Filip Kostic sometimes escapes the praise he deserves. That’s how quick he can be. Puns aside, the former Groningen man’s growth in stature over the last three years warrants a big amount of praise. AC Milan are showing signs of doing that.
Reports last night had suggested that the Rossoneri are interested in the Eintracht Frankfurt man. They state that Milan could look to make a move in the upcoming January transfer window.
But the same report also states that while Frankfurt value the Serbian at €40million, Milan could offer Ricardo Rodriguez as a sweetener in the deal.
That is where things get interesting. But that is also where things get disturbing. Because Kostic is not the left-back that Milan might think he is.
Rodriguez is obviously a left-back. He joined from the Rossoneri from Wolfsburg in the club’s huge spending spree of 2017. Since then, he hasn’t had a special stint at the club. This season, he has seen Theo Hernandez replace him in the left-back spot.
And the summer signing from Real Madrid has impressed. He has already scored two goals and has brought an immense amount of attacking intent to the plate. This has caught on well with many Milan fans.
Both of them have always been full-backs, unlike Kostic. During his time at Hamburg, Kostic had played on the left wing and had even played as a striker multiple times. He had played 30 times in the Bundesliga, scoring five times too.
In the 2016-17 season too, Kostic had played on the left wing. He had scored four times, assisting four times too. Quite the same has been the case during his time at Stuttgart and at Groningen- before he came to the Bundesliga.
After Niko Kovac left for Bayern Munich in the summer of 2018, Adi Hutter came in for the Croatian. That move was life-changing for Kostic and Frankfurt themselves.
Hutter imposed a style at Frankfurt that relied on high-pressing and keeping possession of the ball. They play in a 3-4-3 shape, with wing-backs high up the pitch and constantly playing in the front three.
In this shape, Kostic has been playing as the left wing-back. That has carried on till this season. So far, he has played 20 times in all competitions. He has a tally of six goals and six assists- something that is very impressive for a wing-back.
After an impressive performance against Stuttgart last season, Hutter was full of praise for the wing-back. He told Bundesliga.com:
“He’s been giving everything for the club for months now, showing outstanding qualities on the field and off it. He impressed me from day one, and I’m delighted he’s been able to get his reward again with two goals today.”
Last season, he had played 40 times in all competitions. He found the back of the net ten times and had a tally of 13 assists.
His playing style is typified by his showing against Bayer Leverkusen recently. Frankfurt picked up a 3-0 win. But Kostic completed as many as seven dribbles in the game. He also won two tackles.
He was the club’s chief destroyer in their recent 5-1 win over Bayern Munich. The game led to Kovac’s sacking at Bayern at the hands of his former club.
The numbers show that Hutter’s system has brought the best out of Kostic like no one else possibly can. With an extra defender at the back, Kostic has less defensive duties on his shoulders.
At Milan, things aren’t as stable. They have let in 16 goals in the league this season- 10th in the table for most goals conceded. While they have also scored the fourth-lowest number of goals, having another Hernandez-esque player doesn’t make sense.
More than that, they are playing a 4-3-3 shape. Kostic can certainly do a fair job on the left wing, but Rodriguez usage in a possible deal shows that they don’t see him as a left winger.
And Hernandez would be their first-choice left-back. There is no point in leaving a club that could yet qualify for the Champions League. Especially for a one that is at 14th in Serie A.