Carlos Bacca's stay crucial for AC Milan's progress
As part of the push to strengthen the AC Milan squad last summer, the Rossoneri identified a striker that they believed would be capable of scoring goals consistently to fire them towards achieving their objectives.
Having arrived from Sevilla with a record of 34 goals in 71 league appearances for the Andalusian outfit, Carlos Bacca was, and is, one of the most clinical strikers in Europe at present.
The Colombian international sacrificed European football to make the move to the San Siro, a decision that undoubtedly further endeared him to supporters, given that it proved his desire to play for Milan went beyond immediate success on the European stage.
Although it took a significant fee to prise him away from Spain, 13 goals in 25 league games so far this season have proven that the 29-year-old can be the striker that Milan need in the coming years.
As a result, it was be concerning to read speculation this week that the Italian giants rejected a €60m bid for Bacca in the January transfer window. While that in itself is worrying enough given Milan's recent history of selling players if the offer makes financial sense, the Colombian's agent, Sergio Barila, added further fuel to the fire.
"In football, you can never say today what will happen tomorrow," Barila told Corriere della Sera. "In addition to Chinese clubs, important European clubs also came forward in January. I can't speak about the future with certainty."
Nothing about Bacca's demeanour or comments to the media since joining Milan have suggested that he is unhappy with life in Italy. Although the Rossoneri suffered a poor start to the campaign, a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions is proof enough that things are heading in the right direction.
Having closed the gap to the third and final Champions League qualification spot to six points, coupled with their likely participation in the Coppa Italia final as they take a 1-0 aggregate lead over Alessandria into the second leg at San Siro next month, there is plenty of reason to be positive.
Nevertheless, it is difficult for any club in Italy to ignore the financial appeal of such big-money offers, and ultimately few players are necessarily safe at their clubs at this point. It is hoped that Bacca falls into that category though, as along with the likes of Alessio Romagnoli and Giacomo Bonaventura, he has played an influential role in Milan's success so far this season.
While his goals and the regularity with which they arrive will unsurprisingly make the headlines, the former Sevilla marksman has much more to his game than that. His tireless defensive effort shouldn't be underestimated, as he can be found constantly hounding down defenders in a bid to press from the front and win back possession for his teammates.
In addition, his ability to run the channels and stretch defences creates space for others; while he is also more than capable as an aerial threat which help make up several important assets of a modern day striker.
Although manager Sinisa Mihajlovic has hinted at changes in system with the likes of Jeremy Menez and Mario Balotelli edging closer towards full fitness, the Serbian tactician needs a prolific striker at the forefront of his starting lineup.
With Bonaventura and Keisuke Honda creating chances from midfield, Bacca has flourished as the main point of reference in Milan's attack this season. Naturally, there has been some degree of frustration along the way, but ultimately it appears to be a great fit for both the player and club.
To lose Bacca in the immediate future would be a disappointing and disruptive setback for both Mihajlovic and Milan. Although no player is bigger than the club and Milan should ultimately have the pull to acquire a more than capable replacement should he depart, the Rossoneri need stability and consistency.
Taking into consideration the financial aspect and his age, if the reports of a €60m offer are true, then it would certainly be difficult to continue to dismiss it. However, Bacca knows how to find the back of the net, and this might only be the beginning of a successful spell with Milan.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Twitter: @SP_Calcio.