggled since his arrival back in Serie A.

We all know the skill set he has; pace, dribbling, strength, shooting – everything that a winger should have. It could be argued that those skills should transfer into making a more than decent central attacking midfielder.

Contrary to this, it appears that Alessio will be used as a back-up striker, and if Menez plays as a Trequartista then he will probably be the third striker barring any new additions.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a long term solution, as after this season he will almost certainly be returned to Atletico Madrid, if the loan isn’t cancelled at any point before then.

Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images
Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The final option is easily the most exciting. At the time of writing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is about to make what is reported to be his last appearance for Paris Saint-Germain in the French Super Cup against Lyon.

All the talk in this mercato has been about a possible return for Zlatan, one of Rossoneri’s favourite sons. On July 24th, coach Mihajlovic described the Swede as “free to come” to Milan, which excited supporters.

Then, Ibra revealed that his next club would be “a big surprise”, which didn’t really make the situation any clearer but once again stirred the speculation once again.

Wherever he ends up (for what it’s worth I don’t think it will be Milan), Zlatan will bring so much. Not just on the field either; merchandise, ticket sales, media attention, everything associated with the most eccentric player in world football.

He would be perfect to play behind the strikers, no question. Some would say it is putting all the eggs in one basket, so to speak, and playing Bacca, Adriano and Ibrahimovic would limit our options from the bench.

It is important to think of the potential of the line-up though. The aforementioned front three supplied by Bertolacci, with Poli (or hopefully Witsel) and De Jong providing the defensive balance.

Never blessed with pace, Zlatan could slot into a role that allows him freedom to demonstrate all his class and composure. Feeding the front two, chipping in with his fair share of goals on the way.

It wouldn’t just be the on the field exploits though. Zlatan would bring an experienced head to the dressing room and the squad would move onto another level in terms of ‘fear factor’.

It is all speculation at this point, with more information likely after the Super Cup match.


Those are the seven players currently in the squad I have highlighted who could possibly fill the gap.

Some are far more likely than others, and Milan still have a lot of finding out to do  in what remains of preseason preparations.

Personally, I can’t single out one player at this moment who will seize the role and make it unequivocally his, providing the backdrop for an important few weeks coming up.

Article by Oliver Fisher

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Honda has proved in the pre-games why he shouldn’t be a starter.
Suso is very talented but needs time.
Jack is a good cadidate for that role especially when seeing how the starting 11 will probably be De Jong-Bertolacci- Poli, with mauri and montolivo as backup.
Menez however is an excellent option for that role, proving last year that he can assist very well and if he will mentally get into that role it could do wonders. I wouldn’t discard Menez so quickly.


Agree, spot on… Menez is great player, game changer. Personally, I dont like him that much cause of his selfishness… BUT if Miha can make him run and pass when it is needed, he could be best solution for that spot… As for Jack.. He is probably best option, but I would rather play him in midfield trio… With De Jong on the middle, and Berto on the right… He is good on the left and could be deadly there… Ibra would be amazing if he comes, Ibra, Bacca, Menez and Adriano… That much improvement from Destro Matri Pazzini… Like… Read more »


I did see the match against real madrid. When Honda replaced Suso the fluidity of the attack got muchmuch better. I personaly think Honda is the best option without any doubt. Give him 10 matches to warm up in this position and Luis Adriano and Carlos Bocca will have alot of goals served on a silver plate.

I also belive suso needs alot more time. He seems so out of tuch with the field. Doesent really know where to be.
good when he gets the ball tho. its just not easy to find him.


are u dreamer? i don’t know what is this hell ?
7 men for shadow and no attacker no midfielder no defense and 2 old keeper
ok i see u in the last season again 10
you don’t need money u need office manager u need know football THAT IS living in PRO-word!!! that need money?
i have answer => NEED SEE THE TRUE
the top player of milan is maldini THAT he is done and now we have name of milan name of stars & name of table WHAT ARE YOU DOING??????????????????????????


This is single-handedly the worst English I have ever read.


I personally think Ibra is most likely going to be a MLS player. But I would be happier if he did. That being said, I liked the article. And between the names have been mentioned, I think the only true contenders to play as a CAM are probably Honda and Menez. We shouldn’t forget that Menez can in fact play alongside Bacca upfront if Luiz Adriano is given rest or unavailable for any circumstances. Cerci should go. I like the guy and I feel bad for him. He has a great will to perform well. But we have to remember… Read more »


bonaventura, cerci, bertolacci are even options?? these are berlusconis order for “all-italian” project but its more like trash-italians project including matri and montolivio, poli italian for me is nesta maldini gattuso pirlo baresi costacurta etc it seems we are just buying italian players just because they are italians. We didnt buy poli bonaventura matri bertolacci acerbi cerci zaccardo for winning games. bona came because zaccardo didnt want to leave poli was signed because monty got injuried matri was signed for allegri was in love with him zaccardo was signed because galliani forgot to take his pills cerci was signed becasue… Read more »


Dude, how can you spit on Jack?? He was one of best players that we have, he shat a tear when he came to Milan.. He is more rossonero than you will ever be!! Ok, maybe he wouldnt even be on the bench with kaka, pirlo, seedorf and crew, but we cant just go and buy 11 wc players at once!! We would need to spend 500m euros… Jack is better than all of our midfielders… P.S. did you watch games this season? Poli is actually trying hard.. He is all over the place.. Every team needs someone who will… Read more »


Nowdays we are so poor we are doing average players a favour by signing them and then they shat a tear when we sign them. Andy caroll would probably aslo shat a tear if we sign him, we should sign him then? ten years ago, bonaventura wouldnt even be close to our standard, the same standard that made us win so much. we MUST higher our standards in signings. but if we compare bonaventura to muntari then YES jack is a golden ball winner and should be given number 10. But again, OUR standard! our standard was kaka seedord pirlo… Read more »


You just dont get it… Forget the past, we have new players now and you cant just go and buy players with 500m.. I agree that this isnt even a shadow of old Milan, but for gods sake, look what we are doing, Lopez, Bacca, Adriano, maybe even Ibra… We are going step by step into new Milan… If we get CL next season, there will be more new good players… Why would someone like Modric or Neymar or Aguero come to Milan now?? You simply cant bring them now when we are at rock bottom.. When we come to… Read more »


Key words, “ten years ago”. Get over it. This is 2015, not 2005


@ RKaY – agree


Stop bashing on Jack, he is more rossonero than you will ever be, he is one of our best midfielders ATM…

Some Guy

Bonaventura and Bertolacci are both very good. Poli is above average, and shouldn’t be criticized, he’s a great utility player. Matri and the others tho, I agree with you.


Very happy to hear anything positive about Poli. I really like him, he isn’t geat player but I see more in him than just a runner, he has always shown great ball controll, consistenci and should definetly be nr 4 choice for midfield after Bonaventura, De Jong and Bertolacci.


“zaccardo was signed because galliani forgot to take his pills” XD LMFAO!!!!!!


It would be better to sell Honda and Jemez…cancel Cerci’s loan if possible and get a New Class CAM with Suso and Jack as a Backup


Menez in my opinion shouldn’t be a CAM cause he is selfish and this trait is better for a striker rather than a midfielder which has to be a bridge between attack and midfield. At the moment Suso looks more of a perfect sub for that position rather than a starter. Jack is the option at the moment but would rather see him a CM. don’t like Honda after the 1rst half of last season he wasn’t effective nor in friendlies. Did he score? No. did he make any assist? No. is anyone writing about his improvement? No. So how… Read more »


Im sure most will disagree , but imho, if Ibra doesnt arrive, Id play Adriano at treq behind Bacca and Menez…Adriano is less selfish than Menez, but just as capable of beating his man off the dribble. The obvious options are Honda and Suso, i like them both, but both have to step up a bit to justify leaving Menez or Adriano on the bench. Berto and Jack belong in center midfield. Lastly, I disagree that Poli should start, I think Mauri, Jack, and Berto will all prove to be better options. *check out Hachims goal today for our Primavera… Read more »


You dont want to play players out of position… We have tried that it just doesent work.. I would rather have Adriano, natrual ST to strike, than having him doing CAM job and wanting him to be playmaker… Ok, it is near position, but it is almost the same like you are putting Mexes as CAM.. Menez could be good for the job, but ONLY if Miha can make him pass… 1. Buy good CAM Or 2. Stick with Honda And Mauri is better than Poli? Honestly, I didnt see that in preseason games… Poli was way better.. And coach… Read more »


I hope you meant menez not mexes? My entire point was that menez is also a forward, and not a natural treq, so either way, if all 3 start, someone will be out of position… I’d also prefer we buy a treq, was hoping for turan, am pulling for both Honda and Suso, but I believe in putting our best 11 on the pitch, regardless of formation, Honda must prove he is more important than menez or adriano… As far as Poli vs Mauri, ive been watching Poli since his Samp days, and I very much liked what I saw… Read more »


I really like the first 3 options (ruling Zlatan out, because I also think he is not going to come). If it was up to me, I would use Jack as part of the middle 3 taking Poli out ( So Bertolacci- De Jong- Jack) because I really think he should be a starter. Then use Honda/Suso depending on the rival (Suso is more pacey but Honda has better passing). As far as Menez, I would most definitely cash on him as fast as I could… I feel he is overestimated because of the amount of goals last season, but… Read more »


Buy a Good CAM, Oscar, Eriksen, Isco, Draxler, Belhanda, and Piazon are all good options, and use suso and mastour as back up options


All are 100% unavailible…

Milan Fandango

Just stick with the article will ya.


With what we have indured , Honda should start , along with menez waiting in the wing to be match fit .
If our Jap does do well , imagine the impact in the asian market … $$$$$$$$$$$$
And then yeah start dreaming of your wonder players. The futur is bright ! Berlu never became rich with wrong decisions .


Ibra witsel romagnoli or garay is the answer to all the problems. Simple done go get them.


For me Honda is the obvious choice considering Ibra doesn’t arrive. Bonna is a CM not a CAM I don’t want to bring the whole Kpb and Urby debacle up again. Suso is ok but Honda is better and more deserving then him. Menez is more of a winger and we all know his selfish habits which at CAM is the last trait u would want. Cerci is again more of a winger not a CAM. Honda has yet to be properly given a chance at the CAM role so I feel this year should finally be his opportunity.


My choice its Kevin De Bruyne, He is Natural Attacking Midfilder, he have vision like Ricky Kaka.
________________De Bruyne________________


1. Abate on RB 2. Ely is good, but is he really good to be first choice CB? In match against small teams maybe, but in others Paletta/Mexes gets that spot 3. Mauri Witsel Berto? No, just no.. Bona and De Jong MUST be in that trio.. 4. De Bruyne as CAM in Milan is my dream too… But thats all what it is.. A dream 5. You got that right, I agree, but they need time to click, and I think maybe they will be played in pairs like Niang+Adriano against small, and Menez+Bacca against big teams… But who… Read more »


I prefare like
dis bacca menez Bonaventura ,midfield dejong batollaci montolivo.already fallen for the new coach


Menez cam honda right mid would be better than what u said

Milan Fandango

Honda is very industrious, he defends and covers very well. It seems that we can play with 4312 when attacking and 442 when defending. Suso is energetic, fast and showing more agility than Honda. I think Menez should play in the 2nd striker position since he has the tendency to go wide encouraging the CAM or a defensive midfielder to step into the box. I think we can keep Cerci because we will never know if we will ever need to change formation in the middle of the season and using wingers. The rest of the players in the list… Read more »


My friend, my friend,,
Opinion is just opinion,,
Do you think mihajlovic will read this post?
Just talk to yourself,,


IMO, honda is the only true natural CAM in the squad so, he should take as he knows how to keep the ball safe and also knows when to release it, adriano/bacca looks to be a bad pairing, from what iv seen from adriano, he can’t play as a 2nd striker as he dosent drif wide enough, he dosent go get the ball, niang or menez should pair bacca, bacca poaching skills and accuracy will be higly needed in the box


i love it when everyone leave Montolivo out of the squad


Firstly, I hope El Sha to play as the man behind the strikers which I think it would be good for his future career but he decided to leave. Then, I hope Jack Bona could fit in the CAM role but he couldn’t play his best there. Bertolacci in my opinion is similar to Jack. Both players are useful to score and support the poacher from behind, acting as Left AM and Right AM. Unless the club signs the gems like Oscar and Izco, I think it would be more efficient to change the scheme of play from 4-3-1-2 to… Read more »


Look at bertolacci’s game style he is better as CAM than CM, watch you all will see.


I’m kind of getting tired checking every day just to hear the same old news.


Montolivo,Poli and Cerci out of the squad get Witsel, Ibra and romagnolli together otherwise Give Uncle fester and Berlucsconi to chat another seoson kkkkkkkkk


JOSE MAURI will do fantastic job in the position. Another option is Jack


Mauri will rather be alternative to De Jong, he definetly is not CAM


Anything new???


Off topic ……Management needs someone replace el shaarawy. El 92 was a fan favorite… he guaranteed shirt sales ..etc. we don’t have anyone like that now


Calabria & Bonaventura??

And possibly Ibra?


Ibra? Sure. But calabria and Jack don’t fit the bill.


I put calabria cause he is from our primavera… Maybe he will grow to be next Maldini… Who knows…

And since SES left, Jack is my favourite… Mr simpatico, but I agree, he doesent sell jerseys that much..

Pa ibra

my ranking according to preference in who should play behind the two strikers:

1) honda CAM
2) suso CAM
3) bonaventura CAM
4) menez SS
5) bertolacci CM
6) ibrahimovic CF (he won’t like playing this tracking opponents midfielders and feeding strikers role)
7) cerci RW

this is how I would list them however: bonaventura and bertolacci as central and suso as the main attacking midfielders.
ibra, mennez and cerci as strikers


It’s clear that these are the options Mihajlovic will use in this order: 1. Ibra – if he arrives. This makes perfect sense 2. Menez – he is selfish but the coach can change that attitude. Menez will have to play entirely different if he wants to be a part of Mihajlovic team. 3. Honda – This is his natural position 4. Bertolacci – only if all the above options are not available. This guy is more a deep lying playmaker role similar to Pirlo. 5. Bonaventura and Suso are not suitable for this position. This would be a mistake.… Read more »

Pa ibra

I like the idea of playing with a deep lying playmaker.. thou it seems to you everyone is more suitable for this role. Mind you. A regista has to posses the ability of connecting with his strikers from deep, therefore you need good long range passing skills and also,thou you don’t neccesarily need lot of defensive qualities, you got to have good positioning awareness which many attacking players like suso and bonaventara lack.
cristante for example could be a good deep lying playmaker and maybe bertolacci.


Suso and Bonaventura has never played in a regista role before so my assessment of them fitting in that role is no different from your assessment of them not being able to perform well in that position.

Pirlo is not good defensively neither is Verratti. Defending has NEVER been a criteria for a regista. It’s all about playing the ball well from the back and linking the defense to midfield to the strikers.

Mark Van Bommel did not have long range passing in his game yet he was one of the best player to play in that position at Milan.

Pa ibra

That’s why I said a regista doesn’t neccesarily have to be super defensive,but good positioning especially when defending is an important trait of that role and most attacking minded players like suso & benaventura aren’t so great in defensive positioning. Pirlo will not tackle but he’s aften at the right place. Sure,a regista is all about linking the play well.. that’s easier when you’ve the skills to also switch play from one conner to the other and time to time making things happen for your forwards…without this, you’d find it abit harder to be called a deep lying playmaker. van… Read more »


If we really are after a CAM why dont we go after lamela???

this guy is fast, great vision, young!

its not about we cant afford him, its about our management is BLIND. we spend 12 million for matri, 7 million for pazzini but we cant afford 8 million for lamela


so this is the same person who commented about standards…

Ismaila Lere

FC Porto’s Torres is best CAM option for Milan


In my own opinion Ibra is the main man for the job, but if ibra didn’t come then Honda should do it because we 90% of milanistas trusted him for the JOB.


when Milan win certain person never put there comment….they just come to this blog nd complain


I think the best duo milan can pair are bacca and menez as the second striker. Luiz and bacca cant play together. And honda or suso as CAM. And the trio mid are jack, berto, and de jong


get a coutinho type player for our midfield plus two quality CB’s and we will be all set for the new season..

I also hope that the Mighty Zlatan will arrive.. fingers crossed!!

Forza milan