The former Arsenal utility man has struggled somewhat to achieve a starting berth in the AC Milan side, whether it be Carlo Ancelotti or his predecessor Leonardo in charge, Flamini has never been the first name on the team sheet. So what does the French international have to do to become a first team player for the club?
After arriving at Milanello in the summer of 2008 on a free transfer from Arsenal, Mathieu Flamini was regarded as a steal by many and it was also decision Arsene Wenger was supposed to regret. This has not been the case.
During his time with the Gunners, Flamini was used mainly as a utility player, covering at left and right back on frequent occasions. It wasn’t until his partnership with Cesc Fabregas blossomed that he was considered a regular, and this didn’t happen until the latter part of his Arsenal career.
Upon his arrival at Milan, it seemed Flamini would replace Gattuso in the midfield. Both are tenacious midfielders with never ending supplies of energy.
This wasn’t the case, Flamini struggled to impose himself on the Milan side and found himself on the bench more often than not to begin with. He was asked about the situation and he responded with a quite straight forward answer, “Yes, I had hoped for more minutes.”
David Beckham’s first stint at Milan meant first team opportunities were even harder to come by, though he did make a number of telling contributions especially when played at right-back, covering for injuries just as he did at Arsenal. Something he wasn’t fond of then or now and he made a point of voicing his displeasure. He did though manage 28 starts and 10 sub appearances during the term, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Frenchman.
After the appointment of Leonardo in the summer, Flamini was given a new lease of life. Coupled with Gattuso’s dire form he was considered a starter in the side, in his favoured midfield role as well. But again his versatility has played against him, as he was used as a makeshift right back, “I don’t want to play as a full back, I am a midfielder,” stated Flamini once more. It seemed the Milan hierarchy has listened.
Unfortunately the fantastic form of Massimo Ambrosini and a fully recovered Gattuso have meant Flamini has once more found his opportunities limited, nine starts so far this term, in addition to the nine sub appearances he has made. Such low figures have increased speculation that he will leave the San Siro sooner rather than later.
Recently linked with a return to the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City. You could forgive Flamini for searching out first team football, but with an ageing Milan midfield, he could well step into the fore very soon. One wonders how long Gattuso, Ambrosini and Pirlo can go on for. Given the age advantage Flamini has on these three, he is a player that will no doubt be key in the future of AC Milan. For now he just needs to be patient.
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