This week, reports from Milan News and Tuttomercatoweb -- both spinning from a short Sportitalia article citing Alfredo Pedullà-- have mentioned that Orlando City has shown interest in AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino. The 5-foot-9, 30-year-old Naples native has been with Milan since 2011, although he's been on loan more often than not over the last couple of seasons, with West Ham United in the EPL and both Torino and Parma in Italy.
The Italian international went to Milan from Palermo on deadline day in 2011 for €500,000 and became a midfield sensation, donning Kaká's No. 22 shirt (he has since switched). After scoring six goals in 106 matches across three seasons for Palermo, Nocerino posted 10 goals in his first campaign with Milan in just 35 appearances.
But then he fell off. Nocerino posted just two goals in 26 matches in 2012-13 and none in 11 appearances the following year for the Rossoneri. Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic to create space, Nocerino's offensive forays came less frequently and bore less fruit. His drop in form in 2012-13 was the focus of this story in 2013 by Bleacher Report's Milan blog. Our friends at AC Milan Offside tell us it's less about his form dipping than an end to his special partnership with Ibra and that he still plays hard but has no place in Milan's current formation.
If Orlando City is indeed in the running to land Nocerino, the Lions will have to out-maneuver Italian side Bologna and Greek club Panathinaikos. Is this a move that would even make sense for Orlando?
Nocerino appears to have worn out his welcome in Milan after scoring 12 goals in 74 matches. He scored three goals in 20 games on loan in Parma this season. In international play, Nocerino has played for Italy at the U-19, U-20, U-21, U-23 and senior team levels, without scoring a goal. He has made 19 total international appearances at all levels.
There's little doubt he has the talent to play in Major League Soccer and perhaps a change in scenery is all he needs to get him going again. But what kind of player is he and would he even fit what Adrian Heath is trying to do in Orlando?
Despite some early comparisons to defensive midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, Nocerino isn't strictly a defensive midfielder who breaks up the attack, although he began his career in that role. He's versatile enough to play anywhere in the midfield. He can play box-to-box, centrally, or on the wing, and he prefers to play as an attacker.
Being right footed, I'm not sure he fits into Orlando City's plans. The Lions are set at defensive midfield, unless the plan moving forward is to bring in someone who can be more of a deep-lying playmaker than the team currently has in Darwin Ceren, Cristian Higuita and Servando Carrasco. If that's where the Lions see Nocerino, one of those other three would have to be dealt.
Unless Orlando is being cautious with Kevin Molino or has changed its view of him as a starter, the Italian wouldn't seem to make sense at right wing. It would knock Molino to the bench and make Adrian Winter obsolete. Preferring his right foot, Nocerino wouldn't make sense on the left, either. He'd likely be too expensive to bring in solely as a backup to Kaká at central attacking midfielder. His current salary is rumored to be in the €1.5 to €2 million range. Seems kind of steep for an area that's not of immediate need.
To summarize, this rumor seems like a longshot. Nocerino doesn't seem to fit a pressing area of need for Orlando. Sure, the Lions need an attacking midfielder to spell Kaká, but I don't see Nocerino coming to MLS to be a backup. I also don't see Orlando out-bidding Bologna and Panathinaikos -- or being a more attractive option to the player than those clubs -- at this time.
In a nutshell: I'm skeptical of this one. But hey, you never know. In the meantime, enjoy his Milan highlights: