No room for Niang

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Don Emmert/Getty ImagesMilan youngster M'Baye Niang could be on his way out of the Rossoneri.

In the aftermath of Mario Balotelli's arrival back in January, there was great excitement surrounding the prospect of an attacking trident consisting of the former Manchester City striker, Stephan El Shaarawy and M'Baye Niang.

For some it heralded the beginning of a new era, with Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri's attacking line-up in place for the next decade as the trio made headlines for their impressive performances as well as their hairstyles.

Niang's initial impact was significant, as he offered pace and a genuine threat down the right wing and emerged as yet another positive in a season that had begun so badly. It was further evidence that the strategy to trust in youth would be the right one.

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However, that initial promise slowly faded as the season went on last year, with Balotelli becoming the focal point of the team and both El Shaarawy and Niang noticeable disappearing. While the former endured transfer speculation earlier in the summer, it is now Niang's turn to follow suit.

While it is important to remember that Niang is still just 18 years of age, there is a debate over whether or not he has a significant role at the club moving forward,

There are varying factors to propose in an argument against him, particularly the tactical switch this season which will see Allegri adopt a 4-3-1-2 system. Balotelli will be assured of his place in the starting line-up, and given El Shaarawy's resurgence in pre-season he will most likely play alongside his compatriot.

In contrast, Niang is arguably at his best on the right of a three-man attack, as whether or not he has the all-round game to flourish as a striker remains to be seen. He is still perhaps rather unfairly remembered for his missed chance against Barcelona in the Champions League last season.

Having failed to find the target in 20 league appearances last year, it is evident that the youngster still has much to improve on. His strike against the Los Angeles Galaxy in pre-season was a glimpse of what he is capable of, but whether or not he can translate that into Serie A will ultimately decide his future.

In addition, Adriano Galliani remains in pursuit of either Keisuke Honda or Adem Ljajic this summer, with the Japanese playmaker assured of a switch in January on a free transfer if Milan and CSKA Moscow fail to reach an agreement ahead of the new season.

That would only serve to further increase competition for places, with Riccardo Saponara still expected to play a vital role in the trequartista role and Kevin-Prince Boateng somehow still considered in that conversation too.

Speculation has suggested offers have arrived from the likes of Newcastle and Genoa this summer, while Sampdoria had been credited with an interest and perhaps remain a wise option given Milan may decide to acquire the other half of Andrea Poli's registration.

However, Galliani was keen to stress that Niang would not be leaving before the Champions League play-off, but his statement also appeared to suggest the possibility of an exit was open thereafter.

Due to a combination of circumstances out of his control and the disappointment of having not grasped his chances last season, Niang's future can be regarded as being in the balance.

With Milan still chasing both Honda and Ljajic, the club will undoubtedly have an attacking trident that should be feared across Italy and even in Europe. The problem for Niang though is whether or not he will still be a part of it as the season goes on.

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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