Carlos Bacca trouble brewing as Vincenzo Montella could make change
Since joining AC Milan from Sevilla last summer, Carlos Bacca has amassed an impressive goal scoring record of 25 in 48 appearances in all competitions. The Colombia international is a rare commodity in today's game, with his poaching instincts and quality in the box making him a rich source of goals.
However, not for the first time, the 30-year-old is going through a goal drought. Bacca has gone more than three games without finding the back of the net, with his last coming in the 4-3 win over Sassuolo on Oct. 2.
To add to the problem, his reaction to Vincenzo Montella's decision to substitute him in the win over Pescara last weekend caused a stir, forcing the Milan coach to publicly dismiss talk of a rift between the pair.
In truth, although he should have saved his protests for the dressing room, there isn't much wrong with a player wanting to stay on the pitch and help his team. But it's up to the coach to decide who's the best man for the job at that moment in time, and Montella decided that Luiz Adriano was better placed to help the Rossoneri see out the win. Bacca should have accepted that with more grace.
The issue is bigger than that though. For all the quality that he possesses, and while there is no denying that he's a pivotal part of this Milan team, when he's not scoring he doesn't have much of an influence on games.
That comes through both a lack of service, which of course is out of his hands, and the style of his game. It's been problematic before, and Montella could perhaps be tempted to switch things up again sooner rather than later.
Back in September, Bacca was left on the bench against Sampdoria after similar troubles in the two games that preceded that encounter. His reaction was to come on and score the winning goal for his side at the Marassi, followed by two goals in three games thereafter to reiterate his importance to the team.
Perhaps he needs another week on the bench to kickstart his season again. It will split opinion given that his record of six goals in 11 Serie A games so far this season isn't exactly terrible -- albeit having netted a hat trick on the opening day of the season.
Bacca's agent is also a problem, as he seems to enjoy spinning the transfer rumour mill and leaving his client out there to attract offers by leaving the door open to a departure.
In addition, the striker's commitment is now also being brought into question. From reports that he didn't celebrate under the Curva Sud last weekend with the rest of his teammates to his latest act of discontent, it's only attracting further criticism from some supporters.
His movement and clever runs, coupled with his overall threat in the box, are potent strings in Milan's bow, but with Gianluca Lapadula and Luiz Adriano waiting in the wings for another shot, the time could be right to bring one of them in.
Goals have been an issue with that pair though, as Lapadula has yet to open his account for the Rossoneri while his Brazilian teammate has failed to score consistently since his arrival at the San Siro last year.
Nevertheless, what they do offer is a relentless work ethic that sees Milan defend from the front. In Lapadula's case, when he was given a chance, he was a constant menace and all that was missing was a goal.
This is by no means a suggestion that Bacca should be sold or that offers should even be entertained, but when he has little impact on games then Montella should at least be looking at his options and using them.
There are few that can boast Bacca's precision in front of goal and that makes him almost priceless. However, there are limitations in his game, and time will tell as to whether or not Montella sees him as his starting striker for the foreseeable future.
In Lapadula and Luiz Adriano, Montella has options at his disposal already. Furthermore, with Milan expected to be active in the upcoming transfer window, perhaps Bacca will face tougher competition in the months ahead if his drought continues. That, of course, will only add strength to rumours of a possible exit.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.