Abbiati under pressure to retain starting spot

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Serie APA PhotosAbbiati could be fighting to retain his starting place this season.

While La Gazzetta dello Sport called it an "embarrassment", Massimiliano Allegri labelled the 3-0 friendly defeat to Caen on Sunday as "unacceptable". The general performance was disappointing despite the absence of key players, but it could have all been a lot worse had it not been for a string of top saves from stand-in goalkeeper Gabriel.

The 21-year-old Brazilian stopper was in impressive form as he continues his comeback from a shoulder injury he suffered earlier this year, and he undoubtedly staked his claim to challenge Christian Abbiati for a place in the starting line-up.

Nevertheless, he arguably remains fourth choice in the current Rossoneri squad, given that Marco Amelia and Ferdinando Coppola are supposedly ahead of him in the queue despite neither perhaps featuring as heavily as Gabriel has done when available.

Regardless, Abbiati is still recognised as Milan's number one after years of service for the club, but at the age of 36 there are rumours that this may well be the last season that he is with the club.

While he still provides a sense of calm and security that comes with experience, Allegri has never wavered in his support despite a number of situations where questions have been asked of the veteran. His reflexes and movement aren't perhaps at the standard of previous campaigns, but he still has the shot-stopping ability to keep his place.

However, speculation has continued to suggest that Milan will look to bring in a replacement sooner rather than later, with Real Madrid star Iker Casillas and Celtic's Fraser Forster amongst the latest names to be linked with a move to San Siro.

At this stage both remain mere targets created by the media, but there are some suggestions that the Rossoneri may well be looking at the longer-term plan should Abbiati call time on his career any time soon or if there is a significant drop in performance levels.

Therefore, the question is whether or not the club should look to continue to develop Gabriel and allow him the opportunity to mature and become the long-term solution, or look outside the club and bring in an experienced name to the detriment of the Brazilian's progress.

"Abbiati is a champion and he's won all there is to win. Him, Nando and Marco all help me a lot and we always work well," Gabriel told the media after his impressive display against Caen.

The decision to sign him last year was perhaps with the foresight that Abbiati would help him by effectively adopting him as his understudy while he was still at the club. However, much like in various other areas of the squad, it now becomes a choice between either giving the younger players an opportunity or crowding them out with more experienced options.

The goalkeeping spot is perhaps the role with the most pressure in football, given that any mistake is magnified and the individual in question to open to ridicule on a personal basis. Yet, while Gabriel has continuously proven his ability to perform, the only test that remains is demonstrating it at the highest level but that will depend on whether or not a new face arrives.

Should Milan continue to develop Gabriel as the long-term replacement for Abbiati? Or are there better options on the market?

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

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