Jørgen Aanensen on the injured Andrea Conti and what can he give when he returns to action.
Andrea Conti has been a cause for frustration ever since his arrival from Atalanta last summer. Just two games into the season he ruptured his ACL in training and was ruled out for several months. After undergoing operation, Andrea returned to the squad in March, but as things would show his return was rushed and the right back quickly suffered a sprain to the already operated knee. The result was an additional operation and a new lengthy stint on the sideline. As we still await his reported return towards the end of October, the question arises: What can we expect from Conti when he finally returns?
First of all it needs to be taken into consideration that Conti has suffered two serious injuries in quick succession. Something like that can be career threatening. Conti is, however, still 24 and might have a long and great career despite of his recent struggles. Still, there’s no looking away from the fact that missing over a year of football at the age of 23/24 can have devastating effects to both his general development as a footballer and perhaps even for his whole career.
Before his transfer to the Rossoneri, Andrea had a fabulous season with Atalanta, scoring 8 and assisting 4 in 33 games. His performances even earned him a call-up for the Azzurri. As a highly wanted man by the Milan fans, he arrived for €24 million with the addition of Matteo Pessina going the other way. A price tag like that isn’t given to whomever and many had high hopes for what qualities the right back could bring to the team. As things stand, these high hopes have yet to be fulfilled, but it’s all way too early to write him off just yet.
Conti has spent more than a year with the squad, he seems close with his teammates and even took part in the celebrations after Cutrone’s winner against Roma. Conti’s agent, Mario Giuffredi, claimed earlier last week that all his player wanted to do was to repay the affection he has received from the fans, his teammates and the club.
Even though he’s eager to get back on the pitch, it is very important that both he and the club maintain their cool. He should not be rushed back too early, as the case was last time around. Luckily, Milan possesses the qualities of Davide Calabria, who has been great during Conti’s absence. Milan is in nothing like a back-crisis, and Conti can use the required time to safely get back into good form.
As a former wingback in a 3-4-3 system from his Atalanta-days, it’s unclear if Conti can provide quality where Calabria is lacking it. Calabria, like Conti, is an attacking minded defender, but often struggles with positioning when defending. It’s still somewhat unclear if this goes for Conti as well, but as a former wingback that might just be the case for him as well. However, they’re both still young, and defensive experience is built over time. Before that, the competition, and possible rotation between the two of them, might prove positive for them both.
What exactly constitutes good form for Conti is where the heart of is the question is. Milan signed Conti as a starter, but his high cost also hinted at his potential abilities, a potential that might be threatened by his recent double injury. An Andrea Conti back in his good old form is a great addition to the squad, but it’s not what Milan paid €24 million for. He still needs to develop as a player and has to work even harder now than before to reach his full potential. With a young squad around him, a passionate coach in Gattuso and most importantly of all a medical team who do their job properly, he might be able to do just that. However, patience is still needed, and if he can remain so, in addition to the club and the fans as well, I wouldn’t put it against him to become a great player for both Milan and the national team.
Because even though Andrea Conti has missed more than a season of competitive football it doesn’t mean he has lost all of his footballing abilities. If Conti can return to his old form he will be a valued addition to the squad. If he can develop into an even better player than before he can become a central piece in the Milan-team for several years. The question is if he’s capable of doing just that. As things stand it can almost only get better for Conti, and Milan might still get their money’s worth. Without knowing what the future holds, Conti returning will be an exciting addition to the squad, and as Adriano Galliani probably would claim it to be: he will almost be like a new signing.